During the past spring term, Brian Nowak, RAIN Program Director, and Halima Aboubacar, Specialist for the Promotion of Women and Girls, spent three weeks with the students, interviewing each, holding group sessions, talking with staff, visiting the school and engaging in dialogue with teachers and the school director. Students were asked to complete questionairres about their experiences and aspirations so we may better know them and help them to succeed.
The students have expressed boredom and the need of recreation. When asked what they would like, their requests were simple. The Wodaabe girls wanted to embroider, and the Tuareg girls to work in leather, corresponding to each cultural groups' traditions. While there, materials were purchased for the girls so that they can work on their traditional crafts, an important part of the daily routine in Niger’s villages and nomadic encampments. In 2014, RAIN will be bringing in volunteer mentors who will provide traditional craft lessons as well as counseling. In the meantime, the students can add a homey atmosphere by decorating their dormitories with their crafts, with some of their items to be put for sale in Agadez to generate pending money. Since taking on the center in December, the health and outlook of the students have improved along with the daily menu improvements in variety and nutrition.
Halima, a Tuareg woman from Agadez, is the primary staff person overseeing the Learning Center program. The students now know her well; many of the girls already contact Halima when they have a question or concern. She is caring, and at the same time, an effective disciplinarian. Halima will be spearheading the initiative to bring in mentoring and skills training while serving as a counselor to the students.
Education for girls is generally not valued in nomadic desert culture; men dominate in society. It is difficult for girls to be assertive in class - having mentors onsite should help greatly. Some girls at the learning center did not pass their courses this year. They will be able to return next year, with intensive tutoring and mentor support to suceed the second time around. All present students may remain at the center until they graduate. We are thrilled that in a number of our mentor programs, we are seeing the first girls ever graduate primary school. For the 2014 school year we are bringing on girls from our partner communities’ mentor programs who have completed their primary education. We've been introducing a more active role for parents and students into the center's recruitment process to be assured that parents and students are motivated to pursue higher education and that the parents and/or communities contribute to the program in some way, as we believe participation and commitment are key to enduring programs.
How are they doing?
Below is a breif summary of the student's academic performance in the 2013 school year:
8th grade boys: All 7 Pass
8th grade girls: All 5 Pass
9th grade boys: All 7 Pass
9th grade girls: 2 out of 3 Pass
10th grade boys: All 8 Pass
10th grade girls: 1 out of 3 Pass
Learning center resident Abdelha Amoumoune scored the best grades in Agadez, and was invited to an awards ceremony in Niamey by the First Lady of Niger!
Note: The French school system starts with six years of elementary school (1 - 6), followed by four years of middle school (7– 10), then three years of high school (11 –13). The students in the learning center are in middle school.
There is no high school in Agadez, to continue their educations further they must go to Niamey.
- Mentoring: introduce mentors to meet weekly with the girls for counseling, advocacy and teaching of traditional practical skills. The counseling will be follow-on to training sessions by Halima and health consultants offered to mentors and students. These sessions will address topics such as hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, the prevention and symptoms of Niger’s most common ailments.
- Continue the existing health programs that provide medications when needed, with the addition of the preventive measures noted above.
- Crafts and recreation: provide materials for craft instruction, institute a program of facility decoration by students, if appropriate sell products the student make to fund individual or student programs such as recreation and field trips.
- Continue to individualize the tutoring programs to the needs of each student.
- Bring in more girls as spaces become available to offset the greater obstacles to an education they face than boys.
The center’s ongoing expenses are about $1,000 per student per year. This sum includes room, board, guardians, tutoring, uniforms, books, tuition, medical care and incidentals. For the 2013 – 14 school year, we will have 25 returning students. We would like to add three girls from RAIN partner communities in the Agadez region who have graduated elementary school but have no middle schools to attend, bringing the total to 28 students. Each year as the students graduate, we will be able to bring in girls from the mentoring programs in our partner communities.
16 year old Learning Center student Fatima Abdou: “I’d like to become a doctor to treat the sick and chase some of the horrible illnesses from my village.”
Thank you for your continuing partnership and support. We hope you share our enthusiasm for the progress made in 2013 in the RAIN Learning Center, offering children who are among the poorest and most underserved in the world a chance for higher education. Please follow our second GlobalGiving microproject to participate in the next phase of development!
Women preparing couscous with vegetables