Makerere University School of Public Health has graduated after exceptional performance in third and final Organizational Capacity Assessment (OCA), conducted by Jhpiego, an international, non-profit health organization and an affiliate of The Johns Hopkins University.
As per the Jhpiego Organizational Capacity (JOC) toolkit, organisations implementing projects globally undergo thorough capacity assessment in areas of Leadership and Governance, Finance and Administration, Human Resources, Project Management, and Data Visualization and Communications.
The graduation follows a three-year-thorough assessment in the five overarching areas. Jhpiego has been managing the Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA), a project fueling a data revolution to guide family planning implemented at MakSPH.
Speaking at a function held at Protea Skyz Hotel in Kampala early this week, Dr. Martin Ndifuna, the Country Program Manager, Jhpiego Uganda Country Office hailed the leadership of MakSPH for being a great collaborating institution and congratulated the School for the great milestone reached.
“As Jhpiego both the country and headquarters, we are thrilled to be part of this, and congratulations upon this milestone,” Dr. Ndifuna congratulated MakSPH on graduation.
Presenting the results of the OCA, Mr. Pascal Olinga, the PMA Project Manager at Jhpiego said the School has greatly improved in finance, human resources and data visualization.
“I want to say thank you to the different people that have been part of the process. The different departments that have always spared time to attend the capacity building sessions and the assessments. Usually, the assessments would take us about 3-4days and sometimes it’s usually tedious,” Mr. Olinga noted.
Mr. Olinga added; “the OCA was an informative journey even for us as Jhpiego. Honestly, we have not engaged partners like the School of Public Health. So, it was a good opportunity for us to work together especially in this aspect of capacity building.”
According Mr. Olinga, capacity building is a continuous process. He urged the School of Public Health to utilize every opportunity to build capacity for its staff to ensure sustainability. “We have had a training for data visualization for a brief development. But we have not had an opportunity actually conduct research and then develop the briefs on our own.”
Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean, MakSPH while delivering her remarks at the ceremony said she was excited to see the School finally graduated, citing that this was indeed a confirmation that the School of Public Health is a giant in not only public health research but also has varied capabilities in the region.
She thanked the team from MakSPH for taking part and equally appreciated the team from PMA and the in-house teams for the excellent job.
“Please do extend our sincere appreciation to them for an excellent job done at the School of Public Health. Let them know that when they invest in Makerere School of Public Health you are investing in the whole of Africa because we are highly networked. And also, because you train our students and send out the next generation of leaders, when you invest in us you are investing on fertile grounds,” Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze said.
Following the OCA, MakSPH updated the number of grants management tools to ensure they are responsive to the current institutional and donor requirements, developing a number of useful Human Resources (HR) tools including: staff orientation checklist, job description, conflict of interest declarations for recruitment and performance improvement plan processes and templates among others.
“It was such a great opportunity for us to have participated in the Organizational Capacity Assessments that were facilitated by Jhpiego. We have been able to further strengthen our systems and widen our strategic planning objectives for continued growth and capacity strengthening. We thank you for being part of our growth curve in our efforts of continued capacity strengthening,” Ms. Elizabeth Nambi Nsobya, Finance Manager, MakSPH.
On his part, Mr. Davidson Ndyabahika, the MakSPH Communications officer said communication outputs at the School have greatly improved due to the capacity building trainings organised for communications officers and data officers at MakSPH in graphic designs, Adobe Suite Training and data visualization, brief development training among others.
He further illustrates that the School of Public Health has improved in several areas including having regularly updated website with and competitive content. He attributes the excellent performance in this OCA to a very accommodative and great leadership that supports the efforts that seek to address issues raised by the 1st, 3nd and 3rd OCA.
“We want to assure you that your efforts are not in vain. Where we are as a School, we are moving in a very strategic direction and thanks to the able leadership and also the commitment of the rest of the staff,” said Mr. Ndyabahika.
“The OCA assessments provided us (MakSPH) another opportunity to reflect and assess our Leadership and Governance, Finance and Administration, Human Resources, Project Management, and Data Visualization and Communications practices. We identified areas of strength that we have capitalized on, and some weaknesses that we have worked on and seen improvement over the years of the assessments. All these contribute to attracting more research funding, and high levels of compliance. We are privileged to have participated in this very important initiative,” Ms. Stella Kakeeto Grants Office, MakSPH.
According to Dr. Ndifuna, the collaboration between Jhpiego and MakSPH has been a bidirectional learning from all teams citing that the opportunity for the two institutions work together has created change. He further observes that research findings from PMA data is currently being used to monitor the cost implementation plan, not just in Uganda but also at national and international levels.
He further highlighted data that generated through PMA and infographics are being utilized in monitoring Family Planning 2030 citing a huge impact created by evidence from the research.
“What we have done in the OCA has helped us to position ourselves in data visualization. We are monitoring things we used to wait for about 5 years to come through and now they come through PMA annually. That is the front end of the work but the back end is what has come out through this organizational capacity assessment over the years,” Dr. Ndifuna said.
According to Professor Wanyenze the OCA experience needs to be shared across to the entire school community and beyond in order to appreciate these wins.
She urged Jhpiego to help the School in conducting trainings especially to an extension of the School leadership in order to benefit several people. Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze also underscored the need to maintain and sustain the lessons learnt.
“I believe graduating is only the beginning. I think we should be able to present that to the School and expand the project management training so that we can have more people from the school benefiting from this,” Prof. Wanyenze stressed.
Further noting that the issues around data visualization and communication important and critical for MakSPH. “I am very passionate about growing the area of knowledge management in the School so that we can document and learn across so many projects that we do and sometimes we don’t know who is doing what”
MakSPH manages several subcontracts within the African continent in institutions where the School has collaborations across 24 countries. The Dean says with this graduation and the varied partnerships on the continent presents an opportunity for the School to help them improve, continue to learn to ensure capacity is built across.
“I think we are sustainable only when we have more institutions within Africa that are strong and that we can continue to work together so that we can be able to activate the real orientation that we want for public health and move towards a healthier society,” said Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze.
Dr. Fredrick Edward Makumbi, Associate Professor and PI, PMA Project thanked the School leadership for allowing the Project conduct an assessment and equally thanked Jhpiego for being open-minded
He noted that as the School graduates, data visualization is critical. “The way we package what we communicate is very important,” he said. Further underscoring the need to continue working with other projects while training and engaging them through what the School has learned over the three years.
In terms of the next steps, Dr. Makumbi said there is a need for continuous practicing. “You have left us with one challenge and my colleagues, the only way we can sustain and see this moving forward is to continue teaching and engaging others. If we can’t do that, then it will be buried with us and the School together with the University will have lost out. If we fail to do that then we shall also disappoint the school as well as the University and we shall have disappointed the Dean who allowed us to run and manage whatever we were doing.”
He assured the team that the School is ready to continue working together to ensure sustainability. “We can organize short courses to train and that’s one of the ways we can potentially make this spread beyond us,” said Dr. Makumbi.
In response to this, Dr. Ndifuna said short courses can be a game changer if the School can implement it.
“I like the idea of starting by training one another. Short courses for colleagues help to ensure that the School’s stay on top. I am impressed by the work of communications office especially some of these beautiful graphics. I know there are organizations that pay may be up to 50-100,000 Uganda shillings for someone to come and do such work,” said Dr. Ndifuna.
Adding that; “What do we do with the data that we have been generating because I’m thinking of the way forward? How do we continue to position ourselves and also utilize what we have done? How do we train people who are going to be service providers?”
Dr. Ndifuna says although PMA project is ending, the collaboration ought to continue on various fronts.
“We know that we have a great partner in Makerere School of Public Health so whenever any opportunities come up and we are looking for who to partner with, don’t be shocked if we come back and say we are partnering with you to make sure we drive interventions,” noted Dr. Ndifuna.
By Precious Ashaba and Davidson Ndyabahika