By Mpho Plaatjie, Education Programme Officer, Masibumbane Development Organisation

After looking at results from our first impact assessment, the Sifunda Ngokuthetha project team made some adjustments to our approach and asked the evaluators to return for a second round of observations.  We identified challenges around language use and the selection of items featured in the signage.  Signs were redesigned to feature both isiXhosa and English, and items such as porridge and white meal/flour were added in addition to the fruit, vegetable, and bakery sections. 

In round one we found that our signage faced competition from a “store birthday” campaign that may have created too many distractions to allow the conversation-prompting signs to be noticed, and the observations were done during an extremely busy time in the store.

The second round took off well and with lot of enthusiasm from the observers.  The environment and atmosphere was more relaxed, and continued negotiations with the store manager helped with this.

When the team arrived, the store was a bit quiet, but the store manager had forewarned us about that and we were not disappointed.  On the positive side the observers had a chance to see and hear more fully what was going on between caregivers and children. The observers were scattered around the store in the areas where we had placed the signs, and changed their observing positions in intervals, making customers less curious or suspicious about their presence in the store. Children up to age 9 were observed and we began to see children initiating conversation in response to the signs prompts.

 We also saw children moving through the store on their own and noticing the signs.  We also noticed that the signs raised some questions amongst the adults.  We overheard one parent say “I’ve read what is on the sign, so what?” One shop staffer stated that one of the customers asked what the sign was for, but he was unable to answer as he did not know himself.  This suggests that it might have been valuable to orient the entire staff about the project, although that might have been a challenge to negotiate with management.

We are excited to begin Phase Two, which will take place in two local clinics, later this month.  At one of the two clinics, all staff were invited to an orientation and we presented to most of them.  We will informally observe whether or not staff awareness is helpful.

Although watching at a distance, I was happy to be part of the observation. My role was to be present to handle any eventuality or emergency that would have impacted on the collection of the data.  We started slow, but by the afternoon, families started coming in larger numbers and each of the 4 observers was able to record the behaviour of 15 pairs for a total of 60 observations. Going from being unsure to the full number we anticipated was a good thing for me!

Language in the Supermarket is a joint project between Masibumbane Development Organisation and SA Partners. Read more about it here