We often worry about monitoring and evaluating (M&E) the outcomes of the work we do in Kenya and Uganda. It’s true that effective M&E is something of a dark art in the world of international development. Yesterday the PWs in Kisii visited my PW school – St Joseph’s Kemasare – as part of their first week training, ten years after I had been there and, I have to say, I’ve never been so convinced that the work we are doing is making a real difference. To show you why I’ve come to that conclusion, I have to head back a week or so to talk a little about our pre-summer preparations.
We didn’t write a blog post last week (naughty summer team) because pre-summer tends to be quite full-on. I can tell you now that we visited 9 of our Kenyan partner schools in 2 days to ensure they were ready for our PWs. Visiting two of our 1st year schools – Tsimbalo and Jepkoyai – I saw first hand how needy schools are when they first start partnering with EPAfrica. Both of these schools in Kakamega County have great potential, a switched on leadership team and motivated and committed community but they are more like shells than schools – there are buildings and desks but no resources with which to teach though.
Comparing Tsimbalo and Jepkoyai with St Joseph’s Kemasare, the gulf in development is huge. I may be biased but I really believe that St Joseph’s Kemasare has built on the 3 years of EPAfrica investment and, over the last ten years, the Headteacher has been committed to many of the principles we shared during our time there. The school has focused its efforts on maintaining a resource base which facilitates effective learning within the classroom – students were lining up in the library to borrow from hundreds of textbooks and reference books; the lab has gas supply and organised equipment to support practicals. The water tank purchased in my PW year now pumps water directly from a nearby river and the school has even invested in a pipeline which takes the water to the nearby village, so that the community benefits. The school isn’t perfect and not everything we implemented has stuck – girls clubs have fallen by the wayside and some textbooks are looking threadbare – but the community has really galvanised its support around the school and they seem to have used our small boost to really thrive. I could point to an enrolment which has doubled or mean exam scores which have doubled as evidence for this mysterious M&E we so desperately seek. Instead, I would point to the change I have witnessed in the behaviour and demeanour of the students – full of passion and energy and part of a school community which now promotes the importance of learning and gives students faith in their futures.
EPAfrica’s approach to the way it partners with schools is going from strength to strength each year as we learn from our partner schools and Project Workers – we certainly work in a much improved way from when I was a PW ten years ago. Knowing that, I can’t wait to see Tsimbalo and Jepkoyai in ten years time; I have no doubt that they will see a similar radical transformation in standards to what I have witnessed this year at St Joseph’s Kemasare. Good luck as they embark on their journey with EPAfrica.
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Luke was a Project Worker at St Joseph’s Kemasare in 2006. He is a management consultant by day, and Chairman of EPAfirca’s Board of Trustees by night.