GROW Post Three: On Monitoring & Evaluation

"You don't need to be great to begin, but you need to begin to be great."
By Anisha Gundewar 

Before you get to the field, it is really hard to know exactly what you will be doing there.  As students accustomed to planning and structure, and then planning some more, this can often be difficult to embrace. Keeping in mind the need for flexibility, we therefore arrived in Iquitos equipped only with our experiences in global health, public health, and GlobeMed and an outline of a few fundamental goals, which we hoped to achieve while on the ground.

Chief among these goals was to monitor and evaluate (M&E) the programs we as a chapter are supporting this year (as outlined in our Memorandum of Understanding). At first, this means observing these programs in action. While we get some details about programs from our partner contact Manuel throughout the year, the best way to fully understand Kallpa’s projects in Pampachica is to watch, engage, and learn. These observations, conversations, and experiences form the foundation for more focused forms of M&E, such as interviews and surveys. All of this work helps us to understand how programs are operating and to make sure that they are truly benefiting the community. Because communities and cultures change, it is important to continuously integrate this evaluative process into any project to ensure that your programs remain relevant and effective.

So how does this process apply to what we’re doing in Iquitos this summer, you might ask?

One of the programs we raised money for this year is ‘El Programa De Prep’. This was a new initiative through which Kallpa hoped to enable students from la Zona de Pampachica to pursue higher education. Many of the adolescents from these neighborhoods have a desire to progress to technical school or university after they graduate from high school. Unfortunately, however, many of them do not have the resources necessary to do so.
In the short time we have been here, we have met many such students. Reina, the youth president of El Aguaje, wants to study psychology when she graduates. In Santa Maria, there are three young men who want to continue their studies in mechanics and information technology but currently cannot afford to do so. 

In order to help such students achieve their goals, Kallpa hired four professors to come to the youth center in El Porvenir and teach preparatory classes in science, math, and other subjects.  This extra schooling would hopefully help participating students excel on the entrance exam required to continue their education. Students who achieve high scores on this exam are also eligible for national scholarships. 

Initially, there was a strong interest in this program – thirteen students from Pampachica had registered to participate. Despite this, program attendance slowly dwindled until there were no longer enough participants to carry on. When students from the different neighborhoods have repeatedly expressed their desire to continue with their education, why did this happen? From their extensive experience working in these neighborhoods, the staff at Kallpa has identified a few possible reasons.

Studying for an intensive exam requires personal motivation and diligence. This is difficult to maintain over long periods when students have family obligations and responsibilities. Additionally the poor public education systems in the area may not have adequately taught these students the proper study skills and habits necessary to succeed. Often times, the Kallpa staff also feels, parental support is lacking. In many of the neighborhoods in Pampachica, parents are preoccupied with meeting their children’s more immediate needs and education becomes a second priority. Scheduling poses another challenge. Since many of these students work or have other household responsibilities, the best time for classes would be between 7:00-10:00pm. However, because their neighborhoods are often dangerous late at night, the professors refuse to teach in Pampachica at these times. Finally, because families have such limited resources, the challenges posed at each level of pursuing higher education can sometimes be both daunting and discouraging.

Over the next month, we will be working with Kallpa and the neighborhoods of Pampachica to more formally investigate each of these contributing factors. This will be done by conducting community interviews and focus groups and possibly surveys. We will talk to parents and students, asking questions about their experiences in and views about education. We will ask about their goals, aspirations and priorities and what they believe will help them reach these goals. Currently we are in the process of putting together a detailed proposal for Kallpa, which will outline the specifics of our methods and objectives. All of this information will help us identify what factors contributed to the failure of this initial Programa de Prep and what changes can be made so that the program will be more successful in the future. What we find will be presented directly to Kallpa so that they will be able to do just that!

I can’t even begin to express to you how excited I am about this project. Over the past three years, our chapter has progressed leaps and bounds in the events we host, the discussions we have, and the funds we raise. Now we are beginning to see the potential in our partnership with Kallpa and the people of Pampachica as well. As we continue to GROW in our partnership and draw on this potential, I have so much hope for the change we will be able to accomplish together.   

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