The families interviewed during the FGD have also said that the training of trainers planned will ensure sustainability if and when partners stop being permanently present. They suggested that the trainers should be chosen carefully, without bias, with a large number of them being women, who are trusted by other women in their communities, in order to guarantee sustainability for women and girls. This is an important suggestion that will certainly be used for this project during the selection of the TOT participants. One of the initial questions posed in the first stage of the challenge was about the timing of the courses and seasonality. The community members agreed that classes should be scheduled at times suitable to the family members who are working. NRC will conduct surveys and will choose the best suitable time for beneficiaries. Family members agreed that the positive parenting classes will lead to better communication between them and bridge the generational gap between parents and children. After speaking to the LMO trainers we are currently working with, they confirmed that the life skills component is essential for the learning process and is now missing. They emphasized that many students, especially girls, do not have the necessary interpersonal skills to interact with others inside the classrooms (including the teacher), which is posing a challenge for them to teach. It is also affecting the girls’ self-esteem. The life skills component of the project is needed to address these issues and improve classroom retention rates as they may be a reason for school dropout. During the feedback phase, we took the opportunity to visit a few of the LMO classes that are currently taking place in Kerman province. Most of the children (boys and girls) in attendance were undocumented, and have confirmed that lack of documentation as well as financial difficulties were the main obstacles preventing them from accessing education. Some of the working boys interviewed confirmed that they will continue working even if they enrol in school (and all showed eagerness to do so). Most of the girls in one classroom knew each other before attending the LMO classes, this may be because it is deemed safer for girls to attend school with classmates that their families already know even though the education spaces were accessible to the majority of them. Most of the trainers/teachers were not aware of recent documentation opportunities available for families upon registration of their children in school (Undocumented families can access education-specific cards called Blue-cards, for their children to attend public school. These ‘blue-cards’ not only allow undocumented children to enroll in public schools, but they also protect all family members from deportation). LMO trainers did not inform families on how children can enroll in formal schools. This is an important point that will be taken into consideration during this project whereby the LMO Iranian and Afghan trainers will be sensitized towards documentation issues so they are able to provide accurate information or refer cases to NRC’s legal assistance team. They will also be trained on ‘school registration process’ and the bridging to it after the student finishes AEP. These issues (documentation, referrals and registration in school) will also be incorporated in the training of trainers to ensure that new trainers, responsible for cascading of skills, are also aware of these procedures and that the cascading process will happen smoothly. According to the trainers, the communities showed great enthusiasm for AEP and life skills, but space limitations in school could not accommodate all of the children. One LMO trainer has mentioned the lack of social cohesion between Iranians and Afghans where some Iranian parents do not want their children to attend school with Afghans. Sensitizing parents, through joint initiatives undertaken by the PTAs in schools throughout this project, will address such issues. The feedback phase of this challenge was extremely useful for us. Not only did we gain buy-in from partners and the community on the idea, we also gained insight on how to fine-tune it to better meet their needs. Some of its components will be modified, as mentioned above, to achieve a larger impact. Thank you for your time and consideration of our Idea! NRC Teams in Iran
Thank you for sending us the experts’ feedback, it was very helpful. We do recognize that this is an ambitious project as it involves many partners and supports many groups. However, based on our past experiences (including for non education projects), this has been working quite well. In Iran, INGOs have to establish formal partnerships through coordination with the government. NRC Iran has already developed working relationships with various governmental and semi-governmental institutions such as Literacy Movement organization (LMO) and State Welfare Organization (SWO). LMO is the only organization recognized by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to provide certified literacy/numeracy classes allowing children who passed the exam to enroll in public schools. NRC Iran have signed tripartite Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with the authorities (BAFIA) and LMO and SWO. Furthermore, the partners are accountable to both NRC and to the government, both of which have staff and focal points assigned for project follow up and monitoring to ensure quality programming. Through these MoUs, NRC ensures all phases of the implementation are done with transparency and in line with the humanitarian principles. The current working relationships are going well. Most recently, LMO has registered up to 3,500 children for accelerated education programmes (AEP) in partnership with NRC. Those children will be able to join the formal system in September. NRC has a dedicated education team in regular contact with authorities and partners not only through phone calls and e-mails, but also during regular monitoring field visits. NRC is also in touch with Afghan focal points, who are representatives of their communities; they provide feedback and support when needed. For this Idea to be well implemented, monthly project review meetings will be held with all partners and community members (Afghan focal points, teachers) to discuss progress, challenges, and ways forward. NRC focal points will be assigned to follow up on project implementation sites and to report back feedback from the community to the education team. In addition to education team who are focal points for follow up and feedback on the project, NRC has a dedicated Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) unit. The M&E unit supports NRC programmes and has weekly internal meetings with the education team. During the feedback phase of this challenge, the M&E team held Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with Afghan families to learn more from them and help us adapt the project to their needs. The results of these FGDs showed that members of the community are very much in favor of this family-centered initiative. The M&E unit will continue to work closely with education on this project to collect feedback from partners, authorities, and families through mechanisms such as FGDs and complaint/suggestion boxes that can be placed in each site. NRC will also use the above mentioned meetings as platforms to share feedback and work together on moving forward. The idea is family centered, involving all female and male family members, and affects the men, women, boys and girls of the community as a whole. This is, in itself, a way to increase access to education for women and girls. Many male members of the family in displaced situations stand against female education (for security or financial reasons) and prioritize that of males. By creating education opportunities for all members of the family, fathers and sons, in particular, will understand and appreciate the importance of girls’ education and stop opposing it. The evaluation of the UNHCR project attached showed that fathers’ attitudes changed throughout the project upon realizing the profound effect that education has on the lives of their families, including that of their daughters. By targeting men and boys, as well as women and girls, this project will change attitudes and behaviors of the whole family towards female education and ultimately increase women’s and girls’ access to quality education. This was supported during the FGD, mentioned above, where members of the community indicated that the positive parenting classes will lead to changed views about girls’ education in general and will encourage families to enroll their daughters in school. In fact, the FGD participants emphasized the importance of giving the same opportunities for males and females alike. Furthermore, LMO has been able to open “home-based” classes for women and girls that offer safe spaces for learning for those unable to leave their homes or walk long distances to education sites. The families interviewed during the FGD mentioned that distance and financial barriers are obstacles preventing women from accessing classes. By identifying suitable homes within a neighborhood and using them for female education, we can limit the risks and fears faced by women and girls accessing classes. LMO and NRC will look for such spaces for this project if needed.
Thanks Ashley! Our teams get information in various ways; one of which is what humanitarians call a Vulnerability Assessment. This is done through home visits or by calling members of the community to assess their needs. The teams have been able to interview 679 Afghan families since January 2017. The assessments address a wide range of vulnerabilities, including access to Education and legal issues. These data allow NRC to develop activities based on needs clearly identified by Afghans themselves.
During the implementation stage, Afghan families are involved by identifying focal points within their communities. The focal points then liaise with female-headed households, Afghans with specific needs such as physical limitations, who cannot reach the authorities to get access to services. Furthermore, our Information Counseling & Legal Assistance (ICLA) unit receives daily calls from Afghan families though the ‘ICLA Hotline’. They gather information on Afghan families who face challenges when accessing services, including primary education and the documentation requirements to properly register and enroll children in primary schools.
There is also very good involvement of school personnel. NRC has established good working relationships with schools’ principals and teachers. Many focus group discussions and meetings with Afghan families take place inside the schools. Teachers have been instrumental for NRC: They understand the dynamics of the classes, the challenges faced by Afghan children such as language barriers (e.g. Pashtun children may not have Persian as their first language), and help in the integration of the Afghan pupils with host communities.
All activities are coordinated with local Iranian authorities, with which NRC works very closely.
We also do some follow up with the communities on activities by meeting regularly with them to get their feedback on the services provided. These focus group discussions allow NRC teams to adjust the activities accordingly and ensure that adequate and meaningful assistance is provided.
The pilot project with UNHCR mentioned earlier was evaluated by our Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Unit. The report gave some very good recommendations based on seven group discussions with Afghan parents and children in the various project locations. In addition, discussions were also held with local partners and the representatives of the Ministry of Education.
Through all these methods, we have access to and acquire the information needed to make this a success.