From Summer Camps to Fall Fundraising

Greetings and Gratitude! We at Girls Ed hope that you had a fabulous summer and are ready for the transition into Fall. For many of us, this means 'back to school' -- but in Tanzania, this means the end of the school year is approaching. It also means that national exams are on the horizon for many of our students.

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We'd like to share a few updates from this past summer! First - let me make a big shout out to Lucas and Madaga, our dedicated in-country program managers for all of their hard work throughout the year! We could do nothing without them! Asanta sana, ndugu zangu!

Study Camp - June 2017

Our study camp was excellent this year! We had a record number of students - girls from Form 1, 2, 3, and 4. We joined fellow students from Project Wezesha - boys and girls in Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Our Form 6 students - Dibeit, Tumsifu and Saidi - were helping us out as teachers. They taught Biology, Chemistry, and Math respectively. It's so wonderful to have them in the classroom in this capacity - paying it forward.

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We had many teachers from Kichangachui Secondary School - teaching their core subjects to our girls. We also had a teacher from Amahoro Secondary School, Monica who came in from Mwandiga every day to teach Biology. The girls really enjoyed having two women teachers this year - Monica and Fedha, who taught Kiswahili. We're very grateful to the teachers who gave their time and really motivated our students to give their all during this 4-week intensive camp. We were able to offer them salaries for their work thanks to your support!

My colleague from St. Michael's College, Katie and I taught English classes to Form 1, 2, and 3 students. We had the opportunity to get creative with class time. We introduced the students to many communicative activities that are quite unlike the traditional, teacher-centered approaches they are used to. They enjoyed the variety and impressed us with how much they had to say in English on a range of topics. Here is a snapshot of two activities we did with them. Make sure to click the links and check out the videos of them in action.

Activity - Running Dictation

In our last report, we shared about the fun time our students had on our field trip to Gombe. This video shows them back in the classroom doing a running dictation activity based on a text about Gombe National Park. In teams of four, students choose a person to be the 'runner', a person to be the 'scribe', a person to be the 'reader',  and a person to assist with reporting and editing. The runner runs across the classroom where a reader reads from a short text. The runner remembers as much as she can and then reports to her team. The scribe writes what she hears and the assistant helps correct spelling and check for missing words. When teams are finished, we read the text aloud and they check their work. Activities following this one build on the text -- we worked with new vocabulary, comprehension, and did some additional communicative tasks to let students talk about their trip to Gombe. As you can see in the video, they loved it!

Activity - Concentric Circles Interview

Another activity the girls really enjoyed was a mix and mingle activity to let them practice speaking in English without a focus on accuracy (rather fluency). Students form two circles with the inner circle facing the outer circle. They shake hands to make sure each has a partner, then we give them questions to discuss. They each take a turn responding, then the inner circle moves over one space to face a new partner. They continue in this way - discussing questions with new partners until they have talked to everyone in the circle. You can see in this video that they were using a lot of English, giggling, and enjoying class time! What more can you ask for?

Fall is for Fundraising! Launch your own Fall Fundraiser: GlobalGiving has a great tool that allows anyone to start an online fundraiser to benefit an organization of their choice. Simply visit our project page. To the right, you'll see the donation options, followed by payment options, and below that - a blue button that says "Start a Fundraiser". You can raise money in honor of someone or for an event (wedding, birthday, sporting event, etc.). Launch it and encourage friends and family to donate -- then watch your impact grow with each contribution.

Interview with our student, Tania - Pakistan

Introducing the bright and insightful, Tania!

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Q: What’s your name and how old are you?

My name is Tania Farooq and I was born on 12th October, 2000. I am 16 years old. I belong to Dhok Nato Wala from Hattar village.

Q: What does education mean to you?

Education changes the personality of a person. An educated person can secure better job and respectable place in the society. Education teaches the ways to respect elders.

Q: How does the opportunity of education change women’s life?

Education holds significant importance in the life of a woman. An educated woman knows how to raise her voice and fight for her rights. People are scared to commit violence on an educated woman because they know she will not bear it. An educated woman has awareness unlike an uneducated woman.

Q: What is your favorite subject and why?

Mathematics, Pakistan studies and Urdu are my favorite subjects. I love to do the calculations involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I also like the counting. I enjoy the poetry in Urdu. In Pakistan studies, I am really keen to know about the history of my country. It feels good to know about the boundary of Pakistan.

Q: Tell us something about you that you want us to know. What do you like to do in your free time? What are your dreams?

I love to read magazines, buy the beauty parlor’s stuff and do the cooking. I want to become the captain in the army when I grow up. I want to serve my parents and my country. I want to have a huge hospital and school in my village. I want every girl of my village to be educated.

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People are scared to commit violence on an educated woman because they know she will not bear it. An educated woman has awareness unlike an uneducated woman.

Academic Study Camp in Tanzania - June 2017

Our June 2017 Academic Study Camp in Tanzania was a great success! We're happy to share these notes from the field!

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Visiting Gombe National Park

The Sunday prior to camp, we took our students to Gombe National Park, which is located 10 miles north of Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Our students had the opportunity to sit for an hour and observe the G Family, a group of chimpanzees who are most accustomed to people. They are the family that Jane Goodall did much of her early research with. If you ever read about the chimps in Gombe, you've likely read about Gremlin, Gaia, Gimli, and the other famous G-family chimps.The two 'toddlers' in the family provided boundless entertainment for us.

Our students sitting with the G Family at Gombe National Park - learning through observation.

Our students sitting with the G Family at Gombe National Park - learning through observation.

Our students observed, took notes, asked questions of the guides and marveled in the lush habitat that the Jane Goodall Institute has striven to protect for decades. These students live in the villages surrounding Gombe, yet they had never visited. We hope that among the 43 students on the trip, many were inspired to become educators, researchers, and stewards of wildlife and wild places!

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Life at Study Camp

The students arrived in Kigoma town from their respective villages on Saturday, June 3rd. Their parents escorted them, dropped them off, and wished them well as they settled in for 30 days at the Kichangachui Secondary School. One of the classrooms was converted into a dorm room for the girls, where they sleep together with Mama Amina, who is also our head chef.

On the first day of camp, the enormous water tanks were empty (dry season) so the girls had to collect buckets of water from a neighboring villager. But in the meantime, Lucas hired a truck to pump water from the lake. This water filled the tanks and will be used for washing and cooking. We also purchased drinking water from town. During rainy season, water is not an issue - but we learn to roll with the punches in Tanzania!

From 7:30-3pm, the girls study subjects in alternating blocks from day to day: Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, English, Math and Swahili. After lunch and a rest, they resume at 4:30 with peer instruction aimed to review the concepts they encountered during the day. During these small group sessions, a more advanced peer leads the others as they do homework, solve problems, clarify confusing concepts, etc. It was remarkable to see them in action and on task.

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Peer Support

Students teach one another Chemistry

After dinner, they have some free time, followed by one final push for homework before bed.

Professional Campers

For all the students in our program, this is their second time at study camp. Since they had the experience in December, they are all pro-campers now! Madaga, our Education Specialist noted how this time around, there was far less management required by the teachers when it came time for students to group up and engage in discussions. They knew where to be and what to do. They stayed on task for the duration of the peer-instruction session and demonstrated their desire and willingness to apply what they had learned.

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History with Madaga

Students listen to a dynamic lecture about the role of colonists in the formation of modern day Africa.

Form Four Girls - Onward and Upward

Our cohort of Form 4 girls has the added pressure of National Examinations in October. The results on these examinations determine whether or not they can continue through to A-level studies (Form 5 and 6; required for participation in University). I said to them: "Maybe one of you will be our first girl to go to Form 5." They all responded together, "All!" Well, I'll take that. If we can see all of them go on to Form 5, that would be truly amazing--a feat for any Tanzanian, but a truly remarkable accomplishment for students from village government schools. We know this study camp is essential in helping them realize this goal.

How Can You Help?

Each study camp costs around $3700. We know now that this camp is a catalyst for change, a key to success for our students. The cost of the camp covers two cooks (who prepare three meals per day for 46 students), our teachers (who are paid by the number of periods they teach per week), water, the watchmen (who keeps our girls safe all day and night), Mama Amina (who stays with the girls in the night and attends to any issues that arise with their health and emotional well-being), and any unforeseen situations (e.g., medications, first aid, trips to hospital, feminine hygiene products, etc.).

Girls Education International ensures that 70% of the funds we raise go directly to our programming (e.g., study camp, required textbooks, fees for those who the government issued to boarding school, etc.). A small additional percentage covers Lucas' salary as our in-country manager. And of course, our steady and essential partner, GlobalGiving earns their commission for helping us stay in touch with you, streamlining the process for reporting on our progress, sharing photos, and letting you know how you've made a difference. We spend a fraction on 'overhead' (e.g., board insurance, our PO Box in Colorado, and maintaining our 501(c)3 registration). We really can't be more transparent about it - we are a volunteer run organization and we appreciate your continued support.

Please do consider signing up to make a monthly contribution - of any amount. Sustained giving goes a long way to help us continue the work we're doing. You can share this blog entry with friends and let them know why Girls Education International matters to you. Make sure you follow us on Facebook for the most up to date reports, photos and other related news. Also, you can visit our website and learn more about how you can help by visiting our Support Tool Kit.

Interview with our student, Esha - Pakistan Program

We are delighted to have the opportunity to share some thoughts directly from the girls we support in Pakistan. In this entry, we introduce you to Esha.

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Q: What’s your name and how old are you

My name is Esha and I am 14 years old. As I never celebrated my birthday so I don’t know my exact age. I am from village Sayyidan.

Q: What does education mean to you?

To me, education is very much important in our lives. Educated people can help and support others in an effective way. Any society can succeed on the basis of education.

Q: How does the opportunity of education change women’s life?

If a woman is not educated, she may face many different problems. An educated woman can earn good and so can provide her children with good health and quality education. A literate woman can easily travel to other cities or places. If she becomes a widow she doesn’t need anyone to take care of her. She can take better care of rights of her husband and children. An educated woman has strong decision making power and can speak up in decisions regarding her life.

Q: What is your favorite subject and why?

I like Islamiat [Islamic Religious Studies] and Urdu. Islamiat provides me the knowledge about our religion. I love the stories in Urdu, especially the love stories of girls and boys.

Q: Tell us something about you that you want us to know. What do you like to do in your free time? What are your dreams?

I now know why Bedari is interested in girl’s education. I spend my leisure time while reading stories, doing household chores and working in fields. I have only one best friend. I want to become a pilot in future. I am very fond of higher education. I have a dream that may my house be the best in the entire world. I want a high school for girls in the village.

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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