Year 1 of Mais Escola Para Mim (MEpM) is now complete and the Lurdes Mutola Foundation is proud to say that its dormitory immersion model for improving the academic performance of rural Mozambican girls works, pure and simple. Once acclimated to the new living conditions, our inaugural group of 18 scholarship recipients grew both as students and as young women. Not only did they all pass the 8th grade, but year-end grades demonstrated that they outperformed their peers at the Magude Secondary School on average in every discipline. They grew physically with a steady, healthy diet. They matured psychologically in a surrogate home that fosters sorority and self-confidence. After only a year of hard work, it’s not too much to say that they’ve started to set the groundwork of their personal dreams and, in some remarkable cases, bring entire villages into development.
And so LMF has decided to expand the program. Immediately after the girls went home for summer holidays at the end of October, the Foundation began constructing a new dormitory complex that will provide us with a facility that can comfortably house forty scholarship recipients and two live-in coordinators. All 18 girls that are now ready for 9th grade completed re-initiation applications alongside grateful and supportive parents and will be returning in 2009 to work with head social worker Marianna Mario Manhique. Joining them will be a new group of 20 8th graders from the most rural villages in Magude District in the Maputo province. On December 10th and 11th a team of LMF employees, accompanied by local school officials who could vouch for MEpM’s effectiveness, traveled the Mozambican back roads to Panjane, Mahele, Mapinlanguene, Manjane, Nwambyana, Motaze, and Marule in an attempt to reach out to those aspiring young women the greatest logistical and economic needs. In Mahele we recruited the first girl in the community’s history to pass 7th grade. In Mapinlanguene, we found a precocious 12 year old named Velosa with reading and writing abilities equal to children many years her senior. In Motaze, where several members of the 2008 class live, we entered a classroom full of interested families eager to have their daughters apply.
Of course, such promising success does not mean that there aren’t areas of MEpM in which the Foundation can improve. In Year 2 we hope to provide tutoring and additional materials that will further increase academic performance, especially in math and the sciences. The bigger group will also create greater logistical challenges, and we hope to find ways to make the dormitory complex less reliant on the LMF office in Maputo and more integrated into the Magude community. We would also like to include a fuller slate of special weekend activities.
It’s exciting to see this project and these girls grow. Please check back with our Global Giving page for future, more regular updates.
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