Expanding Role of M&E in South Africa

In the 11 years since he has been studying and teaching monitoring and evaluation (M&E), Professor Andy Beke at the University of Pretoria has seen a profound shift in the field. M&E has not only become a more refined subject, the South African professor says, but it also has gained a much wider acceptance and appreciation within the public health and development communities.

Andy Beke
Professor Andy Beke

In the 11 years since he has been teaching monitoring and evaluation (M&E), Professor Andy Beke at the University of Pretoria has seen a profound shift in the field. M&E has not only become a more refined subject, the South African professor says, but it also has gained a much wider acceptance and appreciation within the public health and development communities.

The M&E offerings at the University of Pretoria reflect this broader role. In January, classes began for the University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program, which, thanks to collaboration with MEASURE Evaluation, offers a concentration in M&E for its master’s students.

The demand for this program has been increasing since it was introduced a decade ago, Beke said. “What’s interesting to me is that we’re getting master’s students from diverse undergraduate disciplines. We’re getting people not only from the health or public health sphere, but from mathematics, statistics, anthropology, political science and other areas. But even with these different backgrounds, the outputs are the same—they have deep interest and invest their time and energy in the classes and perform very well. We’re very happy about that.”

Demand has also grown for short courses that provide introductory or supplementary training on M&E. Working with MEASURE Evaluation, the University has offered regional workshops on the M&E of HIV/AIDS and M&E of population, health, and nutrition programs; participants in these workshops have come from all parts of Africa such as Rwanda, Botswana, Swaziland, Tanzania as well as other countries including Ukraine, Haiti, the United States, and Trinidad & Tobago.

In addition, the University also offers one-week introductory M&E courses. “These short courses are for people who are already using M&E in their professions, but who’ve never had a structured, formal M&E course in their lives,” Beke said. Demand for these introductory courses has been high, both within the non-government and government sectors.

“These people have lots of ideas, but no one has instructed them about M&E. This is an opportunity to inform them and also help to reaffirm their conviction that they are in the right area,” Beke said.

The increased visibility and acceptance of M&E is reflected in other ways, Beke said. “People are becoming more aware of the need for M&E than they were in the past. I can see this in many ways: through demand our courses, in job requirements, the growth of conferences and organizations, and through the way everyone talks. Everyone seems to be talking about M&E.”

These changes are part of what makes Beke glad to have moved to M&E from occupational medicine practice since 2000. “To be honest, my inclination was not originally for M&E. I actually entered the M&E field by accident, but since then it has become my everything. I teach it, apply it, and advocate for it in my daily life. In the end we are generating information that can be used to make a difference in the lives of individuals and the communities that we serve,” Beke said.