Where are South Sudan’s children?

Using Data to Refill Empty Classrooms

Two million school-age children are out of school in South Sudan – the highest rate in the world, according to UNICEF.

Since returning to war in December 2013, the government and opposition forces have recruited more than 19,000 children to serve as soldiers, cooks, spies, messengers, and in, some cases, for sexual purposes. A joint education needs assessment conducted in 2016 and 2017 showed that one in every three schools has been attacked, with both military and displaced populations occupying school buildings.

USAID has worked since 2014 to increase access to education for the most conflict-affected learners. It commissioned MSI, a Tetra Tech company, to conduct a Rapid Education and Risk Analysis (RERA).

Despite logistical difficulties,a rapidly changing environment, and potential physical threats, MSI’s team of 10 data collectors visited 27 sites over a four-week period.

Their stops included learning sites run by volunteer teachers,
accelerated learning programs for students 12 and older who missed some or all of their formal primary education, and community primary schools accommodating an influx of internally displaced students.

“MESP South Sudan, and exercises such as the RERA, has and will continue to challenge us all to produce our highest quality work,” shared Dr. Nitika Tolani, MSI’s education technical director. “They highlight the critical role of the community in ensuring children’s safety and access to education and inspired us to think innovatively about what we do and how to improve quality of education at all levels.”

The analysis gathered information to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between the conflict and the educational system, including consultations with national and community-level actors to better perceive the effects of education on conflict mitigation.

MSI conducted 78 focus groups with students and teachers, and held 210 interviews with nearly 1000 participants, helping to raise the voices of those most affected. Data derived from these discussions will help USAID to develop context-specific and risk-informed programming.

For more on the challenges faced and lessons learned during USAID/South Sudan RERA, click here.

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In Jordan, A Recipe for Success

As the changing season welcomes students back to classrooms around the world, Jordan’s next generation of evaluation experts prep for their own graduation.

In 2016, the USAID-funded Jordan Monitoring Evaluation Support Project (MESP) launched a six-month practicum-based apprenticeship program. It is designed to give young professionals the tools and resources to effectively advance within the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) community.

Four weeks of intensive classroom courses were coupled with five months of on-the-job training with USAID’s implementing partners – a successful recipe that led to renewal of the program for an additional two years.

USAID Jordan Nancy Eslick with MESP apprentices.

USAID Jordan Mission Director Nancy Eslick meeting with MESP Apprentices on August 30.

The apprenticeship initiative, which is set to graduate a dozen new participants in October, impressed Acting USAID Mission Director, Nancy Eslick, enough to explore the program from the perspective of participants themselves.

Earlier this year, she met with a group of apprentices, host organizations and trainers. The group lauded the experience for being a great entry into the M&E field and providing effective hands-on experience.

“Monitoring and evaluation is a lifestyle, all of us are watching ourselves and learning from our mistakes when planning for our future,” said Emad Almajali.

Emad, now a Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Specialist, is one of 28 graduates who have completed the program to date and one of 25 who have secured full-time employment in the M&E field. Additionally, 22 organizations have been supported through the program’s job placements, including 17 USAID implementing partners, and 6 local development and humanitarian organizations.

Learn more about MESP’s commitment to accountability and aid effectiveness through data-driven best practices here:

”What we really care about….”

In addition to organizing another round in its successful apprentice program, Jordan MESP recently hosted the third annual MEL Conference on behalf of USAID.

Held in Amman, this year’s focus was “Self-reliance and Sustainability.” It was attended by over 250 people, representing 75 different government institutions, USAID activities, local and international organizations.

Attendees enjoyed a dynamic expo featuring 25 booths showcasing USAID activities, four panel discussions around self-reliance, and nine capacity-building sessions. These sessions covered themes including approaches to measuring sustainability, role of M&E in grant-making, community-based M&E, scaling up development interventions and introduction to self-reliance metrics.

Additionally, the event gave attendees a word from MSI President Emeritus and international scaling up expert Larry Cooley. Cooley highlighted the need for M&E professionals and projects to look beyond just their immediate work to the long-term effects on communities.

“We don’t want to sustain the project we want to sustain the flow of benefits to a group of people. We don’t want the project to continue, we want the benefits to the people to continue, and we want them to continue at the scale of the problem. What we really care about is the world before the project and the world after,” said Cooley.

For more from Larry Cooley and MSI’s scaling framework in action, click here.

  • USAID Jordan MEL Conference attendees.
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To Move Forward on Anti-Corruption, We’re Going Back to School

Group of youths holding bags and cameras at anti-corruption reform film festival in Indonesia.Over the past few decades, Indonesia has transformed into one of the world’s largest democratic countries with significant pushes towards an open government and increased protection of citizen rights. Despite this progress, however, it continues to rank high on the corruption scale.

To combat the endemic, USAID’s CEGAH anti-corruption initiative, implemented by MSI, worked alongside one of Indonesia’s leading corruption watchdog organizations to design the Anti-Corruption Academy. The Academy was launched in April of 2018 and features six full courses, 52 modules, and over 2,000 instructional videos supporting corruption reform training.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) coupled the launch with a musical performance and panel discussion which drew in over 200 audience members, including figures from mass media, education, and government.

Poster for anti-corruption reform film festival in Indonesia.

“[The Anti-Corruption Academy] is one of our efforts to make education easily accessible for a lot of people. There is no need for face-to-face interactions, which can be costly and time consuming, especially in Indonesia,” said Adnan Topan Husodo, ICW’s Coordinator. “Anti-corruption can also be learned using technology. The public is thirsty to know more, and to do something about corruption.”

In additon to e-learning, focusing on new media is one of several innovations the CEGAH project using. The project also collaborated on a film festival with the Supreme Audit Agency of the (BPK RI) to encourage students to understand importance of citizen engagement in corruption reform.

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Advancing Scaling Up Youth Programming

MSI is leading the conversation on scaling up successful development approaches. Across sectors including healthcare, education, youth, agriculture, and justice, our widely used framework is supporting sustainable progress in fragile states and setting the standard on which future development projects can be measured and scaled.

Recently, two members of MSI’s staff had the chance to talk with USAID about using our framework to scale up Positive Youth Development (PYD) programs. Around the world, youth are facing challenges including unemployment, lack of access to education and health, and frustration with their inability to influence decision making.

Larry Cooley and Hisham Jabi

Larry Cooley and Hisham Jabi presented MSI’s Scaling Up Framework and its application to PYD. Hosted by the USAID Youth Team, the discussion was attended by USAID staff, partners and several government representatives.

MSI’s presentation focused on considerations for scaling up Positive Youth Development programs and provided strategies, including adapting scalability assessment checklists and implementing a real-time scaling lab.

“It is critical to consider scale at the early stages of designing PYD program,” noted USAID Youth Coordinator, Mike McCabe. “In Egypt, there are millions of unemployed people who need to be supported through large scale employment programs.”

Larry Cooley founded MSI in 1981 and currently serves as MSI’s President Emeritus. Hisham Jabi is a technical director in positive youth development, capacity building, workforce, program design and assessment in both the private and public sectors.

Click here for additional information on MSI’s scaling up approach.

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Addressing Health Care in West Africa Through Innovation

We target a multitude of health care issues in the countries where we work, including malaria, HIV/AIDS, maternal/child health, and reproductive health. We do this using participatory activities, local training, applied research, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E)

In Ghana, we currently provide monitoring and evaluation (M&E) assistance to USAID/Ghana’s Health, Nutrition and Population Office. We also provide assistance to implementing partners and support data collection and analysis for the Ghana Health Service (GHS). We work closely with health partners to build strong monitoring systems and analytical capacity.

The project, known as Evaluate, has been commended by USAID/Ghana for its management of a multi-dimensional activity, its ability to interface effectively with the ultimate client, the GHS, and the close working relationship between the local and home office teams.

Community health nurses entering DHIS2 data using a tablet application

The project, which is staffed only be local personnel, carries out operations research to inform programming and implements larger scale evaluations across activities. Evaluations have included a gender-focused interventions by three partners to improve nutrition and alleviate poverty in the Northern Region, a review of the effectiveness and scalability of five models of health care worker training, and an impact study on Presidential Management Initiative (PMI)-funded malaria for children under five.

MSI is also conducting orientations and training for health facility staff on use of the tablet-based tracker to capture on client transactions. Tablet use will be rolled out in three regions before the initiative is expanded nation-wide.

MSI also carries out numerous other data collection and assessments, including implementation of a nation-wide baseline (2015), midline (2017) and final (2019) facility-level survey. This survey assesses progress on over 100 service-related indicators across all major health programs. Finally, the project has worked extensively with research institutions to build organizational capacity to undertake critical research proposal writing.

In Zambia, MSI assisted in strengthening the country’s response to the global HIV/AIDS crisis through the USAID-funded Local Partners Capacity Building Program (LPCB). We partnered with 108 civil society organizations to counter the HIV pandemic by supporting the organizations that play a strong role in disseminating HIV prevention and treatment information at the community level through participatory activities.

Members of the New Masala Youth Development Theatre educate their peers about HIV/AIDs.

Our work with HIV, where infection rates among women are significantly higher than among men, and youth have low rates of being tested, required a special lens on both gender and youth. To include these crucial groups, we partnered with women and youth-led organizations that used peer-to-peer learning and local support, including community and school theater groups, youth-led and youth-focused organizations, and community support organizations.

One of several initiatives that the project supported was a partnership with the New Masala Youth Development Theatre. The youth-designed productions focused on encouraging their peers to get tested and on reducing stigmas related to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Learn more here.

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