The MTN Award for Social Change goes to an Ekurhuleni South maths education programme

The MTN Award for Social Change goes to an Ekurhuleni South maths education programme
Callen Hodgskiss and Angie Maloka.

JumpStart, a primary school mathematics education and youth employment programme, which is benefiting 22 000 foundation phase learners in the Ekurhuleni South District, has won The MTN Award for Social Change, worth R300 000. By happy coincidence this took place during Teacher Appreciation Month!

The award, which attracted 143 entries across the three categories, was made at the Trialogue Business in Society conference on Wednesday, 14 October. The goal of the award is encourage and reward good monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practice in the non-profit sector. A total of R1 million goes to four non-profit organisations, and JumpStart entered in the category for medium-sized NPOs with a total annual income greater than R5 million but less than R15 million.

Angie Maloka of the MTN Foundation congratulated Callen Hodgskiss, General Manager of JumpStart. She said, “The judges felt that the intervention was designed with a high level of consultation and is focused on a clear problem, for which the root cause has been clearly analysed and unpacked. M&E has been embedded throughout the model to ensure that all stakeholders are able to use the feedback to make informed decisions.”

Hodgskiss expressed his delight: “The programme was created as a CSI initiative for JumpCo, a software engineering company. This means that data, systems and processes are central to what we do – they’re in the core of our DNA,” he said. The Ekurhuleni South project is funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

“We’re enormously grateful to Dell Foundation,” continued Hodgskiss, “which focuses on data driven programmes. Their support took us to the next level – in terms of how we design our M&E.”

Dineo Motaung, Deputy Curriculum Education Specialist at Ekurhuleni South District, added her congratulations, “This project is having an enormously positive impact on our learners in the district,” she said.

Hodgskiss articulated the base of the project’s M&E practice: “Our M&E relies on local youth interns who are trained to teach mathematics in under-resourced classrooms using our unique NumberSense workbooks. The foundation of our M&E practice is a daily recording of each child’s mathematics activity.

“This allows us to monitor what’s happening with each learner, how the learners are faring against the curriculum and against others in their cohort, as well as how each grade is progressing in each school. With this information, we monitor the overall progress of the project. We’ve added a digital tool that automatically syncs to the platform, which enables continuous monitoring.

The Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) is an independent digital assessment, which confirms that we are having a significant impact on the learners we’re supporting. Hodgskiss continued, “This award has given us the confidence that we need to scale up to reach more learners and impact more young lives. We focus on early grade maths because the foundation phase is the base of the learning pyramid. If we ensure that learners have a solid mathematical foundation by the end of Grade 3, they will more likely succeed through their entire schooling and be ready to contribute meaningfully to the economy.”

Hodgskiss has many years’ experience as a chartered accountant in the social justice space. He reflected that M&E practice is often just an admin hassle for NPO accountants, a tick box exercise. “JumpStart has a culture of M&E. From the bottom of the organisation to the top, interns to senior management, we are collecting and analysing the data, and using it to drive the programme for better impact and performance. Last year, we were shortlisted for the MTN award, which helped us refine our focus. Our M&E helps us to design the programme too.”

JumpStart CEO, Stephen Mahony, expressed his gratitude to MTN. “It’s so exciting to see all our hard work and one of our core values being echoed in this award. We’re delighted to have received the recognition. We believe firmly that monitoring and measuring what you do almost comes before even deciding what you do.

“This award has given us an incentive to sit down and reflect thoroughly on our M&E, and to find ways to improve our programme. Long may the award continue!”

Mahony said the MTN Award could not have happened without the field team and the people on the ground. “Thank you to all our partners and teachers, principals and sponsors who believe in us.”