UTAMU's Student-Centered Learning Is A Great Motivation

Josephine Watera the new board member of IDEAS has commended UTAMU’s unique learning approach and the rich e-library which is her first point of reference for literature especially when I am preparing papers for presentation in International conferences.

Ms. Josephine Watera

“The teacher-led e-learning facilitated by external persons is a great motivation to students. The self-paced approach of the University has strongly equipped me to study on self-drive, this doesn’t happen in many higher institutions of learning,” says Josephine, a finalist of Master of Monitoring and Evaluation at UTAMU.

In this week’s feature, Josephine shares his career, study and family journey with UTAMU News. The full interview has been reproduced below:

Who is Josephine Watera?

Josephine Watera is a first born in a family of seven, a married mother of five children including twins. I studied my primary education at the Kitale Union Primary School in Trans-Nzoia District in Kenya. Undertook my ordinary level education at the St. John College Magale, Manafwa District and Mbale Senior Secondary School for my Advanced level education. Upon emerging the second best student in Mbale District in the UACE, in 2002, I joined Makerere University for a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration on government sponsorship. I am a holder of two masters degrees, Social Sector Planning and Management of Makerere University and Masters in Business Administration of the Eastern and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI). I am a finalist student of Masters in Monitoring and Evaluation of at Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU).

You are a finalist in Masters of Monitoring and Evaluation at UTAMU, what attracted you to study at this university?

While at the Uganda Evaluation Week 2015, I happened to attend a session that discussed professionalization of Evaluation field in Uganda with specific focus to academia. Prof. Basheka made an excellent presentation that made me want to join UTAMU on that day. I later visited the website and also interacted with some of the students of UTAMU and I was totally lured. I couldn’t wait to join and sharpen my M and E skills and knowledge in the year that followed, I have no regrets one bit. UTAMU’s partnerships with Wits University of South Africa and Sunderland University of Germany enabled development of a rich content for MME course, which was a great attraction for me.

Is there anything special UTAMU has contributed or exposed you to in your life/career ever since you started studying from there?

UTAMU has a unique learning approach. Through the online platforms, I have been able to interact with students from many countries and pick lessons on their in the field of monitoring and evaluation. The teacher-led e-learning facilitated by external persons is a great motivation to students. The University has a rich e-library, which has been my first point of reference for literature especially when I am preparing papers for presentation in International conferences. Those would be very costly to access them as an individual. The self-paced approach of the University has strongly equipped me to independent and study on self-drive, this doesn’t happen in many higher institutions of learning.

What attracted you to choose a career in Monitoring and Evaluation? What was your driving force?

I must say it wasn’t a deliberate choice but once I got there, I was totally stuck. In 2004 in my second year in the university, I was recruited as a research assistant at REEV Consult led by Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba, who went beyond being my employer to my mentor. Prof. Nuwagaba ensured that it was not about earning but gaining in-depth knowledge of the assignment one had to undertake. In one of the assignments I read so much about monitoring and evaluation and it was exciting. Coupled with my inquisitive personality, which looks at things beyond the face value, I was good to go.

You were recently appointed a board member for IDEAS representing the Sub-Saharan Africa region, Congratulations. What contribution do you hope to bring to the table for the region.

I thank God for this opportunity; I was in the race with three (3) strong candidates (Kenyan, Zambian and Congolese). Being voted by people from different countries is quite challenging. Thank you. I have a big task ahead until end of my term in 2020. Precisely, I plan to device means of how to set-up mini-IDEAS platforms based on geographical representation, support formation of national professional evaluation associations and networking platforms in African countries where they are non-existent, introduce a Peer-to-Peer mentoring program under IDEAS to facilitate exchanges and learning between existing Voluntary Professional Evaluation Organizations (VOPE), explore more opportunities for participation of Youth and Women in evaluation practice and introduce special features on the website on outstanding initiatives and projects by institutional members of IDEAS.

You are the lead person in the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Uganda Parliament, what does that unit do exactly?

Established in 2012 under the Monitoring and Evaluation unit falls under the department of Corporate Planning and Strategy in Parliament. The department is mandated to handle two key functions, planning and monitoring and evaluation. The planning unit coordinates the designing and implementation if the Parliamentary Strategic Plan, the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit picks up from that point and does indicator development, target setting, progress reporting (monitoring) and results reporting (evaluation). The Unit mainly tracks the performance of the institution of Parliament in delivering on its key functions of legislation, representation and oversight.

Why do you think every organization in Uganda should have an M&E department?

Evaluations are key in focusing organizations on results rather that simple outputs, it helps organizations to plan effectively, allocate resources wisely, account for its existence and learn from the good and bad of their interventions.

As a seasoned Evaluation practitioner, what challenges are being faced in the Monitoring and Evaluation industry in Uganda?

Evaluations industry is growing everyday but amidst great challenges, these include: limited budgets for example the national M and E policy for the public sector sets a minimum of 3% of project funds towards evaluation but this hasn’t been implemented to date. There is a challenge of limited ICT infrastructure, bureaucracy to engage with public institutions, preference for expatriates by many organizations, limited evaluation skills, objectivity and limited use of evaluation finds to inform decisions. 

What is the future of M&E in Uganda?

The future is very bright. Uganda is on the path to stronger engagements in Evaluation. A number of initiatives are in place, a number of Universities have specialized training in monitoring and evaluation, existence of the Uganda Evaluation Association which provides a platform for Ugandan evaluators to network and build capacity, the national M and E policy for the public sector which calls for undertaking and utilization of evaluation in the public sector, the Government Evaluation Facility (GEF) which is a repository for evaluation studies, existence of a monitoring and evaluation strategy for the National Development Plan II, functional M and E Technical Working Group, a leading agency for M and E in Uganda under the Office of the prime minister, and much more in private sector.

In your opinion, do you believe embracing M&E will greatly contribute to the fight against corruption in Public Sector Organisations (PSOs)? If yes, how will it enable that?

Yes, I believe so. Monitoring and Evaluation facilitates continuous tracking of set targets in terms of resources, timelines, quality, quantity and beneficiary groups. With strong evaluations in Public Sector Organizations, leakage of resources will be minimized. A good example is the “my budget” a budget monitoring tool under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Now you can track up to to the last coin sent to the primary school in your neighborhood.

Tell us how you manage to balance work, family alongside other responsibilities.

Talk about it, balancing the life wheel doesn’t come easy. I try to manage my time well, my day starts early with dropping my children at school, attending morning prayer altars at office, then I write-up my to do list and try to achieve atleast 70% by close of day. I use Kampala jam to do some reading or typing some work especially conference papers. I use office gym three times a week in the evenings. I try to make my Sundays no go for other issues, so that I can have time with God and my children. Sometimes I have to work late or early morning. My husband is very helpful with the children when my plate gets full. I am glad I can manage.

What’s your philosophy in life?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I am blessed to be a blessing; whatever I can do for others I do it with a smile. I am a Social Worker first before anything else, everyone deserves fairness, equity and justice.

What message would you give to your fellow students interested in pursuing a career in M&E?

There is so much demand for evaluation in both public and private sectors. The potential in the field is so huge which we to raise up and embrace it. While in the past we have survived on guesswork, we now have an opportunity to develop ourselves professionally through specialized M and E trainings and joining professional associations. The choice to pursue a career in M and E is definitely a right one, and the time is now. 

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