In most countries there will be laws that govern the accessibility of budgets. While School Management Committees (SMCs) in every country should have access to the school budget (budget management is likely to be one of their mandated roles) the levels of public accessibility may differ. Depending on what type of group you are working with you may need to go through a particular procedure to gain access to the school budget. The role (and power) of the implementing organisation is key in this.
Once the budget is accessed, the supporting organisation may need to translate the budget into an understandable format, and support community members or the SMC to engage with it (see the questions below).
Questions to engage people with the school budget:
How much is the total budget? What are the different sources of funding? Who contributes the most? Often parental / guardian contributions will not be included in the budget information so it can be useful to run a separate activity to look at these contributions, for example, asking parents to list the different contributions they make to the education of their children, at different times of year. For example, in 2004, The Family Literacy Project, in KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa, found that although registration fees were only, on average, 51 Rand, other costs associated with education (uniform, transport, sports days, food, building maintenance and stationary) totalled 1,073 Rand.
What is the expenditure per pupil (i.e. total school budget / no. of pupils)?
What are the different types of expenditure – for example: teachers’ salaries, books, school maintenance, etc.? What are the most important areas for expenditure? What is missing? How would you allocate the expenditure differently?
Is the budget fair? Does it favour one specific group?
How much would the school budget need to increase to allow all children in this area access to school – would this be on the same cost sharing levels?
It can be useful to use a
Budget Chapatti Diagram
power relations in a budget process more
deeply. This involves placing a circle
representing the school budget at the centre
of the page and then thinking about all the
education stakeholders, cutting out circles
of different size to represent the power and
influence they have in the budget making
process. Laying these circles in relation to
the school budget, with their placement
representing geographical distance from the
school helps map out who is involved in
budget decision-making and how. It can also
be useful to look at what it is that gives the
different people power, and whether this
power is positive. Does it help the system
function effectively and democratically?