When Stephen Mahony learned about the inaugural MTN Awards for Social Change, he was hopeful that JumpStart fitted the brief. The awards recognise – amongst other things – NPOs that demonstrate excellent monitoring and evaluation practice (M&E). This aligned neatly with JumpStart’s vision.
Angie Maloka of the MTN Foundation explained the aim of the award. NPOs must measure the outcome of their work, because donors need to see their money is being spent productively. “Additionally, we wish to see NPOs who are already doing this well, go on to share their learning,” she said.
Mahony submitted the JumpStart numeracy programme, currently operating in 20 Ekurhuleni South primary schools, for consideration. The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) has funded this project since 2016 to the tune of R7,3 million rand annually, and Mahony is keen to see it expand in months to come.
NPOs are working for a better South Africa
The MTN Foundation recognises non-profits for good M&E practice in the NPO sector. A total of 70 entries were received from a range of organisations working for a better South Africa. Eligible projects and programmes have to have created positive impact for at least two years. JumpStart’s shortlisting was in the medium-sized category with four other projects. “This is a good beginning for us,” Mahony said.
“The idea of this award really appeals because M&E is key to how JumpStart works. We don’t simply monitor the overall progress of the programme on an annual basis. We also do daily monitoring of learners in classrooms. M&E features at every level of the programme’s design and implementation, so entering the competition was important.”
Monitoring and Evaluation practices every day
Every member of the JumpStart team performs M&E practices on a daily basis. Interns use a mobile app, designed to track learners’ progress in real-time. This ensures that struggling learners receive immediate attention and extra assistance. Additionally, those who are doing well, on the other hand, can continue at their own rate to the next level. Project Coordinators monitor learners using online dashboards, and the results are available to all school stakeholders. Furthermore, managerial staff, right up to the level of executive oversight, perform quality assurance consistently. As a final measure of how the programme is working, teachers rate JumpStart annually. This anonymous feedback indicates how well the programme is serving educators.
Learners are on track
The Early Grade Maths Assessment (EGMA) measures numerical competency on an annual basis. Every school participates in the standardised testing, which takes place digitally in real time. This digital assessment measures how Grade 1-3 learners are performing and offers various relevant comparisons. Performance and progress monitoring show comparisons on a year by year basis. Consequently, Heads of Departments can easily observe the trend within their schools. Similarly, the app monitors the progress of each school in the Ekurhuleni South programme, relative to each other. With overwhelming clarity, it shows learners on track to achieve numerical competency by the end of Grade 3. This strongly predicts future scholastic success.
“The EGMA shows significant and constant improvement in early grade maths in Ekurhuleni South schools,” said Mahony. “This is backed up by an external evaluation conducted by the University of Johannesburg with funding from the ZENEX Foundation that validated EGMA results and showed that JumpStart doubles learning outcomes for learners by end of Grade 3.”
Listening to the judges
Zulaikha Brey is a developmental economist. She is the senior consultant of Monitoring and Evaluation at Trialogue, who partnered with MTN to judge the award. She explained that project design, outputs, outcomes and advanced M&E practices featured in the assessment criteria.
The judges’ report pointed towards a golden thread of synergies which shone through all the successful programmes. This constructive criticism showed where a sharper focus will benefit the end users. JumpStart’s management team welcomed these helpful insights which will guide the programme to plan for greater future success.
- Listen to Angie Maloka, MTN Foundation’s Senior Manager, discussing the award with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show.