For 19 years, STS has been developing the Whole Child Model—a holistic approach to education based on the understanding that for students to thrive, their basic needs must be fulfilled. Rooted in years of research and professional experience, the Model focuses on three areas of need—education, health, and community engagement—so that all children can learn more effectively.
Since 2002, STS has partnered with 36 schools in Guinea to support more than 8,000 students through active learning, local language instruction, teacher training, and girls’ empowerment. We have developed school health policies, provided medical supplies, and constructed wells and latrines. We have also trained school managers, deepened parental involvement, and hosted cross-cultural learning opportunities to increase community engagement in education. Now we’ve expanded to Tanzania, where we have begun doing similar work. So far, we’ve hosted menstrual education training sessions, teacher trainings, and parent-teacher conversations on community support and engagement.
Our research in Guinea shows that when girls participate in our Whole Child Model girls’ scholarship program, they score significantly higher in reading and math than other students. Our efforts led to increased hand washing and use of toilets. Teachers and students showed improved knowledge of hygienic practices. Parents increasingly monitored the sanitation status of schools and established more equitable divisions of chores between their sons and daughters. Parents and teachers have created stronger relationships and begun an understanding of what they both need to do to encourage their students to do their best, both in and out of the classroom.
Our commitment to effective and healthy school environments and supportive communities has made STS a valued partner in the international development community.
In early 2023, the Arusha District Education Office identified four schools in which STS may be able to implement the Whole Child Model. After data collection and research, two of these schools were identified as comparison schools. Laroi and Olemedeye Primary Schools were identified as STS’s Whole Child Model focus schools due to their proximity to Arusha, as well as their steadier headteachers. Historically, steady headteachers have resulted in increased dedication to the Whole Child Model program. Recently, a community Parent Teacher workshop was held at the focus schools, as well as Ability Grouping and Peer Coaching led by Consultant Amani Nicolas. He and founder Mark Lynd have presented the results of this work at CIES and are currently shopping around to get published in an editorial.
The Whole Child Model recognizes the importance of support from a child’s community when it comes to education. Our focus schools, Laroi Primary School and Olemedeye Primary School, held a training for parents and teachers to come together to brainstorm and practice strategies for open communication. This will help identify and meet the needs of children whose learning is at risk in and outside of the classroom. Our consultant Amani Nicolas was able to go back to these schools for follow ups regarding the Ability Grouping and Peer Coaching workshops, with results to come soon. Additionally, the second half of this workshop will take place in early January and is being co-created with STS’s special projects team to include inclusive education practices. It will introduce teachers to the concept of Universal Learning Design (UDL), student learning styles, and various types of disabilities that can affect student learning.
Period poverty is an issue young female students in Tanzania deal with on a regular basis. It can prevent them from pursuing the education they want and deserve. Through the WCM, STS partnered with Elle Peut Naidim, a Tanzanian organization that helps realistically manage periods and encourages young women to embrace their bodies. Elle Peut Naidim came to our focus school, Engorika Primary School, to discuss menstrual hygiene and distribute reusable pads.
Often times teachers in Tanzania are faced with teaching a classroom of 100 or more students—a daunting task. For this reason, STS held a workshop to help teachers better handle this situation. One tactic included encouraging teachers to divide students into smaller groups for specific lessons so that they can learn from each other. Once the teacher sees the abilities of all their students, they’re able to regroup based on that and have students assist and teach each other. This approach was eagerly accepted and implemented by teachers and district officials—and return promising results so far.
The Whole Child Model has spent a significant amount of time working with parents and teachers to make sure both are on the same page when it comes to educating their children. Research has proven that a child succeeds best when supported on all fronts, so WCM hosts workshops where teachers explain to family and community members how they can best engage with their child’s education outside of the classroom. Making sure the children are still learning when they’re at home is the best way to make sure they stay in school, attend school, and achieve in school. Partnership workshops like these are crucial.
STS was proud to receive a certificate of appreciation from the Arusha District Office for our hard work improving education in Tanzania.
The WCM is always looking for more ways to increase learning while also being sustainable. Cluster training is one of those ways. For six days, teachers and principals from across the Arusha District came together and focused on teaching reading and mathematics. This experience built bonds, as teachers could laugh and grow together. The time together also increased the WCM’s “knowledge spread,” as attendees take information back to their schools and share it with teachers who did not attend the training.
Engaging with the local community is about more than just making sure children are supported on all fronts. It’s structuring lessons in a way both students and teachers understand, while bringing in trained adults with very specific knowledge bases. WCM worked with the local Arusha district nonprofit Elle Peut Naidim to teach menstrual hygiene management to young girls. The WCM and Elle Peut Naidim distributed locally made and reusable menstrual pads. This partnership brought necessary knowledge and materials while also supporting a local organization.