Broader perspective from a bigger team

Somalia, May 4, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Safiya Mohamud Said/Mercy Corps  </span>
    One of the members of our joint assessment team, a government official, addresses a classroom full of young students. These trips offer great perspective for everyone: ideas for the Mercy Corps team, insight for government officials and encouragement for students and teachers. Photo: Safiya Mohamud Said/Mercy Corps

Joint monitoring trips are the most exciting visits, in my opinion, to go and see Mercy Corps' program activities. Unlike other trips like assessments and activity supervision, these visits involve groups composed of both Mercy Corps program teams and government officials that are engaged in monitoring the impacts of our programs in the communities we serve.

Our School Environment and Education for Somalia (SEEDS) program runs in 17 of the country's 18 regions. The program aims to improve the access of basic education, health and water services for communities throughout the country.

The Mercy Corps Somalia team conducts periodic monitoring trips every three months to measure program impact. The government is a key member in the process. We meet committees, school principals, teachers and students who tell the stories and experiences that define the impact in their communities.

Some of the schools are located in remote areas that only have a few education and water facilities. Young students are pleased to see their government officials standing in front of them to speak, telling stories of when they were young and, inspiring them to continue their studies and learning until they become big too!

Addressing the school community also facilitates discussions with the students themselves, as officials ask them what they would like to be in the future. To my surprise, most of these students expressed that they want to be teachers in the future, because teachers are often the only leaders they see on a daily basis, facilitating their lessons.

However, introducing students to the joint monitoring team — which includes members with professions including administration, engineering and journalism — gave them different perspectives and the option to think outside the box. It's also step for these young students to maybe match their interests with a potential future profession.

When it comes to the impacts, it’s not only the education, health and water infrastructure that has changed the lives of the community, but also the training we've given teachers, which has strengthened their school leadership. Community Education Committees — which are like Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) — were also given workshops to build their awareness and skills to better participate in the education process for their children. Since these Committees are composed of both literate and illiterate community members, these trainings gave them the chance to contribute more to the school by identifying the gaps and formulating solutions alongside their neighbors, teachers and school leaders. Teachers were also given trainings that helped them teach their students more effectively.

Bashir Ahmed, government official, said, “It’s really encouraging see agencies like Mercy Corps are active in the region. I am so pleased with your enthusiasm and great work for supporting education. This will have great impact on the future of the region, and the country as whole! Thank you! God bless you!”

The experience of this monitoring trip with government officials gave me delight to hear different perspectives on our accomplishments through the SEEDS program. It is encouraging to see that now the government will have the chance to evaluate the impact of supporting education, water and health, and will be able to figure out new ways to sustain educational development in some of Somalia's most challenging, isolated and impoverished regions.