HIV/AIDS Workers Sharpen Skills

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK A week-long course on research, monitoring and evaluation for professionals implementing HIV/AIDS mitigating programmes in Namibia ended at the University of Namibia last Friday, with participants hailing the course and saying it was long overdue. Participants noted that although there were many programmes being implemented in the health and other sectors in Namibia, their impact remained largely a matter of conjecture because of poor or non-existent monitoring and evaluating mechanisms. The Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia, which facilitated the course through the Department of Communication Sciences, Professor Kingo Mchombu, concurred. According to Mchombu, “There is growing recognition that monitoring and evaluation are key to the successful implementation of projects. Projects are the way development activities are being implemented these days in many developing countries in Africa, including Namibia.” Mchombu said the tools that participants had acquired are some of the critical ones in ensuring that projects are properly executed in terms of supervision and evaluation. He added that proper supervision of projects would also bring about accountability, which most funders were increasingly demanding. “At the end of each project, one has to evaluate and establish how well the targets have been met. Often, the impact of projects is not measured. Sometimes, the evaluation we see is just storytelling. There is a lot of fiction,” he said. He added that health communication for Namibia and other countries where a significant percentage of the population is either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, is important. “Therefore, communication is important in terms of meeting development goals.” Mchombu said estimates show that between 40 and 60 percent of projects in developing countries never got properly implemented because of poor monitoring and evaluation systems. “So we need to be very sharp in terms of project formulating, and evaluation and the role of the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Namibia is to help you to critically look at what you are doing on a day-to-day basis,” he said. He enjoined participants to keep practising skills they acquired, saying practice makes perfect. He challenged them to be long-term partners of the university. For one week, participants looked at various issues that include types of research designs; ethical guidelines of research; qualitative data collection; data coding; basic sampling; data analysis; evaluation; developing a research proposal and writing and disseminating research reports. One of the participants, Manfred Lehoho, a programme coordinator with Cols Health Unite, described the course as an “eye-opener” but felt that the organisers should consider making the course longer, ideally for two weeks. Lehoho said, “There was so much to learn. Often we get data but we struggle to process it. I liked the fact that this course combined research methodology and monitoring and evaluation. That is where I benefited a lot. The work of some organisations is sometimes less appreciated because of poor monitoring and evaluation. When an organisation has proper monitoring in place, it can realise it is doing a lot more than it says it is doing.” Another participant, Olivia Namkomba, the director of the Walvis Bay Multi-Purpose Centre Trust, said the course would help her implement her projects “properly”. “This was time well spent and we are glad that the university assembled distinguished resource people to guide us through the course,” she said. She challenged the university to organize a workshop for human resource managers so that they look at HIV/AIDS policies at the workplace. In response, Mchombu said the university was on the lookout for projects and programmes that could be implemented in partnership with stakeholders and would take up the challenge. Head of the Department of Communication Sciences, Catherine Nengomasha, said the course was one of others lined up by her department. She said the department in collaboration with other partners developed the modules for the course.