Since 1995, the Phelex Foundation has established more than 30 projects
in elementary and middle schools in helping rural children complete
their basic schooling. We discovered some common problems in the process
of project management. The followings are some of the areas that need
improvements based on our experiences:
1. Regulated Accounting
The accountants for the schools are mostly teachers, who have no knowledge
of professional accounting. Many schools do not know how to make a
financial report, which in many cases cannot reflect the project reality.
In order to solve the problem, the Phelex Foundation held a training
workshop in August 2000. After that the Foundation staff went to different
schools to demonstrate how to fill different forms and explain some
of the questions the local schools had. It seems that the situation
has improved but the problems still exist.
2. Effectiveness of Community Councils
Community Council is responsible for distribution of tuition assistance
money. It makes sure the fairness and transparency of the distribution
process. It also supervises school project and project accounting.
Community Council plays an important role in assuring the success
of each school project. However, some council systems are not working
well. The reasons can be the following: 1) The school is not taking
community council seriously, and it simply gets the council chairman's
signature without going through council discussions; 2) Individual
council members does not realize the importance of his/her responsibilities
so they won't actively participate; and 3) In some areas, local officials
are used to giving instructions without listening to different opinions.
3. Shortage of Workers
It is very common that a project is desperately in need of workers.
Rural school has few teachers in the first place. They have to teach
during the day and work on the project after school in their spare
time. Some parents are afraid that this may affect the quality of
teaching. In addition, teachers don't necessarily have the knowledge
of running an agricultural project. When the project is not working
well, there will be no hope for tuition assistance money.
4. Product Market
Usually schools do not have professionals to market its product, which
could not compete in the market when the sales channels are limited.
In Hubei Province, Yuan'an and Ma'ao Elementary Schools encountered
the same problem of not being able to sell the tea that they grew.
Dangyang Hope Elementary School could not sell all of the mushrooms
they produced. As a result, the goal of raising tuition assistance
money could not be achieved.
5. Product's Vulnerability
Because of the relative small production from the school run project,
the product itself is often vulnerable to natural disasters such as
drought, flood and frost. For example, in Shananxi, half of the date
trees were lost to drought; while in Guangdong, the herbal plants
were mostly damaged by frost.
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