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.
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. This year, we are committed to expanding the geographic reach of the Whole Child Model to benefit children in the Arusha District of Tanzania.
Children face numerous challenges receiving a quality education around the world. In Guinea, West Africa, less than half of boys and only a third of girls make it to 7th grade. Not surprisingly, only one in five adolescent girls can read.
Since 2002, STS has been working in Guinea to try to change this pattern. We’ve trained teachers, dug wells, built latrines, supported parents, and funded scholarships for at-risk girls – all to improve children’s chances of staying healthy, learning to read and do math, and transitioning to secondary school. And our research has shown results. Parents who have attended our trainings report that they have changed their behavior to ensure their girls do well in school, and stay in school. And our research shows that girls do significantly better in reading and math when they receive scholarships – a powerful motivator for staying in school.