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Dear STS Supporters: Fatoumata’s Story

Dear School-to-School International supporters:

Three years ago, I met a fourth-grade student named Fatoumata Diouf at STS’s partner school in Filimia in the Boke region of western Guinea. She was an ideal candidate for the girls’ scholarship program. In addition to meeting all the scholarship criteria, Fatoumata showed exceptional promise and enthusiasm for learning while also facing a particularly difficult home life. Fatoumata is one of these special cases.

Dear Girls of Guinea: I am Humbled by the Obstacles You Overcome

Dear Girls of Guinea,

For the past three years, I have had the honor of working in Guinea to make schools better for you—to make the physical spaces of school safer by installing wells and latrines and to make the culture more welcoming by working with your teachers, parents, and communities to change the social norms that can often keep you from attending.

Dear Girls of Guinea: You are Improving Your Communities

Dear Girls of Guinea,

I write to thank and congratulate you and your families for your commitment to continuing your education and learning.

I know that school itself can be challenging, and that finding time and space to do your homework and study for exams requires hard work and creativity every single day. Finding the money to pay for school fees or uniforms can make enrolling and staying in school difficult. Finding the time to do your homework can be difficult when you need to take care of your brothers and sisters or when there’s housework that needs to get done.

Dear Girls of Guinea: Empowered, Educated Women are Necessities

Dear Girls of Guinea,

I know how hard you work every day, not just in the classroom, but also at home. I realize fetching water from the well or helping to cook a meal may seem more important in the eyes of your family and your community, but I hope you realize what’s most important—your education. I understand water and food are necessities for a thriving community, but so are empowered, educated women.

Dear Girls of Guinea: I Hope You Find Comfort in Your Studies

Dear Girls of Guinea,

Congratulations, you are halfway through the school year!

Thinking back to when I was a girl around your age, I remember the excitement that the half-year mark brought: I was now one of the older “cool” kids at school and that much closer to the next grade. But I know there are some challenges too.

A Year in Guinea

For more than a decade School-to-School International has implemented and refined an approach that embodies our founding principle: In order for students to thrive, they must have their basic needs fulfilled. We have pursued activities from all three components of the Whole Child Model—Education, Health, and Community Engagement—reaching over 2,600 students in Guinea in the 2015-16 school year alone.

But what does that look like in practice? Below is a snapshot of this year in Guinea.

A Holistic Approach to Girls’ Education

Although the links between girls’ education and improved quality of life and economic growth are well known, school-age girls in Guinea continue to face conditions that limit school success—from systemic impediments, such as shortages of qualified teachers, to cultural factors, like the practice of early marriage.

As a result, many female students leave school before completing the primary school cycle. Less than half of school-age girls in Guinea regularly participate in primary school (47.7 percent) and only a quarter (25.9 percent) enroll in secondary school (UNICEF 2013). It is a striking figure, and one that has been a driving force in STS’s Whole Child Model.

Recently, we partnered with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative to produce a case study, A Holistic Approach to Girl’s Education—School-to-School International’s Whole Child Model, which examines how the Girls’ Education Program improved education, health, and engagement while addressing factors that hindered girls’ success in school.

Today, we’re happy to share some of the key findings of the report:

STS & Fidelity of Implementation Research

Imagine this scenario: A school is struggling to reduce its dropout rate. To this end, administrators implement two changes — teachers must provide more detailed feedback to students after exams and take attendance every class period. After a year, since more students have dropped out as compared with previous years, administrators determine the interventions did not work.

That conclusion may seem cut-and-dried, but consider these questions: What if the teachers hadn’t actually implemented their mandates? What if only a quarter of teachers had made the required changes? Could administrators still say that the new mandates had no effect on reducing student dropout?

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