May 28, 2019

Peanuts vs. Exams - small acts of resistance

Chalwalian Village is situated in the district Chakwal. Agriculture is the major profession of the people in this village. Crops are cultivated twice in a year. Wheat and peanuts are the main crops of this region.  Usually all family members should be involved during the harvesting of these crops.

Peanut harvesting takes time of three months (October, November and December), during which girls education efforts suffer as they can't attend the classes. Due to girls "small" and "thin" fingers, it is preferred that the girls perform the task of searching for peanuts by digging th soil instead of boys and adults. 

There are eight girls that Girls Education International supports with their studies in the village of Chalwali. These girls decided among themselves that they will not do the peanut work during October –December and will focus on their studies instead. Missing three months of school would mean that they cannot take the exams in December necessary to pass to the next grade. 

So this season, when parents asked the girls to join in the field for peanut picking the girl refused by saying that their studies suffer and that they will not go to field. They asked to have the work equally distributed among the boys, the girls and the adults instead. 

To our delight, the parents of the girls responded positively. They also advised the girls to pay attention to their studies.

The girls expressed thankfulness to Bedari and Girls Education International that they have enabled them to express their wishes and feelings with their parents. They said that they felt empowered to express their feelings due to the support and encouragement to contiue their studeis from the organization. They are also thankful to their parents that they gave them a chance of having the education.

It is those stories filled with courage and commitment to education and positive societal change that keep our spirits high and our dedicaton to our work strong. But it is only through your support that it is possible to give those young women access to education, sense of empowerment and goal of bettering thier lives and lives of other women in the community. We thank you for that, Girls Education International supporters. 

With the permissions of the student that shared this report with us, we share her photo with you.  

 

Apr 5, 2019

Hongera Sana (Congratulations!) to our Students!

Students Together at Kichangachui School
Students Together at Kichangachui School

Dear Girls Education International Supporters, 

Spring Greetings to all of you! I hope wherever you are, there are some flowers to enjoy. 

Spring is a time of new birth, new beginnings, fresh starts and that's exactly what many of our students are looking forward to right now. As you know, all of our Form 4 students sat for their national examinations in October. In February we got the results of their exams and found out which of them qualified to go on to high school and which would have the chance to pursue further education through the Vocation and Education Training Authority (VETA). Before the big reveal, let's take a moment to remember our journey thus far.

With our partner, Project Wezesha, we have been supporting girls in Tanzania who are studying in secondary school (Forms 1-4). We implemented a new model with Girls Ed (different from the existing model with Project Wezesha); instead of selecting the most vulnerable children (MVC) in our partner villages, we decided to invest in the top performing Standard 7 students from various primary schools. We thought that if we selected students who were already on a path toward success, the likelihood of seeing more girls complete secondary school would be higher.

Interestingly, we still saw some of the trends we had previously identified. Many of our boys (with Project Wezesha) were performing well. But many of the girls were not succeeding in secondary school. There were many reasoms for this including pressures at home, pressures from boys (for sex, marriage), gender bias in the classroom, and lack of confidence in classes where they sometimes face an 80 to 5 ratio of boys to girls.  

Many of the girls we selected failed the national exams that follow primary school - blocking their path to secondary school; some failed out after Form 1 or 2 due to insufficient English proficiency for studies in secondary school; and, some of the girls became pregnant or dropped out due to family/home responsibilities. 

Lucas, Madaga and I puzzled over this a lot. As the co-founder of Project Wezesha and Executive Director of Girls Ed, I was very concerned that we weren't accomplishing our goals -- targeting our mission. Were we failing the students and their families? Were we disappointing our donors?

After much brainstorming and various intervention attempts (buying textbooks, providing after school tutoring), we had the idea of academic study camps - which you all know a lot about if you've been reading our updates! These camps were the game changers that we needed! 

Our recent Form 4 graduates have each attended 3-4 camps. Complete with daily instruction in English for a full month with a rigorous timetable, boarding on site, and practice with mock examinations -- the study camps gave our students the boost they needed to have confidence and necessary knowledge going into the national examinations. So what was the result?? 

While not all students passed the examinations, we did see a record this year! EIGHT students passed with a Division II or III finish, securing their spot in a government high school. Woot!!

Remence, Sarafina, and Saidati passed their national exams and completed in Division II, which is excellent! In addition to performing at the top of their classes, they have a wider range of choices for which subjects they can specialize in during high school.  

Hekima, Adija, Sania, Mariselina, and Sajida passed their national exams and completed in Division III, which is also very good! They also have options for their academic focus. 

The remaining students finished in Division IV, which does not guarantee a spot in public high school. However, if students receive a C in 3 courses, they do qualify for private high school. Those students from our cohort are Secilia and Bernadeta. In addition, Furaha performed well enough in science subjects to qualify for a nursing program. 

Unfortunately, private high school and certificate programs are very expensive. Our girls have the choice of attending public high school or a vocational training program. All students who were not admitted to high school will be given the choice to attend VETA for one year. If they demonstrate exceptional dedication to their studies, we will consider a request for support to attend private high school or a certificate program down the road -- contingent on support from donors. (Public high school and VETA cost $300/$333 per year respectively. Private high school and certificate programs cost $1200-1500 per year!). 

The remaining students will be given the opportunity to attend VETA. Please see this student tracking document with information about all of our girls -- those in current certificate and vocational programs, those in high school, and those entering programs in Fall 2019. You can see what some of their hopes, dreams and goals are. We are thrilled for those who are on their path and will be able to pursue their dreams. We are also hopeful that those who are going to attend VETA will excel so that they can pursue additional professional development in the future. 

Our focus now will shift to supporting these recent Form 4 graduates in their post-secondary education experiences. We have one more study camp to run in June 2019, but then we will stop camps until we see some of this cohort graduate high school & VETA, at which time we will start over with a new cohort of Form 1 students who we will see through 4 years of camps until they take exams -- and the cycle continues! 

Thank you for all of your support thus far. Please stay with us as we move with these young women into the next phase of their journey. You can donate to our new campaign by clicking here. We hope you are excited as we are to see what the next couple of years brings. We're hoping to see them graduate high school with options to go to university or complete programs at VETA with options to open businesses, enter certificate programs and/or find jobs to sustain themeselves and their familes. 

Asante sana & Thank you very much for all of your support. We all have a lot to celebrate this Spring! Stay tuned on our new project site for updates.

Rai Farrelly
Executive Director of Girls Education International

Selfie with the Students
Selfie with the Students
Sarafina - Smiling while discussing High School!
Sarafina - Smiling while discussing High School!

Links:

Mar 12, 2019

Goal for Desks and Chairs Reached! Thank you all!

Students Testing out New Desks
Students Testing out New Desks

Dear Project Wezesha Supporters,

We are so thrilled to share that we have reached our goal of providing 320 desks and chairs to the students at Amahoro Secondary School!! 

When our volunteer (and now new Girls Education International board member) Kate was teaching at Amahoro Secondary School, her heart ached seeing students studying for their exams while seated on bricks or makeshift benches. She rallied us into action, launching this campaign.

Recently, in December, our longtime friends and supporters, Shelmina and Minaz of Seattle, WA took the opportunity of the holiday giving spirit to push us to the goal line, raising another $5,000 to buy the remaining 150 sets.

Just two weeks ago, the first 75 of those desks and chairs were delivered to the school. The remaining 75 are being built right now and will arrive this month. We want to take this opportunity to also thank our skilled carpenters who worked tirelessly to make these desks and chairs by hand with great care -- complete with Project Wezesha's logo on each piece! 

The students are so grateful – as you can imagine! The photos depict them helping to unload the desks and chairs and trying them out in the classrooms.

We still have work to do in partnership with the Kigoma Ministry of Education and the headmaster and teachers at Amahoro Secondary School to ensure the students have the best learning environment possible in Mgaraganza Village. But for now, we’ll count this as a great success! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Asante sana!

Rai Farrelly & Lucas Lameck

Co-founders, Project Wezesha

Loading at Carpenter shop in Kigoma
Loading at Carpenter shop in Kigoma
Lucas with Delivery Truck
Lucas with Delivery Truck
Thank you poster!
Thank you poster!
Unloading Desks and Chairs
Unloading Desks and Chairs
Carpenter at Work
Carpenter at Work
 
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