by Merritt Frey, Executive Director
During the 16/17 school year, we launched our pilot Girls Project in three of our partner villages: Beneko, Simidji, and Kolimba. The Project works with parents, village leaders, teachers, and our female students to change the status quo when it comes to girls' education. Our pilot goals are: to improve recruitment of girls to middle school, to retain more girls in school throughout middle school, and to make sure the girls see real results in terms of school success and life skills.
Although we learned a lot during this first year, we also saw some wonderful success. Here are a few highlights from our evaluation under each of our three metrics: recruitment, retention, and results.
The short story on recruitment is a good one: overall girls’ enrollment in the three pilot villages increased by 7.7 percent. We saw the largest improvement in Kolimba, which previously had the worst ratio of girls to boys with 78% boys to 22% girls in the 15/16 school year. This year, that ratio improved to 67% boys to 33% girls. Similarly, Beneko improved from 64% boys and 36% girls last year to 57% boys and 43% girls this year.
Sadly, both the overall number of girls and the ratio of boys to girls worsened in the third pilot village: Simidji. Exploring the challenges in this village will be a focus on our work this summer and in the coming year.
Most of our core retention measures will be evaluated when we see how many of this year’s 7th and 8th grade girls return to school in October. However, one key measure of retention success for this year we can report on today is the girls’ drop-out rate. In the three pilot villages this school year, zero participating girls dropped out of school. This compares to a girl dropout rate of 10% in the previous school year for the three pilot villages. This also compares very favorably to a sample of girls’ dropout rates in 6 non-pilot villages this school year, where we found a 15% dropout rate.
Under results, we have data on 1) the girls’ graduation rates and 2) a summary of findings from the Girls Group evaluations.
The biggest, happiest news from our first year is the girls’ graduation rate in our three pilot villages. In our three pilot villages 94% of our 9th grade girls passed the graduation exams! In each of the three pilot villages, the girls did as well or better than their male peers. And the pilot village girls outperformed the girls from non-pilot villages by 53 percentage points. Nationally this year, only 48% of students passed the national graduation exams. In Mali Rising’s schools, our pass rate also averaged 48%. Overall in our schools, 46% of the girls passed their national exams.
In the second results area, we evaluated our girls on a series of life skills and confidence capacities at the beginning and end of the school year. The monthly peer-led Girls Groups meetings were designed to improve the girls’ skills in these areas. We were able to evaluated 88 of the participating girls on both pre- and post-surveys. Overall, the majority of the girls reported a marked improvement: 66% improved in Beneko, 73% improved in Simidji, and 66% of the girls improved in Kolimba. The top three improvement areas where girls increased their self-ratings were: “I have confidence in my abilities,” “I feel I am intelligent as others,” and “I believe I can achieve my goals in life.”
We are working hard to incorporate what we learned this year into an even better plan for next school year. You can help make next year even better for Hindaty and her girls!