A Farewell from Safeer Ullah Khan, Outgoing ED of Bedari

Girls Education International has a thriving relationship with our in-country partner Bedari, a nonprofit based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Over the past several years, we have worked closely with Safeer Ullah Khan in his many roles at Bedari, and most recently in his role as the Executive Director. Safeer will be moving on from Bedari to pursue other endeavors in the realm of social justice work within Pakistan, as well as to delve into some of his personal interests, including theater.

Click "Read More" below for Safeer Ullah Khan's farewell letter - one of hope!

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Academic Study Camps Prove Successful

In this project report, we'd like to share with you some highlights from our December Study Camp. Throughout the year, our students attend 9 different secondary schools, as determined by the Ministry of Education based on their national exam scores. But in December, Lucas and Madaga brought all of our students together to attend a rigorous 30-day study camp. The students were engaged in learning activities starting at 7am every morning. After a break in the day for lunch and a nap, they returned to school for afternoon classes and evening discussion seminars. On the weekends they enjoyed time to play sports and relax together on the campus of Kichangachui Secondary School in Kigoma town.

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Rifaat Studying in High School!

Riffat Shaheen – a resident of village Laphi nearly 48 Kilometers away from Chakwal city – was studying in 5th grade, when her father, a patient of diabetes, died. It was a time of great difficulty for her mother Makhtoom Begum – an illiterate woman with five kids to take care of. She had a small piece of cultivable land, which she started tilling on her own. It did help to some extent, but was not enough to keep the family in good condition. As Riffat passed her 5th grade examination, her mother stopped her from going to school. Riffat joined her mother in tilling the small piece of land. It was very depressing for her to work in the fields and see her classmates on their way to school passing by her fields. But she had no other options.

Thanks to the financial support from Girls Education International, our Pakistani partner organization, Bedari, selected Riffaat for an educational scholarship, which enabled her to join her school after a break of two years. Now she is studying in grade 6. She is very happy. She says, ‘the first day at school when I rejoined was the best and the happiest day of my life’.

Celebrating the Ten-Year Anniversary of Girls Education International!

Ten years ago, in November 2006, professional climber and The North Face athlete Heidi Wirtz and I officially started Girls Education International. After an epic expedition to the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, where an accident, illness and bad weather shut down our attempt to ascend the Ogre’s Thumb, we ended up spending ten days in the village Khane. The women and children adopted us as one of their own, painting our hands with henna, leading us around town on various adventures, sharing delicious meals in their kitchens and telling us stories of their lives (through our trekking guide translator). Heidi and I were smitten.

One bright day, the children proudly led us through the winding pathways of the village, past the gardens in front of every house, and then to the boys’ school. There, a tidy, whitewashed building with three classrooms lay before us. It was filled with desks, chalkboards and books, and was surrounded by a garden of flowers and a high wall topped with glass shards (to keep out vandals).

Naturally, Heidi and I asked to see the girls’ school as well. We found a one-room, dilapidated building with no heat – just a few desks and apparently no teacher.  Though unsurprising, the sight was still shocking/unsettling. There were piles of human excrement in the backyard and a broken down wall. The girls’ school, as often happens in third world countries, had been severely neglected for years. It was there, in that school building, that “Girls Ed” was born.

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Year End Update from Girls Ed Pakistan

As the year comes to a close, we don't have a lot of news to report from the field. The girls are continuing their studies and our partner on the ground (Bedari) continues to refine the program. In the past we mentioned a tract that was added to augment the scholastic aspect of the program: a series of women's self-growth (health and social education) workshops. These have very successful and have kept the level of engagement in the program very high. 

After some experimentation in the field, Bedari has requested permission - which we granted - to substitute some of the workshops with "exposure" trips, where the girls are escorted to locations outside their immediate villages. We'll hear more about these in the coming months, but they have been welcomed by the girls, their families and communities.

It cannot be overstated how important family support has been in making this program a success.

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All Quiet on the Liberian Front

After the upheaval and turmoil caused by the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, it is a relief to report that our girls are back in their classrooms and quietly resuming their studies.

As you may remember, the Liberian government closed all schools for six months to help contain the disease. In order to get the students back on the traditional schedule, adminstrators decided that the 2014-15 school year would be only one semester long. All students in Liberia -- including the GEI-sponsored girls -- were promoted to the next grade when the 2015-16 school year began this fall.

Time will tell how educators will make up for the lost semester, but our girls are so happy to be back in school and continuing their educations!

If you look at the group shot of the students that accompanies this article, you'll see that many of our girls are actually young women. Their educations have been interrupted many times by civil war, Ebola and other crises, yet they continue to come back to school even though they may be past the traditional age in their classrooms. We think this speaks to the determination these young women have to complete their education in spite of the obstacles they meet. Won't you make a donation to sponsor their studies and help them become the leaders and workers that Liberia desperately needs?  

Pakistan - Summer 2015 Update

As summer comes to a close, our program continues in full swing thanks to your support. Summers in this part of Pakistan are very hot, sometimes passing the 120-degree (F) mark. Our students are typically given a summer break from mid-June to mid-August, but it doesn‘t mean it’s just free time for everyone. Generally, our students in grades 6-8 are already through their annual exam and are in the new class if they have passed. They get loads of homework to do during the two months’ break. Students in grades 9 and 10 have taken exams, but the results have not been announced, so they are free during these vacations while they await word on their scores. Students in 11th to 14th grades are usually busy in their annual exams during these very months.

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2015 Update from Tanzania

Thank you so much for supporting our recent program expansion to include girls in Tanzania! Through our partnership with Project Wezesha (www.projectwezesha.org), we are now supporting a group of young women in secondary school in western Tanzania.

The girls were honored to be selected in the summer of 2013 and were so excited when they received the items they needed to embark on their new school year. For some of them, that included mattresses! That’s right – a few of our girls did so well on their secondary entrance exams that they were selected by the government to attend boarding schools in various regions of the country. For the girls who stayed nearby, they were given other required (and perhaps unexpected) items – such as buckets, brushes, and hoes. Yes, that’s right – part of the civic engagement of being a student is taking care of your school grounds. (See the pictures of the girls with their swag.)

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