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Inspiring a generation of future evaluators in South Africa

Johannesburg, 7 September 2023 – “Evaluation methods are important, but the politics need negotiation. Credibility involves a combination of strong institutions, strong policy, strong evaluators, and the will to ask the right questions”, explained Dr Indran A. Naidoo, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), during his lecture to postgraduate students of the University of Witwatersrand School of Governance, on 7 September 2023. The talk was the last in a series of three summer lectures that the IOE Director delivered in South Africa, aimed at inspiring a generation of future evaluators.

Held as part of the ‘Masters of Management in the field of Governance: Monitoring and evaluation’, the lecture followed those delivered to the students of the postgraduate diploma course in ‘Public and Development Sector Monitoring and Evaluation’ of the Wits School of Governance, on 11 August 2023, and to the students of the honours class of the post graduate degree in Geography of the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Education, on 14 August 2023. 

During his lecture to the Wits Master class, Dr Naidoo provided insights into the evolution of evaluation over recent years. Touching upon a number of salient issues, the IOE Director noted that the hegemonic view of evaluation has become contested in recent times, including in light of the weak response of the evaluation community to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as of the insurgence of big data and the advent of artificial intelligence. Multiple streams now feed the discourse relating to good governance, key being media and civil society. Nonetheless, the transparency and accountability mechanisms enshrined in evaluation remain of paramount importance for a culture of solid democratic governance. In this regard, the efforts being made by Wits University are very important.

The investment by the University of Witwatersrand in evaluation training is commendable. Over the past decade, it has capacitated young and experienced evaluators in the latest cutting-edge methodology. IOE is very honoured to have contributed to the content of the course, and to have brought some of the latest thinking in development evaluation”, affirmed Dr Naidoo.

The Wits School of Governance has taken the initiative to build the capacity of local personnel in South Africa, and Africa at large, so that it can lead by example and create its own developmental solutions. The master course builds qualitative and quantitative skills for, and capacity in formulating, managing, monitoring, and evaluating development interventions.

Dr Kambidima Wotela, Associate Professor in Public Policy and Governance, coordinated the event. Dr Wotela has pursued systems thinking, methodology, and analysis which he uses to understand development, public policy, leadership, governance, political economy, institutional and organizational arrangements, and monitoring and evaluation.

On 14 August 2023, Dr Naidoo delivered a lecture to the students of the post graduate degree in Geography of the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Education. In his talk, the IOE Director pinpointed the fundamental importance of independence for evaluation, the need for methodological pluralization, the significance of the psychological dimensions of evaluation, and the difference that an effective communication strategy can make.

During the lecture, as a case study, Dr Naidoo also share some of the preliminary results of IOE’s recent Ethiopia Country Strategy and Programme Evaluation. Findings include the embedment of IFAD interventions within strong governmental institutions, community contributions in investment costs and matching funds, and evidence of women’s economic empowerment. Opportunities remain for stronger cross learning over the program, and overall within the rural sector.

The talk well-reflected the vision of the School of Education, which aims to provide an education that is accessible and relevant to the full range of learners, appropriate to both national and global contexts, that is of high quality and that contributes to lifelong learning in a South Africa characterised by social justice and sustainable economic development.

Dr Sadhana Manik, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography Education, convened the event. Dr Manik is the South African project leader for several internationalization of higher education institutional exchange and research projects. Her research interests include international teacher migration and xenophobia, environmental education, textbook research, access, success and support of students in higher education.

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