We began to finalize the second house (dorm) in September 2009, thanks to a large donation through the globalgiving site thanks to Andrea Vieria in Washington DC as welll as many other donors to the Globalgiving site, to the Friends of the Lurdes Mutola Foundation (www.youngmindsofafrica.org), a 501(c)3 Foundation that operates in California. In February of 2010, the house was completed and a total of 40 girls occupied the house, from the 8th and 10th grade classes. The finalization of the second house, was a long process, but has allowed for all of the now three year’s participants to be on one location. The architectural plans were changed for the house to allow for four living spaces where ten girls would share a large room. The 60 girls all share the cooking and cleaning chores within the two houses on rotating schedules.
Unfortunately, the education system in Mozambique cannot adapt to the increasing demand for education in the country. This is especially felt in peri-urban and rural areas such as Magude. Some classes, like Portuguese, still do not have teachers at the school teaching them, because teachers are in short supply in Mozambique. To confront this challenge, the MEpM program has provided tutors for the girls to continue their schooling outside of the classroom.
In agreement with parents, the Foundation has established tighter controls, advice and guidance towards ensuring better social behavior by the girls, as the risks of adolescent pregnancy is pervasive in Mozambique, and two of the program’s past participants have become mothers. Two out of 60 girls is prettyu good infact, the norm in Mozambique sees more than 30% of girls becoming mothers by the time they are 17, the average age of our scholarship participants. In addition FLM has provided three lectures and activities for guidance in sexual reproductive health and HIV. For these activities, FLM counted on the support of two NGOs in equipment and training of assistants, Caritas Diosesana and N'weti.
FLM has strengthened it approach to keep parents involved in their children’s education, which is by no means a small task. Coming from distant locations, without their own means of transport, the meetings held with parents every two month on the progress of their daughters allows the girls to keep strong relationships with their parents through the Foundation’s program.
One major change for this year is that the 10th grade class will need to choose what technical training course they will want to take upon completion, if they so choose. They are not obligated to continue onto the 11th and 12th grade, with a 10th grade education, they can participate in two year training course to become health workers, teachers or other types of civil servants. It seems like more than half of the 16 girls from the inaugural MEpM class will want enroll in a teacher course.
We started the second half of 2009 and the MEpM program is ongoing. The dormitory of MEpM is increasingly appropriate to the needs of the girls.
As implemented activities, successes and challenges of this period, first saying that the academic performance of the girls was assessed in a joint meeting of the FLM, district board of education, the secondary school of Magude and the girls parents in the last 1st August. In general, the performance is good but the newest have serious difficulties in basic subjects (Mathematics and Portuguese). The truth is that for FLM's investment the performance is not the most desirable.
In this sense, FLM bought more school supplies and found too teachers to work with the girls to retrieve their grades. In agreement with parents, the foundation established tighter control, advice and guidance in sexual behavior in order to exclude the threat of adolescent pregnancy that we were victims twice in the program. In addition we already taught three lectures and activities for guidance in sexual reproductive health and HIV / AIDS, and for this we were supported by two NGOs in equipment and training of assistants, Caritas Diosesana and N'weti.
Second, we will start soon the work to finish the second dormitory of MEpM to place more 22 girls that will apply to the program in 2010. Outside this, the major challenges that present themselves at the moment are: the lack of water in the district where is located the dormitories and the urgently necessity to vaccinate girls against some opportunistic diseases as meningitis.
Finally, the Foundation is about to finish the second dormitory this year to make the program sustainable, this will permanently increase access to secondary school for girls far from Magude town by more than 30%. The foundation is also working to the expansion of program curriculum next year to include computer education and is working to have water in the dormitory.
2009 appears to be a year of big challenges for “Mais Escola Para Mim” project. After only one year of implementation the project is making noticeable progresses in the community of Magude.
We received 20 more girls from the towns of Mahele (1), Panjane (1), Manjangua (1), Marrule (2), Motaze (5), Bobe (5), Nwambyana (3) and Mapulanguene (3) all of them in Magude. These girls were accommodated in the secondary school dormitories in Magude for a while.
During three months we were working hard to finish our dormitories. The Foundation finished the first house for Mais Escola pra Mim, a house that will accommodate 20 scholarship girls, providing them better living conditions, with more space and better conditions of hygiene and safety.
We can proudly say that the program is achieving positive results since the grades of the girls is above average, community involvement tends to improve, and the works are underway to complete the second house to receive 20 more girls. The Foundation has two local coordinators, one for each group of 20 girls and we have developed courses that help to lead the fellows to learn techniques for survival within their communities to ensure their rights.
The Foundation emphasizes that the year 2009 means more coverage for the program, involving diversity in the origin of the girls. The girls come from 8 locations now.
Furthermore, we recognize that we have faced several constraints to achieve the desired results. Due to the limited involvement of family members in the student life of girls, 3 fellows gave up the program and returned to their homes for lack of motivation.
It is also constraint the delay in delivery of the houses; it has created limitations in the quality of life of scholarship recipients and therefore affected their quality of life.
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.
The girls just finished their first trimester at the Secondary School of Magude. I have good news to report: the girl's average grades were higher than the class averages in every class! This is a significant achievement for the girls, especially those from Motaze, as the farther primary schools are away from Magude town, the less rigor they typically have due to a shortage of teachers in those areas.
The girls' backgrounds gave them a significant disadvantage over other students: difficulty with Portuguese. Back in their hometowns, Portuguese is used very little in everyday life and taught at a slow pace at school. When the girls first came to Magude, they faced the challenge of improving their Portuguese and using it both inside and outside the classrooms. But, through hard work and by working together, the girls have overcome this challenge! Their grades in Portuguese are significantly above the class average.
I do have a bit of sad news to report: two of the 20 girls have left the program. The brothers of one of the girls demanded that she stop school and come and live back home. The other came to the program feeling ill, and left for home shortly after.
This highlights the difficulty we face in our selection process: we come across girls who are extremely eager to continue studying whose families are not fully supportive of this and may change their minds. Other girls may have a great desire to continue school but may not be able to due to health conditions present before starting the program.
The experience has given us much information to fine-tune our selection process for the coming year. Age has been a significant factor in students' success: those 14 and under have performed significantly better overall than those who are 15. Also, in order to find the girls who are both most in need of the scholarship and who are most likely to be able to complete the program, we plan to add a family interview component as well as several additional health questions to next year's interview process.
The rest of the girls are well and are enjoying living, working, and studying together. I recently sat down with each of them one on one, and almost every one of them expressed admiration for their activities teacher and role model, Mariana Manhiqui. I was surprised that the girls had no complaints other than one of the lights in the living room had fused.
The girls have started their second semester this week after two weeks vacation at home with their families. I'm looking forward to seeing them tomorrow and hearing about their time at home.
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