The municipality of N’Zérékoré, one of the largest in the Republic of Guinea, is committed to socio-economic development based on lasting peace. The time has come for innovation, as well as to look for path-breaking methods and tools through decentralized cooperation, projects and sharing of experiences between cities.
Pé Mamadi Bamy, Mayor of the Municipality of N'Zérékoré
Building a learning city
N’Zérékoré, located by the border of Liberia and Sierra Leone, is home to almost 200,000 people, making it the second most populous city in Guinea after the capital, Conakry. It is also the capital of the prefecture of the same name, and is known for its lively markets and prosperous silverworking trade.
The municipality is facing many challenges relating to health and education and, in response, has launched an extensive learning strategy that aims to improve the living conditions of its citizens. Since initiating the strategy, N’Zérékoré has succeeded in stimulating collective awareness of hygiene and health issues. To create an integrative lifelong learning-oriented environment, the city has set up designated activity zones across the city to inform and train the population about environmental and public hygiene. This is part of a comprehensive waste management project that also provides employment opportunities to vulnerable groups. Sanitation committees working at the interface between the municipality and its inhabitants play a key role in the project’s success. Set up by N’Zérékoré to inform, spread and foster good public health practices, the committees’ actions have won municipal prizes. These, in turn, have fostered the sanitation committees’ strong commitment to their mission to improve hygiene conditions across the city.
In addition to its multiple actions to boost health, N’Zérékoré has deployed various initiatives designed to enhance the education system by augmenting the number of classrooms and increasing access to learning and sports facilities. This has been made possible thanks to the intelligent cost-sharing and fundraising mechanisms established by the city over the years.
N’Zérékoré faces significant challenges related to education: a low literacy rate among its population, overcrowded classrooms and a lack of teachers. The city has also identified a lack of learning facilities and sport grounds. Other challenges include substandard roads linking the various districts of the city that are home to almost 200,000 inhabitants and public health issues, such as pollution, insalubrious living conditions and periodic sewer overflows.
To tackle these challenges, N’Zérékoré has developed a far-reaching plan that focuses on health and the need to foster effective waste management. Workshops led by local sanitation committees increase inhabitants’ awareness of hygiene, waste treatment and urban sanitation. Functional literacy classes have also been created in collaboration with NGOs. In order to encourage local citizens to participate enthusiastically in combating these issues, the city has organized a series of recreational activities and fun events, such as short plays and celebrations, that take place in public venues.
Such events also serve as an opportunity to appeal to public and private partners for project funding that will help build a learning city in N’Zérékoré. Additionally, the city regularly hosts advocacy events, which have proved to be a particularly successful means of establishing agreements with partners, leading to an enhanced commitment to learning initiatives. These agreements profit the city as a whole by improving its road network and creating learning venues and sports facilities. Efficient collaborations between all of the actors participating in these projects has guided them towards a shared vision of a better, safer city for all.
2. Developing a plan
Building a learning city is seen as a vital way of raising awareness of N’Zérékoré’s challenges and improving inhabitants’ learning and living conditions. The city has therefore launched a comprehensive action plan to achieve its medium and long-term objectives. First, it has established targets designed to increase the literacy rate among its inhabitants and improve education settings for young people. It has worked with NGOs to organize functional literacy classes that allow citizens of all ages to become independent. The city has also reduced the maximum number of pupils per class to 50 by recruiting additional community teachers and making more classrooms available.
Second, the municipality has introduced a broad range of measures to improve public health, including regular awareness-raising sessions that are open to the general public. These workshops cover topics such as urban sanitation, environmental pollution and waste collection, and are helping to reduce dumping and pollution across the city. This initiative is being supported by introducing bins into individuals’ homes and creating teams of street cleaners. In addition, N’Zérékoré is taking active steps to extend health coverage for its citizens. Efforts to improve public health and education levels are having a universally positive impact on local people’s living conditions.
In the long term, N’Zérékoré aims to improve its transport infrastructure and increase the range of learning facilities available across the city. It has contracted companies to upgrade derelict link roads between city districts, and build new roads, crossings, tunnels and bridges. Together with the construction of shared local sports facilities and cultural centres, this strong push to improve urban infrastructure is facilitating public access to learning.
3. Creating a coordinated structure involving all stakeholders
The city has created a coordination committee that is responsible for increasing collaborations between the different municipal departments involved in building a learning city. The coordination committee has worked to bring together the relevant stakeholders from all of the public bodies involved with the aim of increasing the efficiency of citywide measures and facilitating the development of learning facilities and learning activities in N’Zérékoré. The coordination committee has succeeded in reducing municipal departments’ overall workload, and in fostering mutual comprehension that favours the learning city’s continuous development.
The committee coordinates the implementation of learning city projects and supervises the work of three subcommittees, each of which has a clearly defined set of responsibilities. The subcommittee for economic affairs, finance and housing is responsible for fundraising as well as for the allocation of market stalls. The subcommittee for sanitation, roads, hygiene and public works runs the waste collection service and develops actions related to urban sanitation, the application of hygiene rules, and road building and maintenance. Finally, the subcommittee for social affairs, education, health, youth, arts and sports focuses on security, public order, arts provisions, sports facilities, education and women’s issues.
The subcommittees have established partnerships with representatives from civil society, the private sector and NGOs. The coordination committee organizes periodic meetings that bring together the heads of these subcommittees and their project partners to analyse issues and achievements, plan new projects and share a common vision of a learning city.
4. Mobilizing and utilizing resources
N’Zérékoré has supplemented municipal funds and state subsidies by developing a specific and efficient cost-sharing mechanism to finance the development of a learning city. Citywide projects and events are financed in collaboration with various partners.
The municipality advances its co-financing strategy in two ways: first, through cost-sharing meetings between the three subcommittees and their partners, who contribute funds to the various projects in which they participate thus helping to fund their implementation. N’Zérékoré uses these meetings to foster partners’ involvement in the building of a learning city, and to determine how costs will be shared.
Secondly, the municipality raises funds during advocacy events as a means of further increasing the impact of its ambitious vision for learning and education. During these events, the municipality encourages individuals, institutions, NGOs and the private sector to participate in its projects, and to support them through donations and bequests.
5. Making learning accessible to all
N’Zérékoré’s projects respond to its citizens’ learning needs. As well as increasing literacy, they focus primarily on transforming hygiene and health-related behaviours. They aim to change inhabitants’ attitudes towards waste management, and encourage them to adopt safe and respectful environment practices.
The city has, for example, implemented a comprehensive waste management project to inform the population of the risks of poor waste management and environmental pollution. By providing targeted training that tackles two interconnected issues – the dangers of poor waste management and the benefits of healthy practices – the project has triggered a change in citizens’ behaviours.
The waste management project also addresses the needs of disadvantaged groups by providing them with professional training. This measure has had several positive outcomes. It harnesses the voices of people who have participated in the training to promote the spread of good practices. At the same time, it provides vulnerable groups with job opportunities. For example, a number of women have subsequently found employment as street and market stall cleaners.
To make the waste management project still more efficient, the municipality has set up sanitation committees to encourage behavioural change and public hygiene. It has created an excellence award to foster participation in these committees and promote the positive outcomes of their work. Committees are also responsible for organizing information sessions for inhabitants, with the support of the media.
6. Organizing celebratory events
The municipality has organized events to promote learning and education, as well as to highlight increased awareness and behavioural change among its inhabitants.
To raise health awareness, N’Zérékoré organizes an event to mark Global Handwashing Day. It promotes handwashing as an easy and affordable way of preventing infections. Other events include public performances that emphasize the importance of green issues such as waste management and environmental protection, and societal priorities, such as peace and social cohesion. During these events that bring individuals, families and communities together, learning activities foster social bonds between the diverse communities living side by side in N’Zérékoré.
The city hosted a major celebration to mark the end of the Ebola virus epidemic. This also served as an occasion to celebrate significant improvements in terms of public hygiene and living conditions achieved collectively through initiatives led by local inhabitants and the municipality. During this collective celebration, the municipality advocated the benefits of hygiene to its citizens.
7. Monitoring and evaluation
The construction of the city of N'Zérékoré as a learning city began with a needs analysis to identify the actions to be carried out, the actors involved, the duration of the work and the expected results. At the end of this analysis, the implementation of priority actions began. A follow-up committee has been set up.
The municipality’s progress towards building a learning city is evaluated during regular meetings attended by the coordination committee and subcommittees, as well as all of the stakeholders involved in the project. Prior to scheduling these meeting, the municipality conducts field inspections and produces reports analysing the work of the various subcommittees and the progress made towards establishing a learning city.
The meetings organized by the municipality allow it to exchange with the key actors involved in the learning city project, inform them of the progress made to date, and share a common and ambitious vision for N’Zérékoré. Based on these meetings, stakeholders can take strategic decisions to further develop learning activities across the city.
8. Achievements and the way forward
An ambitious vision, strenuous efforts, and the creation of an efficient project coordination structure have generated multiple positive outcomes for the city and its inhabitants. The creation of a learning city has, for example, increased public awareness of sanitation issues, improved hygiene practices and transformed environmental practices. This has been achieved through the various actions and events organized by the municipality’s subcommittees and sanitation committees.
The city’s waste management project has provided disadvantaged groups, including women, with opportunities to access jobs. This project has had many positive repercussions: as well as creating jobs, it has enhanced public hygiene among its communities, and improved living conditions and public health across the city.
In addition, significant efforts to improve learning provision for young people and increase access to existing and new learning facilities (for example, by building new roads and bridges) have created a better learning environment while simultaneously improving inhabitants’ mobility and living conditions. N’Zérékoré proves that strong commitment and creative cost-sharing mechanisms enable the construction of a learning city that benefits all areas of public life.
Pé Mamadi Bamy
Mayor of the Municipality of N'Zérékoré
Official city website