The importance of MERL in the non-profit sector can never be overemphasized. It is essential for sustainability and scalability. MERL can be used to demonstrate that programme efforts have had a measurable impact on expected outcomes and have been implemented effectively. It is essential in helping schools, programme partners, and funders acquire the information and understanding they need to make informed decisions about a project’s operations. As Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, once said – “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
What is MERL?
To understand MERL, one must first define what it means. Although monitoring and evaluation go hand in hand, they differ in concept. Monitoring involves tracking inputs, processes, activities, outputs, and outcomes against indicators and modifying these processes and activities when necessary. In other words, monitoring tracks performance against what was planned/targets. The role of monitoring is to identify a problem during the implementation phase of a project and therefore find measures to fix that problem to improve performance.
On the other hand, Evaluation is a systematic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the project. Similar to monitoring, evaluation aims to improve the project. Evaluation supplies information on lessons learnt from work already done to influence future planning.
Research and Learning go hand in hand as research assists in creating new knowledge, which contributes to the learning process, improving the overall M&E in an organization.
The Goal of our Khulani Schools Programme
As the Trevor Noah Foundation, we are driven by our vision of ensuring a world where an education enables the youth to dream, see, and build the impossible. We believe that can be achieved through empowering young people with the foundation for a better life: quality education.
The Khulani Schools Programme aims to do just that. The overarching goal is to contribute to inclusive and equitable access to quality education. As such, the key outcomes are as follows:
At the level of learners:
- There are increased successful transitions from primary school to high school;
- Young people are resilient, self-confident and academically and digitally competent;
- Young people make informed choices about their future;
- Young people pathway into post school learning and/or earning opportunities.
At the level of educators:
- There is an increase in the number of responsive, supportive, and inspiring educators equipped to deliver 21st century education.
At the level of the school:
- There is an enhanced learning and teaching environment in schools through improved governance, and increased access to resources and infrastructure.
At the level of the community:
- The community is more active in the schools and supports a positive learning environment.
We monitor outcomes to measure the success of all our core activities and programmes. Our success stories speak for themselves.
YouthBuild South Africa
The Faranani Infrastructure Project – a construction skills training initiative geared towards making young people employable or self-employed – was birthed through a collaborative effort between the Trevor Noah Foundation and YouthBuild South Africa.
Within a few weeks of the technical training, Karabo Mooketsa (24) started building a backroom within her yard to generate additional income for her family. Currently, there is only one breadwinner in her family of six.
“I was so excited to know that as a female, I can also learn construction. When I first started, I had no knowledge of this sector. Now I can say that I love it, and since I’ve learned so much, I’m ready to do more.” – Karabo Mooketsa.
Linked outcomes: 1) Young people pathway into postschool learning and earning opportunities, 2) there is an enhanced learning and teaching environment in schools through improved infrastructure and 3) the community is more active in the schools and supports a positive learning environment.
Together with our partner, Microsoft SA Philanthropies, we appointed Edunova to assist in developing a holistic and sustainable 21st century ICT model for our Khulani School learners and educators. Since we started early this year, we have impacted 121 teachers, 4783 learners, over 1284 community members, and the numbers continue to rise.
I believe the clubs were a great success because they helped me believe more in education and more in what I am capable of as a person. Both the English and Coding clubs were very helpful in enhancing my vocal ability and vocabulary. They also helped strengthen my confidence. Through the coding club, I learned and believed more in technology and how we can use it as a tool to change the world and the community that I live in. The clubs helped change my perspective on education, technology, and hard work.” – Nompumelelo, Grade 9 learner at Willow Crescent Secondary.
The Learning Centre has positively impacted Siyabonga by providing a place where all teachers, particularly the maths department, can integrate technology into everyday teaching. Teachers can now use collaborative learning to share ideas through the training we have had there. We know how to use technology; now, we also know how to integrate it. This is a skill on its own. We have grown as teachers, and more knowledge has been imparted on us.” – Dumisani Mahlangu, Mathematics Teacher at Siyabonga Secondary School.
My Online Therapist
Throughout the year, educators took part in two My Online Therapist programmes to learn how to provide emotional support to learners through periods of stress. The first is Wellness on WhatsApp, the second being Teacher Resilience. After participating in each of the programmes, there was a positive change in teachers observed through the following outcomes:
- Knowledge of mental health
- Knowledge of the number of stress management tools available
- Improved knowledge on the effects of secondary trauma
- Enhanced levels of coping with secondary trauma
- Teachers’ resilience improved in addressing challenges as they were more in tune with their states of being.
Quite informative, and there wasn’t a sense of judgement or the use of a condescending tone. The examples given were quite relatable.” – Educator from a Khulani School.
Linked outcomes: 1) young people are reslient, self-confident, academically and digitally competent and 2) there is an increased number of responsive, supportive and inspiring teachers.
Education Changemakers Kabelo and Bonang conceived the idea of The Marking App. They identified that much of teaching and learning time is compromised as teachers mark formal assessments to comply with the education system requirements. They came up with a Marking App to improve classroom teaching and learning time to address this problem.
After being granted funding for their initiative by the Trevor Noah Foundation, they further raised another R40 000 through GIBS Academy and South African Breweries Foundation to develop the App.
The two gentlemen did not stop there. Kabelo and Bonang presented at the Education and Social Justice Conference and wrote a Journal Article for the same conference hosted by the University of Stellenbosch. The journal will publish at the end of 2021.
The Founders of the Marking App have also been invited to a Gala Dinner by the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program to educate students on the initiative. They are currently collaborating with the foundation’s students to conduct the APP Marker Research Analysis.
Furthermore, Kabelo and Bonang will be participating in a panel discussion at the South Africa Summit (SAIS) and have been awarded a complimentary Online Booth. They have also entered the AYO Technology Solutions competition, and the Marking App is the Africa Finalist.
Linked outcome: There is an increase in the number of responsive, supportive, and inspiring educators equipped to deliver 21st century education.
MERL is critical to measuring effectiveness and impact. It also helps organizations allocate the most appropriate and sufficient resources for a project and prioritize which tasks need more resources (diverting resources for priority projects). When MERL mechanisms are firmly established in all programmes and initiatives, organizations can collect necessary data to guide their strategic planning processes for the long haul.