Greetings from Mozambique!
1. The first pillar is access. The secondary schools are typically too far away for students from rural villages to reach by foot. That’s why MSLI started a free school bus service that takes these students to school and back home every day. In particular, this ensures safety for girls to go to secondary school.
2. The second pillar is mentorship. For most of these adolescents, they are the first in their families to go to secondary school, and there are a myriad of challenges they face in their teenage years. hold weekly meetings with the students, divided into small groups, during which they go over topics like goal-setting, values, women’s rights, and puberty. The goal is to support the students’ success in school and help them navigate the challenges of adolescence. The mentorship program also includes games, dances, skits, radio programs, and creates a sense of solidarity among the students and a safe space whenever they need someone to turn to.
3. The third pillar is nutrition. In the rural areas where we work, students face high levels of food insecurity at home. Access to adequate nutrition is a fundamental human need, and a critical safety net for adolescents living in poverty. Indeed, hunger is often a factor behind child marriages and early pregnancies. We want our secondary school students to be able to focus on their studies, not on their empty stomachs, which is why we provide a nutritious lunch at school and snacks during the mentorship meetings.
What we're excited about this year:
The 2023 school year in Mozambique kicks-off on February 1st, and we are looking forward to expanding our initiative even further this year. We expect the number of students we serve to double, and we are excited to give more girls the chance at a secondary education through the free school bus service.
While it may sound simple, a school bus gives students whose education would have ended after the 7th grade a second chance. It gives girls in 8th-12th grade a safe means to go to school each day. It empowers adolescent girls with the skills and education they need to seek a better future, breaking out of the cycle of poverty. It helps girls avoid early marriages and teenage pregnancies that occur as the result of no other option. It even gives those girls in the 5th and 6th grade something to aspire to, knowing that they also have the chance to continue their studies after the 7th grade.
Furthermore, with the successful piloting of our adolescent mentorship program last year, we have now acquired a small plot of land near Manjangue Secondary School, which is where our secondary school program is based. We are currently constructing a Center of Excellence – a simple building that we designed to facilitate the weekly mentorship group meetings with the students, and host other skills development training. We look forward to opening our brand-new Center of Excellence very soon!
Breaking the cycle of poverty: supporting girls education through adolescence
If you tell a girl she should stay in school, but that requires her to walk 15 miles one way to school, with no breakfast and no lunch, you never really put yourself in her shoes. Before MSLI’s school bus program, this was the reality for most students who finished the 7th grade at their local primary school. Secondary schools in Mozambique require more resources and higher qualified teachers, and are usually located in more urban or peri-urban areas. This is one of the main reasons why rural students drop out of school after the seventh grade. Our mission is to ensure that all children in Mozambique have the opportunity to pursue a full education, and this year we have extended that to overcoming the secondary school hurdle. That’s why we have two school buses transporting 141 secondary school students every day, getting these adolescents to school safely and enabling them to continue with their education.
Girls and boys clubs
Recognizing that most of these students are the first in their families to go to secondary school, we decided to create an additional support system, especially since adolescence can be a tricky time. In May of this year, we welcomed one of our newest team members, Tucha Rangel, who is leading girls clubs for the secondary school students. Twice a week, the students have club meetings with Tucha where they play games, practice skits and dances, eat some snacks, and discuss important topics like goal-setting, communication, puberty, and preventing pregnancy. In August we collaborated with the organization BeGirl, who came and delivered a special workshop for the students about puberty, menstrual hygiene, and reproductive health. Having these club meetings also creates space for the students to confide problems or other issues they may be facing with Tucha, who can then relate these problems to the broader MSLI team. This allows us to learn from the students and hold community meetings when necessary to resolve bigger issues.
These developments represent significant progress we are making in our first year of supporting girls education at the secondary level. Thanks to your support, we are helping these girls reach their full potential!
Our girls school bus program has become a reality!
Thanks to your support, we launched the first two school buses in February 2022, serving rural students from six primary schools. We hired two existing transporters (minivans and drivers), one to cover four primary schools (relatively smaller schools) and one to cover two primary schools (relatively larger). MSLI pays each bus driver $12.60 per student per month – a very cost-effective solution! The buses make multiple trips every day in order to transport all of the students. The students also continue to benefit from our school lunch program, receiving a hot lunch at their local primary school, which also serves as the pick-up and drop-off point for the buses.
To date, this project has already succeeded in more than doubling the share of students transitioning to eight grade in the target rural communities. Of these students who enrolled in eighth grade in 2022, 89% of the students from Chate and 69% of the students from Cumba are using our free school buses! Furthermore, many students who had dropped out of secondary school have reenrolled thanks to the school buses. In addition to the 46 eighth grade students who passed seventh grade in 2021, we are also transporting 45 eighth graders from other years (who had previously been out of school), 28 ninth graders, 19 tenth graders, and one eleventh grader. In the coming years, we expect the school bus to greatly contribute to secondary school retention and completion rates by making it easier for students, especially girls, to go to school. In total, almost two-thirds of the students using our school buses this year are girls!
In addition to the school buses, in April 2022, we started a mentorship program to support the girls going to high school. Each village has a "girls club", which meets every week with our coach who works directly with the girls to motivate them and help them navigate the challenges of adolescence and high school. Since most of these girls are the first in their families to go to high school, having a good role model they can turn to for support and advice can make a big difference in keeping them in school. We will continue to provide more updates on this aspect of our program as the months go on.
You have made a difference
Your donations have directly contributed to making the dream of a high school education a reality for these girls. Thank you for your support!
Mozambique's schools will re-open for the 2022 school year on February 3rd, and we are so excited to launch our latest initiative: a girls school bus! This school bus, run by the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative, will transport girls from rural communities (where there are no high schools) to the nearest high school so that they can continue their studies. We are starting in Cumba Village, where the local primary school only goes until the seventh grade. To continue with eighth grade, the nearest high school is about a 30-minute drive away. None of these students have access to a vehicle and there is no public transport. This leads to most students abandoning their studies after the seventh grade. For girls, this often results in early marriages as well.
That's why, we're bringing a bus to make sure these girls still have the chance to go to high school! The bus will pick the girls up early in the morning, take them to school, and then drop them off back home later in the afternoon. We have worked closely with the local community leadership and parents to ensure that everyone is supportive of the project and will help ensure its success. Our school bus driver is also well-trained and will be driving extra safe to ensure these girls get to school safely.
We expect to have over 25 students for our first bus, and we'll have the final numbers once schools officially begin on February 3rd. This is potentially a life-changing opportunity for these girls. A high school education dramatically increases a young woman's skills and income-earning potential in Mozambique. A tremendous thank you to everyone who has made this new initiative possible! We look forward to sharing more stories and photos in the coming months!
Only 11% of Mozambican girls ever make it to high school. At the Mozambique School Lunch Initiative (MSLI), we work closely with rural primary schools and see how many girls finish the seventh grade (the last grade in Mozambique's primary system) and then never get the chance to go to eight grade or beyond. We are working to change this. The first step is figuring out what are the main barriers for girls continuing on to high school and how they can be overcome.
As we've been gathering funds to launch our pilot girls high school program next year (January 2022), the MSLI team has been holding meetings and discussing with students, teachers, parents, and community leaders about what are the main challenges that girls face in going to high school and what support is needed. The main issue is that most high schools are in urban areas, so girls from rural villages have to travel long distances and that is usually not feasible on a daily basis. For some girls, having a bicycle could be a solution. For others, staying with a host family or relative is another option, but they need support to pay for food and board. Finally, the school fees at the high school level are higher because there are more subjects and materials to purchase.
Based on this assessment, MSLI is putting together a tailored package of support for girls in various different situations. Our goal is to test these solutions next year and see which one works best. We really appreciate your support in helping us launch this pilot and we look forward to updating you over the coming months!
Education for all!
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