Education funding in Paraguay has been interrupted by corruption and inequality in budget distribution to schools in need. Due to this, Paraguay initiated a $90 million National Fund for Public Investment and Development (FONACIDE) in 2012, designating funds for infrastructure to schools in need on an annual basis. However, critics have called the program unreliable noting that FONACIDE’s complexity has displayed a lack of understanding of how schools receive funding.
Since 2008, a student-led organization based in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay, reAcciòn, has made it a consistent priority to increase government responsibility and awareness toward educational spending. A major part of its work involved analyzing FONACIDE functions to better comprehend its intricate processes. With that, reAcciòn’s focus has also been on community engagement and data collection, aimed to provide students, school officials and parents a better understanding of how education spending is distributed towards infrastructure.
Through a web-based app, FOCO, reAcciòn has been able to give a voice to the community and make sure that education spending is being evenly conveyed sufficiently.
What is FOCO?
FOCO in Paraguay is a “community monitoring tool” that seeks to monitor and showcase FONACIDE education spending through “government data” within municipalities in Paraguay. Implemented in 2014, the innovative app allows students and teachers to post photos of damages and make inquiries on funding repairs for issues at hand. It offers insight into how FONACIDE’s spending is distributed to each school, especially to the neediest schools in poorer communities.
Along with these efforts, the organization has worked with various political figures, government and Ministry of Education officials, to familiarize them with FOCO and increase accountability. Every year, through the increased awareness of this project and involvement by students, reAcciòn has offered community-led activities to learn more on the subject of anti-corruption and research in effective policy regarding FONACIDE.
In 2015 and 2017, FOCO was able to allocate a 350% increase of an equally funded distribution by FONACIDE. In other words, over five times more underprivileged schools needing the most education funds were distributed by FONACIDE. As of 2020, FOCO in Paraguay has been able to collaborate with the “Ministry Directors of Educational Planning and Infrastructure,” which has helped to create better ways for data collection and what resources to prioritize for school essentials. Important education leaders and the government of Paraguay have relied more on FOCO to understand the data collection and are involved in reAcciòns community-based work to ameliorate the investment process by FONACIDE.
A Continuing Future
As FOCO continues to strive, the team continues to work on prospective projects to improve the application of funds and evaluate how funds are invested in education spending. Ideally, the next steps for FOCO in Paraguay are to be implemented in other areas of development, such as healthcare and potentially expand on a global scale.
– Alessandra Amati