2000 JDN: Evaluation of the Better Parenting Project
Author: Brown, J.; Caribbean Child Development Centre, University of the West Indies
The Better Parenting Project (BP) was initiated by UNICEF with local partners in six countries within the Middle East Region in 1996, resulting from a workshop on this topic among these countries. UNICEF Jordan started BP in 1996 with a pilot project. In the 1998-2002 cycle, four areas of activities were specified to build on the pilot phases and the project expanded to include ten partners. BP is implemented in the context of UNICEF's international policy guidelines for Early Child Care for Survival, Growth and Development (ECC-SGD). In addition, the Jordan Country Office tries to integrate BP in the Community Empowerment programme. This evaluation will give important input for the Mid-Term Review in October 2000.
Purpose / Objective
- To evaluate the implementation and management of the project and its outreach.
- To identify steps needed to ensure that the better parenting programme is the nucleus and starting point for the more comprehensive ECC-SGD framework.
In addition to a desk review of UNICEF documentation and relevant literature, interviews were conducted with eight technical directors of partner organizations, 10 UNICEF staff members, 2 UNICEF ECC consultants and three training team members. Discussion with mothers, young single women who had taken the Better Parenting Course revealed their shared perceived gains and reflections on experience. A training for health care workers and a facilitator training were observed as well as meetings of the National Team on ECCD Strategy and the Community Empowerment Team.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The figures for 1999 show a total of over 6,000 participants, with over 8% of these being men. Despite the demonstrated increase by 1999/2000 in service delivery by coordinating partners, 6,000 persons still constitute a small percentage of the perceived needs for this type of intervention programme
Anecdotal accounts from most of the partners indicate that there is increasing demand for Better Parenting workshops. Not only are parents who have not participated in a workshop series inquiring about access; there are reports of parents who want additional workshops after their series has ended, on topics beyond those covered in the series, or in greater depth.
All participating partners (individually, and in the Steering Committee meeting collectively) confirmed that the Better Parenting project is welcomed by parents, has gained wide acceptance in most communities, and is seen as being of benefit. There seem to be minimal areas of resistance to either approach or content, particularly when facilitators show sensitivity to cultural/religious traditions related to gender roles and male-female participation, or to other traditional child-rearing practices in structuring the formats of delivery and discussion. However, an impact assessment is needed to find out the actual impact of the project on children.
From almost every source, beginning with a few comments from parents and facilitators from Phase I (reported by Srour), concerns were raised about the content of the training books, videos and facilitator guides. Overall, the existing content was not strongly criticised per se. Parents have found the books relevant and useful, language is considered to be clear and at appropriate levels (except for those parents with very low literacy), and the videos are generally seen as helpful and illustrative. Most criticisms or suggestions have related to adding content, reducing repetitiveness, improving guidebooks for the facilitators, or changing images to make materials more relevant to the expressed needs of parents.
The issue of differential quality in training delivery was raised for both the Master Trainers and for the Facilitator-trainers of parents. Most criticisms of both levels of training relate primarily to reliance on more traditional ways of teaching/lecturing (didactic practices of teacher-pupil interaction, uni-directional instruction), rather than on newer approaches that treat participants as both learners and sharers of valuable experience, who can contribute to the collective learning of all, including the facilitator. A current evaluation of trainer inputs is underway to address these very concerns, so the issue was not given much focus within this evaluation.
This project was designed to make the best use possible of existing staff and volunteer teams, already deployed throughout their individual partner organisations' networks of services throughout the country. While this design has generally worked to strengthen organisations' staff capacities, and to deliver the wider coverage noted in the section on project scope above, there is still debate on how effectively it is working, particularly as agencies look ahead to the time when it is expected that they should absorb the ongoing operating costs of the project.
There was understandable reluctance, however, to discuss the nature of project management of UNICEF's contribution in both funds and technical support were absent. Both UNICEF roles as 'carrot' and 'stick' were seen as central to the programme's success to-date. Some expressed concern that their own Ministries or agency administrations were not sufficiently convinced of the value of the Better Parenting project to continue to support it without UNICEF inputs; others had full agency backing but little hope of financial underpinning for expenses picked up by UNICEF to-date.
All generally believed that the partners would either continue the programme as it is within their agencies, or would continue on a more limited basis, anticipating some drop-out in terms of trainers and/or facilitators. Some partners, more than others, feel they have fully internalised BP as a viable programme; several fear the loss of facilitator commitments if payments are no longer there, as these workers are often low-salaried or volunteer workers for whom the funds, however small, signal value.
The fact that eight National agencies (3 Government, 5 Non-Government), and one community umbrella agency (established as a UNICEF national pilot programme) have remained together for well over two years, collaborating on delivering the Better Parenting project with UNICEF as the tenth partner, is quite remarkable.
In their suggestions for strengthening the programme, partners were more definitive. Two mentioned the need for a Procedures Handbook for partner agencies, to aid in orienting new staff and volunteers to the project, or to serve as an advocacy tool within their own organisation's management. Several supported the idea of a Facilitators' Manual with more guidance on ways to make training more effective, more engaging, and more appropriately suited to different groups of participants.
There was acknowledgement that the selection and support of each agency's Technical Director often spelled the difference between success and difficulties. That person plays a pivotal role in convincing management within their department, ministry or agency of the importance of participating in this project, and is equally key in supporting the activities in the field through staff and volunteer deployment.
The Technical Steering Committee (TSC) should recognise its ownership and investment in BP as a long-term one. It should develop a programme proposal on ECCD to the National ECCD Team. The Ministry of Education should be brought in as a partner.
The TSC partners should work towards the development of governorate level structure for BP programme. BP should be integrated in the community empowerment programme.
Training for new facilitators and refresher courses should be an on-going feature of the BP project, so as to have a national cadre of trainers and facilitators available. Trainers and facilitators need more aids to strengthen participatory methods of delivery.
The TSC might consider a change of name for the programme.
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