July 2015

8 years later…
By Wanda Bedard

It was like a moment frozen in time. We were standing on the same spot where we had stood eight years ago in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I was transfixed! I had used that image in so many presentations since 2007 – a sweeping view that looked out over the community, up towards the hills in the distance. Eight years ago, it was a photo of a few dozen mud-brick, grass-thatched houses, standing apart from one another and spread around the schools of Enelerai and Emorijoi.

Today, with my travel companions, my daughter, Vida Fereydoonzad who was with me in 2007, and 60 million girls‘ friend and professional photographer, Martine Michaud, we saw that the mud-walled homes were still there. However, now, beside most of them, stand sturdy brick houses with metal roofs. There are gardens, clotheslines and drying racks, and hand-washing stations next to latrines. Water kiosks along the road provide fresh, clean water to the community, and chimneys vent the smoke from the kitchens.

And then we saw Monica’s house. We couldn’t believe it! Monica! Eight years ago, we had visited Monica’s small home where she had proudly set up a very small store – no more than a wood hut about a metre square to sell beading work done by herself and the women’s group she helped head. At the time, she was clearly a leader of the local mamas and fiercely determined to help provide for her family and ensure her children, including her daughter, went to school. Today, her home stands out in the Mara with its bright orange roof. You can’t possibly miss it as you make your way along to Free The Children’s Bogani guesthouses! What had happened? The answer, of course, is progress and the evidence of a community that has taken hold of new ideas and implemented them. The resulting impact on the families and community was visible everywhere.

We learned that Monica now travels to many countries to talk about women’s empowerment and women’s issues in Africa. She is a strong leader and a sought-after speaker who shares how the women have been able to build a sustainable and supportive community. It was such a stark contrast. This positive transformation was reinforced during the next week as we had a chance to speak with the women, girls and families in the areas where Free The Children works with the Maasai, Kipsigi and Kisi communities.

When we visited Enelerai Primary School in 2007, it was in the process of being completed. It is now bigger with new additions – a water station, a women’s empowerment building and well-used classrooms filled with children. We also saw the Baraka Health Clinic with its emergency services, pharmacy, laboratory, birthing centre and, soon, radiology and surgery rooms. It’s a clean, simple yet well-stocked and well-equipped series of buildings that would meet our standards in Canada!

We also visited Oleleshwa Secondary School, the project in which we have invested $300,000 over the last two years and the main reason for our visit to Kenya. We were overcome as we were welcomed by a group of 30 girls who showed us around this innovative school. There are no students and teachers at Oleleshwa but, rather, learners and educators. Strong community and cultural values are evident in the many beautiful hand-painted murals and quotations throughout the school. But, these were also clear from our discussions with the girls. These young women are determined and hard-working, and they realize the immense potential of education. They have a daily schedule that runs from 4:30 am to 10 pm. They have a strong desire to succeed and dream of becoming engineers, doctors, teachers, writers, scientists and journalists. There is no doubt in our minds that the girls will achieve it all.

The visit to Free The Children was just as inspiring as our visit the previous week in Uganda where we spent four days at the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Two years ago, 60 million girls supported the primary schools of Nyaka and Kutamba and, this year, we are raising $100,000 to fund the ongoing construction of the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School through our partner, the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

 

We were fortunate to spend our time in the company of Jennifer Nantale, Nyaka’s country director. Jennifer has a deep understanding of development issues, vast experience and a great passion and caring for the hundreds of children under her wing. We were left with the certainty that these children and their communities would be able to cope with a difficult reality: grieving grandmothers who must now care for up to eight young children orphaned by AIDS, finding sources of revenue to keep fragile families together, providing a safe home, getting the kids to school… The list is endless.

Farms provide fresh and nutritious food for the students and staff every day. The health clinic is open, not only to the students, but to the whole community. There are two full-time nurses and a doctor who works two days a week. We saw beautiful libraries complete with computer rooms and solar panels – the ideal spot for us to leave two Raspberry Pi Rachel devices (as we did with Free The Children). Jennifer and her staff immediately saw the impact of the content: Khan Academy Lite, Khan Academy health, hundreds and hundreds of e-books and textbooks, agricultural and health encyclopedias and Wikipedia offline. When you realize how long and how difficult it is to travel to these remote areas and the cost of books and textbooks, along with the lack of Internet access, the Rachel with its academic content and thousands of educational videos and tutorials is truly a small miracle. 

We were impressed and yet, at the same time, not surprised by the quality of the programs and the holistic approach that support these children. Free The Children and the Stephen Lewis Foundation are long-time partners of 60 million girls. Over the years, the thought and experience that go into the design of their community interventions have been clearly evident. However, it is amazing to be able to witness the impact first-hand, especially many years later.

Of course, during our self-financed three-week trip, we saw so much more: gorilla trekking in the breath-taking Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the drive through the Mara safari-style with our Maasai guides, Wilson and Jackson, and visits to other local projects. We learned about new approaches and gained a better understanding and a different perspective on what works best to support a community. We had a wonderful visit at UNICEF Uganda’s global innovation centre in Kampala. There we traded notes and learned more about UNICEF’s research and pilot projects involving technology in education and self-directed learning. 

Thank you for following us on Facebook during our trip and adding your many comments and likes. We felt closer to home and only needed to have each one of you with us to make the visit perfect!

Take a look!!!

We are proud to invite you to take a look at our new website at www.60milliongirls.org. In order to better support viewing on a tablet or smartphone, to ensure you can easily find information and to better highlight our projects, we have decided to make this exciting change.


Our deepest thanks go to Lesley Stewart, head of our communications team, for spearheading this project along with the technical help of Louise Sa, Patrice Belair and our wonderful graphic artist, Negin Atashband. A special word of thanks also to Martine Michaud for her generous pro bono support in providing such compelling photographs of 60 million girls’ projects from our recent trip to Uganda and Kenya.

Please let us know what you think. Is there information you’d like to see that isn’t there? Do you have any questions? Can you find everything you’re looking for? Contact us at info@60milliongirls.org.

And, please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our blogs to receive the very latest news and articles on girls’ education and women’s empowerment.

Save the date: Tuesday, November 24th – our 10th annual conference!

This year marks our 10th annual conference and we are excited to announce that Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, will be our keynote speaker. Craig inspired us when he spoke at our second annual conference in 2007 and those who heard him will remember a committed and passionate activist. We are delighted to have him return, accompanied by the Kenyan Boys Choir. 60 million girls has partnered with Free The Children several times, in Kenya and India, to support education at both the primary and secondary levels. Craig will bring us up to date with these amazing projects!

We will be sending further details later. We are looking forward to seeing you soon!

The Great Giving Challenge

It’s the end of the Canadian school year, and many of us will celebrate our children’s teachers to thank them for their dedication throughout the school year.

Why not help teachers in the developing world as well? It feels great to give, and your contribution to the 60 million girls Foundation will support students (and teachers) in Uganda and Nicaragua this year.

Even better, each dollar donated in June as part of the Giving Challenge can help us win $10,000 to put towards our projects.

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At the end of this school year we have been reflecting on a key fact: a quality education depends on trained teachers.

Yet, UNESCO estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa just half of teachers are trained. This can make learning difficult, especially when combined with large class sizes. In some countries, there are often as many as eighty children in a class.

Moreover, the need for teachers is increasing as population and school enrolment rise, and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that developing countries will need 3.4 million new teachers by 2030, in addition to the normal attrition rate, to see all children get a quality, primary education.

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60 million girls tries to supplement classroom learning by offering schools offline learning materials like KA Lite, a math and science tutorial, to support children whose access to books (and trained teachers) is limited. Click here for more information on our pilot project in Sierra Leone or view this map and click on Sierra Leone in West Africa, to see what we are doing.

Your contribution to the 60 million girls Foundation will support students (and teachers).

Simply click here to give.

The students and their teachers will thank you!

Using Technology to Break Down Barriers to Education

The 60 million girls Foundation is using new technologies to help more children reach their academic goals by giving them access to learning materials, which in remote villages, is often hard to come by.

We know that there are many barriers to education for children in developing countries, and living in a rural area is one of them. There are fewer schools, a lack of trained teachers and large class sizes. In fact, UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics says that in 75% of countries only a third of teachers are trained and that 27 million more teachers will be needed by 2030.

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Clearly, hiring, training and motivating more teachers is critical to better educational outcomes for children. But in the meantime, one way to work around this need is to help children help themselves through a combination of traditional in-class schooling and independent learning with computer-based programs. This is known as blended learning.

Over the last two years, we have worked with CAUSE Canada in Sierra Leone’s Kabala district to do just that. We implemented a pilot project to assess the effectiveness of KA Lite, an offline version of Khan Academy, run by the Learning Equality Foundation.

When access to electricity is limited, and internet connectivity in schools not available, KA Lite’s offline math tutorials have proven to be an excellent educational resource for children living in remote areas.

In the first phase of the project, which began in November 2013, we downloaded KA Lite onto 15 USB keys to be used on the Netbook computers at CAUSE Canada’s Integrated Learning Centre. The 60 girls who participated were already part of a Peer Literacy program, had some knowledge of computers and were keen to learn more.

They initially had access to KA Lite for two sessions over two weekends for three hours each time. As we expected, due to previous research into Sugata Mitra’s School in the Cloud, they were, for the most part, able to teach themselves the program.

Once they got the hang of it, the girls continued to use KA Lite as a math tutorial to independently supplement classroom learning and to help with homework. After three months the girls were keen for access to additional subjects like science and business.

In February 2014, we decided to use the Raspberry Pi Rachel. Developed by World Possible, it’s a mini hard drive, which costs just $150 USD and fits in the palm of your hand. It was a more robust and effective way to deliver the program. We set up a RPi that acted as server for 15-20 computers at the Integrated Learning Centre. In addition, two more were sent to Sierra Leone and used independently.

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Phase 2 began in April 2014 with the intention of further assessing the effectiveness of KA Lite. Children from four schools in grades 5, 8 and 12 were split up into a control group and user group. The idea was to compare results in national exams, which are normally taken in grades 6, 9 and 13. We also wanted to undertake qualitative surveys to assess any increase in confidence, and possible changes in the children’s views on the importance of education. The children had access to CAUSE Canada’s Integrated Learning Centre for 2-3 hours per week.

Unfortunately, however, the Ebola crisis and resulting school closures interrupted the program. Our partner on the ground implemented, instead, a “mobile lab” with 10-15 notebooks, again using the Raspberry Pi to give the children, working in groups, access to math tutorials. This proved to be hugely popular with students and parents.

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Now that schools in Sierra Leone are up and running again, we plan to continue to assess the impact of blended and independent learning. We’re hoping to expand the program from math to reading and literacy.

All children have a right to a quality education. We are working towards that, one child at a time.

February 2015

Our projects for 2015

Every fall, the 60 million girls team goes through the very difficult but fascinating process of choosing the projects we will fund for the upcoming year. In fact, the process is actually one that we work on year-round: meeting with new organizations specializing in girls’ education to gauge how we might work together as partners, attending conferences, talking with education and development specialists, following the latest statistics, trends and innovations related to education, keeping in touch with our past partners, and following up on the latest reports from projects about to be completed.

Throughout this process, we are continually learning. Learning about what works best in different contexts and in different communities. Learning how to mitigate risks in particularly difficult regions. We are continually looking at ways that our investments can have the greatest and most sustainable impact possible.

Since it was founded in 2006, 60 million girls will have supported 19 projects, including those for 2015, in 14 countries, for a total investment of $2.1 million – and always with administration costs of less than 1% of our donations. Over 15,000 children have been directly supported through these projects – girls (at least 50%) and boys– ensuring gender parity where it is often a very difficult target to attain.

And this year, we are very proud to announce the projects we will be supporting with your generous help.

Nicaragua with Change for Children

With first-time partner Change for Children, we will be investing $100,000 in education for indigenous girls in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua. Known as the “lungs of Central America”, Bosawas is the largest tropical rainforest north of the Amazon basin, covering 7% of Nicaragua’s land surface. And, it is home to the Miskito indigenous communities.
     
Our funding will enable the construction of two high schools for 200 students – of whom 52% will be girls – in the villages of Tuburus and Aniwas. There are presently no high schools in these villages. Girls, in particular, have had no access to secondary education as parents deem it too dangerous for them to leave their villages to study far away. Following the school construction, the Ministry of Education and the local municipality of Wiwili will cover the costs of teachers’ salaries. The indigenous government of Western Bosawas will provide the translation of curriculum materials and will cover the cost of the maintenance and repair of the schools. The project will also include an awareness campaign on the importance of girls’ education with a reach of 10,000 people over a two-year period.

Uganda with the Steven Lewis Foundation

Our second project is our fourth partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and our second time supporting the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda. We are very pleased to be able to support the success of Nyaka’s two primary schools by investing in the construction of a high school developed specifically with the needs of girls and orphaned children in mind. A comprehensive and holistic approach will enable these children to be safe, surrounded by a supportive community. They will receive general and reproductive health information so important in adolescent years and, as well, they will be able to participate in vocational training.
     

Most importantly, girls will never be turned away if they become pregnant, as is the case at other high schools in the country – a policy that leaves a girl extremely vulnerable and marginalized with very limited ability to look after herself and her child. Giving her support and access to education will help ensure a much better outcome for both her and her child.

Your generosity goes a long way to making these projects become reality. Thank you for making the transformative investment in girls’ education.

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls Foundation

Education, technology and Ebola
By Bev Carrick, co-founder of CAUSE Canada

The current Ebola crisis in West Africa has claimed thousands of lives and has caused significant economic and social disruption to communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of January 12, 2015, there has been a total of 10,150 reported cases in Sierra Leone where the rates of infection have doubled over the past two months.

Fortunately, there have been a few positive outcomes as a consequence of this epidemic. Difficult-to-reach communities are embracing life-saving, preventative healthcare messages. The importance of hand washing and safe burial practices, as well as the truth about infectious diseases, is being taught to a broad and attentive audience.

Girl in classroom

The Sierra Leone government closed schools in June 2014 because of the Ebola epidemic. However, CAUSE Canada has continued to offer computer classes, library access and electric lights for nighttime reading in its Integrated Learning and Resource Centre in Kabala. There is a tremendous thirst to continue formal education on the part of young people in this remote, northern part of the country and the Integrated Learning and Resource Centre is operating at full capacity!

The 60 million girls Foundation has contributed funding to equip the Centre with laptop computers for these eager learners. Since there is no Internet service, Raspberry Pi technology is used as a server to provide access to Khan Academy’s math and science tutorials, in addition to e-books. Primary and secondary school students, as well as interested teachers, take advantage of these self-directed, e-learning opportunities, which are unique and greatly valued. In 2011, 60 million girls partnered with CAUSE Canada to introduce a Peer Literacy program in Sierra Leone where high school girls are trained in phonics each summer. Throughout the year, these girls tutor primary students every afternoon in basic literacy using games, flash cards and storytelling. In return, these young women receive support to continue their education.

Because of the Ebola epidemic, the government has made gatherings of more than 10 people illegal. However, the Peer Literacy Tutors have teamed up with local teachers to continue offering teaching clusters in homes for 4-6 students at a time. They are also using educational radio broadcasts to reach a broader audience of keen students! In this way, technology has helped offset some of the enormous difficulties caused by the Ebola crisis and continue the education process in Sierra Leone.

A pause to reflect…
By Lesley Stewart

Anita Chénier runs a yoga studio in Laval. She knows that research has shown that meditation and relaxation techniques have therapeutic effects on disease and pain. Anita also knows that research has demonstrated that education is one of the most effective community investments in the developing world. Her understanding of the importance of education was deepened by visits to India in 2012 and 2014. Anita travelled to Ladakh, a remote region in the northern part of the country. There, she visited three schools and witnessed, first-hand, the transformative effect that education can have on the children, their families and the whole community.
Last fall, Anita’s yoga studio held meditation evenings for a seven-week period and donated 30% of the revenues – just over $500 – to 60 million girls. Her generosity will help us continue to support education projects that will have a positive impact on both the girls and their communities.

60 million girls at Google
By Lesley Stewart

Thanks to the generosity of Google in Montreal, 60 million girls had the opportunity to host an event at their offices on February 5th. A sold-out crowd of close to 100 people joined us for this 5 à 7 cocktail on the theme of education and technology. Guests were able to see for themselves how we can use Raspberry Pi/Rachel educational software in self-directed computer-based learning. This technology greatly improves access to information and tutoring in a wide variety of subjects for students and teachers alike in the most remote areas of the world. There was also a fun demonstration of Google Glasses and how this technology could be useful to us. Our deeply felt thanks to Marie-Claude Élie for coordinating the event for us and for her enthusiastic support of the Foundation!
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Beaconsfield Golf Club Luncheon

RPiBeaconsfield Golf Club Luncheon – self-directed computer-based learning in a rural environment

Our June 4th luncheon, at the Beaconsfield Golf Club, was a tremendous success: a chance to meet up with our many friends, donors and supporters, the opportunity to share our latest projects in self-directed computer-based learning with our partners, and an occasion to witness your wonderful generosity!! Thanks to your generous donations, we raised close to $20,000!

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Learn About Technology & Education at our June 4th Luncheon

The 60 million girls Foundation invites you to attend a luncheon on Thursday, June 4, in Beaconsfield, Quebec.

Our Founder & President, Wanda Bedard, will talk about a new approach to educating children in developing countries. We believe that information technology and communication (ICT) improve girls’ academic success and that self-directed computer-based learning gives children an extra educational boost. In a rural environment, where trained teachers, educational resources and internet access are often hard to come by, Rachel Pi offers an innovative way to reach these children and gives them an opportunity to get a quality education.

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Wanda will share with you the success of our pilot project in Sierra Leone, as well as her experiences from her recent trip to Uganda and Kenya.

The luncheon will take place at the Beaconsfield Golf Club from 12:00-1:30 pm (registration from 11:30 am).
The tickets cost $100.
A tax receipt of $50 will be issued.

To purchase tickets, please click here to connect to paypal.

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All children should have an opportunity to learn and while growing up a rural area can make it challenging for children to get access to school, technology and a little creativity can make this possible.

Please join us on June 4th.

Investment Impact in Uganda

As you know, the volunteers of the 60 million girls Foundation are working to ensure that more children, especially girls, are able to get a quality education. Every few years, we like to visit some of the projects we have supported, to better understand the local situation and, of course, to see first hand the impact of the projects we have funded.

Along with two other volunteers, I am now in Uganda on a self-financed mission to view the Nyaka AIDS Orphans project, funded in partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

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We supported two primary schools in 2013 – Nyaka and Kutamba, about 90 minutes away – and this year we are raising funds for the new secondary vocational school. Jennifer Nantale, Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project’s country director, in Nyakagwyzi in south western Uganda, was our host for the last three days.

Nyaka takes a comprehensive holistic approach to their development work to address not just the orphans’ education, but also their health and nutritional needs. Nyaka has it all: well-constructed schools powered by solar panels, a community clinic that is staffed by two full-time nurses during the week and a doctor every weekend, the project farm with over 200 chickens providing eggs daily, cows providing milk, fields planted with maize and orchards of banana trees, pineapple, papaya, as well as gardens of cabbage and other vegetables, the huge community library with close to 20 computers (and solar panels), the grandmother support groups and micro-finance clubs.

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Nyaka aims to support the students to succeed in school. The students’ heath care is closely followed (almost 10% of students are HIV positive) and the clinic is also open to the whole community. Soon, it will become a birthing centre. Grandmothers with revenue-generating activities ensure more stable homes, better living conditions, food and a safe and supportive environment to study.

The school garden generates revenue to fund operations and is a food source for the daily meals at the primary schools. The community library enables students to continue learning over the holidays and on weekends. It’s also made available to the whole community when not in use by the students. The large meeting room and chairs are rented out for various functions to provide another source of revenue.

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At the schools, the teachers are well supported and paid by Nyaka. They each specialize in their subject matter and know the students well, as most come from the community. The students start the day with a 30-minute assembly with songs and music. They share recent news from articles they may have read. The teachers and headmaster provide encouraging and motivating talks. The children then take a few minutes to reflect in silence on what has been said and give thanks for being in school.

Girls outnumber boys at the school at all levels of the primary school. Last year, 100% of the final year’s students graduated and moved on to secondary school – an incredible achievement for children who have had to overcome the trauma of losing their parents and often living in unstable and difficult conditions.

And the new secondary school…

In February, the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School opened with their first cohort of students. There are now 25 girls and 25 boys in the first year, living in residence at the school. We were greeted by songs, dancing and poetry readings – all created by the students. The day of our visit, they were also writing end-of-semester exams. After meeting the head teacher, the staff and students, as well as witnessing the enthusiasm and school spirit, we had to keep reminding ourselves that they had been together for less than three months. These graduates of the Nyaka and Kutamba Primary Schools have a tremendous sense of determination and commitment. They will certainly go far!

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Construction of the new secondary school is only partially complete. Our funding will go to finish the workshop, which will allow the school to offer vocational courses. In addition, we are helping to equip the school with desks, as well as providing daily meals, guidance and counselling, and offering tutoring and extracurricular activities.

We know our funds will be wisely invested in a project that looks at all aspects of the children’s well-being, including their family support system, to ensure they will get the maximum out of their years at school.

We were thanked so many times by the students, parents, teachers and the community. We wish everyone who has supported 60 million girls could have been with us to see the enormous impact our support has had.

We would like to thank Jennifer for her time and explanations and for sharing her many years of development experience with us. We would also like to thank the whole team’s generous welcome. In addition, we would like to thank our great partner, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, for coordinating this wonderful visit and for their support of wonderful, effective and meaningful projects like Nyaka’s.

Wanda Bedard

Founder and President, 60 million girls Foundation

Back to School After Ebola

As schools re-open in Ebola-affected countries, children are being given a second chance to learn, and to play, as well as a chance to hope. Founder of World at School, and former child soldier, Chernor Bah, wrote in The New York Times that school is a place of safety for children, a place where they can begin to hope and to look forward to the future. This is important everywhere, but particularly in a country still recovering from the effects of a long civil war and where half of all children are not able to finish primary school.

Before the outbreak of Ebola, most of the country’s 2 million children were enrolled in primary school, as well as many older, secondary school-age children, who wanted to try again. However, too many factors prevented them from completing their primary education and in the end, just 45% of children in Sierra Leone went on to secondary school, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics.

Then, in June 2014, three months after the first outbreak of Ebola, the government closed all schools and prevented large gatherings of people in an effort to control the spread of the disease.  Learning programs on the radio helped to keep kids engaged and to bridge the gap until schools were able to re-open. You can hear one of these classes in the UNICEF video below.

 

In the last month, schools in Liberia and Guinea have re-opened, and Sierra Leonean schools are supposed to open at the end of this month. Have a look at this video about the return to school in Liberia.

 

The 60 million girls Foundation has worked on several projects in Sierra Leone. In 2011, we supported a peer-mentoring program for girls in the remote area of Kabala. This program promoted education and created role models so that young students could see that it was possible to finish primary school and move on to secondary school.

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To keep older children in school, the 60 million girls Foundation also engaged in a pilot project to integrate technology with learning to improve educational outcomes. For schools in remote areas and with large class sizes, it can be tough for children to access the educational materials they need. The pilot project attempted to fulfill this gap.

In the first phase of this project in Kabala’s integrated learning centre run by CAUSE Canada, we loaded USB flash drives with a math tutorial program called Khan Academy (KA) Lite. Prior to the Ebola crisis, 60 high school girls had access to the program.

The second phase of the project adds to the information available to the children: we put KA Lite, as well as an encyclopedia and books, onto a Rasberry Pi (pictured below), a hard drive that fits into the palm of your hand. Through the computers at the learning centre, the girls could access these programs to enhance their own learning experience. As all programs are pre-downloaded onto the portable and very cost-friendly Raspberry Pi, students have no need for Internet access to use them. This is key in remote areas where broadband is not always readily available.

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While schools across the country were closed to prevent the spread of Ebola, the integrated learning centre in Kabala continued to allow small groups of girls to use the computers and to continue their efforts at self-directed learning using the software we provided. In addition, the mobile computer labs pictured below in a CAUSE Canada photo, facilitate further access to learning.

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We will bring you an initial analysis of the project results soon, and further updates once the program is fully back in place. In the meantime, we are looking forward to seeing all children affected by Ebola back in the classroom.

Education for Peace

Earlier this month we told you about a 16-year-old girl from South Sudan who, despite the odds stacked against her, managed to complete primary school in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp and is now studying at a secondary school in Nairobi. Sadly, her story is far from common. Almost two-thirds of children caught up in conflict drop out of school before they finish. For them, going to school (never mind completing primary school) can seem like an insurmountable challenge. post - ashok2 For the first time since the Second World War, the number of refugees worldwide exceeds 50 million, about half of whom are children. Shockingly, the average time spent in a refugee camp has increased from 9 years to 20 years. We know that half of all out-of-school primary-aged children live in conflict zones. At the secondary level, one-third of children in conflict zones are out of school. Through no fault of their own, children suffer disproportionately in times of conflict through interruptions in schooling, pressure to become soldiers (or other instruments of war), or early and forced married. It seems that every day there is more news about escalating conflicts around the world. Boko Haram, ISIS and the Taliban are getting our attention through the perpetration of increasingly horrific acts of violence. South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Ukraine are conflict hot spots, where shaky ceasefires seem hardly worth the paper on which they are written. Meanwhile, in Latin America, children are caught up in narco wars and gang violence that pervade countries such as Honduras and Guatemala. Technology is helping us to understand who is affected by conflict. The International Crisis Group puts together an interactive map to illustrate conflicts around the world, along with a monthly update on security improvements or deterioration. The drone footage of the huge swaths of territory burned and buildings destroyed by Boko Haram in Nigeria in January revealed the extent to which this organization will go to extend its reach.

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The spread of conflict has reduced the opportunity for children to go to school, yet we know that an education is an essential ingredient to ensuring future peacefulness and stability. Making matters worse, schools and students are often targeted as part of the violence. Human Rights Watch lists the countries where schools are particularly at risk. Meant to be a “top 10” list, Human Rights Watch lists 19 countries where students are at risk. The top three are: Afghanistan, Burma and the Central African Republic. Malala Yousafzai, now the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, was targeted by the Taliban for daring to challenge their edict that girls be banned from getting an education.

In December, the Taliban targeted a school in Peshawar, killing 132 students. You can read my op-ed, published in the Montreal Gazette. In northern Nigeria, the fact that the very name Boko Haram translates to “Western Education is Forbidden” does not bode well for the future of children in this region, where more than two-thirds of children are out of school. In contrast, in Nigeria’s wealthier southern regions, the out-of-school rate drops to around 6%. Education must be part of wider ranging reforms to reduce conflict. Not only does going to school help children maintain stability, it is key for the future peacefulness of their communities. In fact, UNESCO’s Education for All report on Sustainable Development states that:

“While a low level of education does not automatically lead to conflict, it is an important risk factor: if the male secondary school enrolment ratio were 10 percentage points higher than average, the risk of war would decline by a quarter. The expected risk of conflict is highest in countries that have both low male education levels and a large youth population.”

The 60 million girls Foundation partners with organizations that work with the most vulnerable children around the world. We are working toward gender parity in education by ensuring that all of our projects have at least 50% girl participation. It is our belief that a more educated world will also lead to a healthier, happier and more peaceful one with lower poverty and where girls and women are able to assert their true voice.

2015 Projects: Uganda & Nicaragua

Choosing the projects we support is one of the most important decisions we make at the 60 million girls Foundation. We put a lot of effort into making sure that the clearly outlined project objectives meet our criteria so that the funds we raise have the greatest possible impact on children in need.

It is critical that all children have access to school. That is why all of the projects we have suported since our founding in 2006 have at least 50% girl involvement. Boys and girls alike should have equal access to the schooling that will benefit them, their families and their communities.

In 2015 we are partnering with two Canadian charities to support education for children in developing countries: The Stephen Lewis Foundation in Uganda and Change for Children in Nicaragua.

Projects with both charities will support the growth and development of secondary school-aged children who would not otherwise have the ability to continue their education past the primary level.

With your help, we will invest $100,000 in each project.

Uganda

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Our partnership with The Stephen Lewis Foundation will help the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project support a Vocational Secondary School in the rural district of Kanungo. We have worked with Nyaka before, building primary schools in 2012. This latest venture will allow the graduates to continue their education at the secondary level.

The vocational school will allow orphaned children, more than half of them girls, to pursue a quality secondary school education. It will actively provide the support and resources they need to stay there, offering free tuition, uniforms, counseling on reproductive health, room and board, critically important accessible daycare, and an environment that encourages and promotes their education. Pregnant girls will not be expelled – a policy that will drastically differentiate the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School from other schools in the district.

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Nicaragua

Change for Children actively works in the indigenous territory of Miskito Indian Taisbaika Kum in Bosawas. It is an extremely remote area of Nicaragua and children in the local villages only have access to a primary school.

Our investment will provide funds for labour, materials, equipment and transport to construct two secondary schools in the villages of Tuburus and Aniwas. In addition, it will also provide for curriculum development and training, and the development and delivery of an education promotion campaign to encourage girls to enter secondary school and pursue higher education. The education will also be bilingual in Spanish and the Miskito indigenous language. Currently, the the national government shows no sign of prioritizing this region for secondary education infrastructure. The local government and community members, however, actively support the school project; community buy-in is crucial for the success of any project.

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We are so proud to support two wonderful projects that will provide quality secondary schooling to over 500 girls and boys.

Reaching the most vulnerable children in developing countries is a critical aspect of our mandate. We feel that both of these projects achieve this objective as girls, children in rural areas, and orphans all have reduced access to quality schooling.

We welcome your support this year to fund the secondary schools in Uganda and Nicaragua. You can give online by visiting www.60milliongirls.org.  Just click on the Donate Now button.

Thank you.