J&A: Thanks to remedial classes, fewer students are held back in Mali

U.S. assistance to Mali supports the country’s implementation of the 2015 Accord for Peace and Reconciliation. The agreement between the Government of Mali and groups in northern Mali aims to bring stability to the country's vast northern desert, which has experienced several uprisings from separatists groups since the 1960s and has more recently been a sanctuary for armed fighters linked to al-Qaeda. USAID initiated the three-year Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA), implemented by CAMRIS International and its implementing partners Juárez & Associates (J&A), Human Network International (HNI), and COBO Construction, with the purpose of supporting the Government of Mali to restore access to basic education to 80,000 students and to strengthen the educational system in areas affected by conflict and crisis.

The project is being implemented in 250 project schools and communities in five conflict-affected regions of Mali: Ségou, Mopti, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. The overarching project objectives include: 1) Increased availability of safe and accessible primary schooling; 2) Improved delivery of conflict and gender-sensitive basic educational services, and 3) Institutional capacity to deliver educational services in conflict-affected environment strengthened.

J&A completed a Gender Analysis in 2016 and has been working with CAMRIS International to ensure gender is mainstreamed in project design, planning, implementation, messaging and monitoring and evaluation. J&A remains focused on decreasing key barriers for girls’ access to education and improving girls’ safety at schools and in communities. J&A is providing technical assistance in improving conflict- and gender-sensitive learning and teaching materials, assessing and strengthening remedial instruction programs, and improving conflict- and gender-sensitive instruction and classroom management techniques to promote peace building, resilience, conflict resolution, inclusion, and equity.

A teacher reassured by the success of this school year.

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Mohamed Abdoulaye is a first-grade teacher at the school of Berrah, located in the commune of Soni Aliber in Gao. A native of the area, he believes in the importance of education for the children of his community. Moreover, he views the first grade is a critical step in the education system, since it builds a strong foundation that allows students to thrive in subsequent years.

Although the security situation has improved in some localities, untimely teacher strikes have resulted in a significant 30% delay in the progress of the school curriculum for the 2016-2017 school year. In response to concerns from the Malian government, USAID’s EESA project has launched a campaign of remedial courses in reading, writing and mathematics for first and second grade students. From March to June 2017, these courses were offered in all five of the project’s target regions, and were based on the official curriculum. A total of 4,570 students benefitted from this activity. J&A visited the 30 project intervention schools across the five regions to assess student level in reading, writing and mathematics in first and second grade; provide capacity-building to teachers on student assessment; and improve the available tools to collect, monitor and assess the impact of the activity within the project intervention schools.

Concerned about the fate of his pupils, Mohamed welcomed this initiative: “Thanks to the remedial courses, the majority of my students will graduate to the next level.” To his pleasant surprise, he was able to recommend 72% of his students for graduation, far higher that the initial estimate of 45% made before the remedial courses.

Arber Maiga, the parent of one of Mr. Abdoulaye’s students, states: “We were afraid that our children would miss this school year, but thanks to the remedial courses, not only have they caught up to the official curriculum, but they are equipped to thrive in the upper classes.”

USAID continues to honor its commitment to the government of Mali to support the education system through the EESA project, and to address the challenges in the regions affected by conflict, to give all children the opportunity to learn.

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EDC: Bringing basic education to adults in post-war Liberia- Fofee's story

Fofee Ndorbor, 25 years old, a student in EDC's adult basic education classes "ABE" in Liberia.

Fofee Ndorbor, 25 years old, a student in EDC's adult basic education classes "ABE" in Liberia.

 

Liberia’s civil war concluded in 2003, but this 16-year period of strife left the country with significant wounds that have yet to heal. Among the casualties of the conflict was the forced closure of most schools, robbing an entire generation of the chance for a formal education.

This generation has now reached adulthood. And as Liberia embarks on an ambitious effort to revamp education for all—an effort that the country’s Minister of Education has described as "mess to best"—its attempt to improve adult basic education (ABE) may be as important as anything being done in the K–12 sector. Classes in literacy, numeracy, and livelihood skills are not just giving tens of thousands of adults a second chance at an education, they are also fundamentally changing how young adults see themselves.

“You barely have to recruit for adult basic education programs in Liberia because so many people want to go to school,” says EDC’s Sarah Nogueira Sanca, who directed the USAID Advancing Youth Project, an adult basic education and workforce development program, from 2011 to 2017. The project helped more than 22,000 Liberians between the ages of 13 and 35 develop literacy, numeracy, and life and work readiness skills.

EDC's Advancing Youth Learners participants (Fofee is second from left)

EDC's Advancing Youth Learners participants (Fofee is second from left)

Fofee Ndorbor, a 25-year old from Lofa County, spent most of the post-war years finding odd jobs until he learned about the new ABE classes. As part of his training, he learned how to set up a small-scale village savings and loan association (VSLA)—a critical need in his community, which was far away from any organized banks.

The VSLA system is simple, consisting only of a small lockbox and three keys distributed throughout homes in the community. But the process to create and manage one is complex. Over a lengthy training process, trainers from Advancing Youth’s local partners helped Ndorbor and his peers learn how to save and manage funds, track deposits, and develop club policies that promoted transparency. The training made a significant difference: in the first year, Ndorbor’s VSLA collected 216,085 Liberian dollars from 30 contributors.

“People come to borrow money to get a loan,” says Ndorbor. “And when they borrow money, they pay it back with interest, so the money continues to grow in our box.”

Room to Read: How One Library Changed Habsa’s Life

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In Tanzania, students face many barriers on the road to quality education. Sometimes, being different is the main barrier. Habsa, a twelve-year-old student in Tanzania, knows this challenge all too well. Habsa has albinism, which brings with it many uncertainties, as there are many albinism killing incidents in Tanzania. “Her life is threatened,” her father explained. “We are so worried that she cannot attend extra classes. We have to make arrangements for her to attend school every day – most of the time we have to escort her to school.”

Habsa is one of the students benefitting from Room to Read’s Literacy Program. After falling ill and staying home for three years, teachers have been very impressed with her progress since returning to school. Magreth, one of her teachers, explained that “using Room to Read’s teaching methodologies, Habsa was able to catch up when she returned to school. She now reads and writes very fast, and with additional books from the library she has been able to perform so well in grade one that she was moved to grade three. “ Habsa explains that her secret to success has been borrowing two books from the library every day to read to her family. The libraries and resources provide children like Habsa with friendly, safe spaces to develop the skills and habit of reading. “Habsa loves to read,” her father said as he smiled. “Before we had electricity, at night she used to read with an oil lamp. She loves the books from the library.” Habsa explains, “ when I grow up I want to be a teacher.”

Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read’s innovative model focuses on deep, systemic transformation within schools in low-income countries during two time periods that are most critical in a child’s schooling: early primary school for literacy acquisition and secondary school for girls’ education. Room to Read works in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and ensure girls can complete secondary school with the skills necessary to negotiate key life decisions. Room to Read has benefited over 11.5 million children across more than 20,000 communities in 14 countries in Asia and Africa and aims to reach 15 million children by 2020. Learn more at www.roomtoread.org.