Since 2012, EASST has sponsored 20 East African researchers to complete visiting fellowships at UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley, fellows receive deep training in impact evaluation through coursework and close faculty and PhD student mentorship. Upon completing the fellowship, researchers are eligible to receive seed funding to conduct trainings, research, and to work with policymakers.
“I am an epidemiologist and I had never considered the role of Economics in public health until I learned about Development Economics through EASST. This knowledge has made me understand and better appreciate public health problems and how they impact development in resource-limited settings. My research focus has now changed from mere public health concerns to how they impact development among the poor.”- Jayne Byakika Tusiime
Jayne, who came to Berkeley in Fall 2016, is currently serving as a Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of Public Health at Busitema University in Uganda. Her current research is on determining the impact of solid floors on soil transmitted infections among children in Uganda. As a BITSS catalyst, starting in October she will be conducting awareness workshops about research transparency in universities across Uganda.
In June of this year, Jayne received an EASST Policy and Partnerships Grant. Through this grant she will design an impact evaluation of the Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) program, launched by the Ministry of Health in Uganda. In addition to fostering connections with policy makers and CEGA partner institutions in East Africa, an important component of the EASST Fellowship is for fellows to go back to their home institutions and build capacity at the local and institutional level to conduct training and research, especially in the area of impact evaluation. To attain this objective, fellows are awarded catalyst grants upon return to their home country. With the support of the catalyst grant, Jayne is working on a curriculum for an Impact Evaluation course to be introduced at Busitema University this academic year.
“EASST has been a booster to my career. Before I attended the fellowship at UC-Berkeley, I was a junior lecturer, and have since been able to raise research funds and publish in reputable journals and consequently promoted to the position of Associate Professor. As a result of training fellow faculty and students on impact evaluation, I have been considered for a position in research and extension where I will be setting up an evaluation institute. With EASST I have grown so much professionally and I have the right skills to position myself for the future in research, scholarly activities and impact to the society.”- Amos Njuguna
Amos, who came to Berkeley in Spring 2013, is currently an Assistant Professor of Finance at the United States International University in Kenya. In 2016, he conducted a primary study on financial products available to micro-agro-processors in Kenya. The project also examined the incompatibility of product design and the needs of agro-processors. Through this study, Amos custom- designed financial products for the agro-processors, to test via experimentation. With the support of his catalyst grant, Amos lectured on experimental methods for impact evaluation at a workshop held in 2015 by the Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) at the World Bank and UNICEF.
By Chelsea Downs and Kizito Omala
Launched in 2016, the EASST Policy and Partnerships Grant provides a new opportunity for EASST Fellows to foster new connections with policy makers and CEGA partner institutions within East Africa. These small grants are competitively awarded to fellows to facilitate their involvement with scale-up activities, policy convenings, or the creation of new working relationships with relevant stakeholders to expand the reach of impact evaluations. Kizito Omala, who completed his EASST fellowship in 2015 and is now a full-time Lecturer with Makerere University at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, was awarded the Policy and Partnership Grant to assist J-PAL Africa to scale up the Teach at the Right Level (TaRL) intervention with the Ministry of Education in Uganda. A former teacher in the Ugandan school system himself, Omala is deeply dedicated to bettering education systems to enhance children’s learning-- he is currently engaged in another EASST funded research project which investigates the effects of mandatory transfers of teachers on teacher absenteeism.
J-PAL’s TaRL intervention emerged in response to widespread research that demonstrated that over half of students in grade 5 cannot read at grade 2 levels, and an even greater proportion cannot perform basic math functions. TaRL targets this by assessing students abilities and grouping them by their learning level, rather than by their age group, which has been found to significantly improves test scores. With additional research pointing to similar findings in Kenya and Ghana, “teaching at the right level” has revealed itself as having high potential to address several key education problems in various African countries. However, it remains necessary that scale-up efforts take into account evidence about the local context.
Through the grant, Omala was able to assist J-PAL Africa in investigating whether TaRL would be an effective scale-up in Uganda. Omala was able to forge several connections for J-PAL Africa with the Ministry of Education, RTI, the National Curriculum Development Centre, and other key players in the Ugandan education space. He assisted with designing a sample-based survey, and prepared a joint presentation of TaRL evidence with J-PAL Africa to Ugandan Ministry of Education officials, which yielded approval for preliminary discussions with stakeholders and piloting of this survey. Later this year, a participatory workshop is planned for key stakeholders in Uganda to arrive at a consensus of the teaching and support models that could be piloted across selected districts based on an experimental study design in preparation for the TaRL scale-up.
The Policy and Partnerships grant has also funded EASST Fellow Jayne Tusiime to design an impact evaluation of the Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) program, launched by the Ministry of Health in Uganda (future developments to follow). The competition has been recently relaunched, and the EASST team is confident that these grants will facilitate strong local connections and enhance CEGA’s efforts to ensure that rigorous research will eventually inform policies that affect the lives of vulnerable populations in East Africa.