Advancing Girls' Education in Africa (AGE Africa) supports girls to attend and graduate from public secondary schools in Malawi and even go on to pursue higher education or employment opportunities. The program primarily targets girls from disadvantaged, rural backgrounds, many of whom are at-risk of dropping out, single or double orphans, or affected by HIV/AIDS. AGE Africa works closely with the government - both at the district and central levels - to identify populations in need and introduce the program's unique life skills curriculum to schools across the country. Each year, AGE Africa works with more than 500 girls through its scholarship fund or extracurricular program.
Key components of the program include:
1. Scholarship fund - AGE Africa awards scholarships that cover the cost of tuition as well as indirect school fees for uniforms, transportation, exams, school supplies, food, and personal hygiene products.
2. Creating Healthy Approaches to Success (CHATS) - First piloted in 2010, CHATS is a 2-year extracurricular program based on an original life skills and leadership curriculum. CHATS is co-facilitated by students and faculty and open to all girls in each participating school. The curriculum covers a number of topics, including self-advocacy, leadership development, sexual and reproductive health, organization and study skills, and entrepreneurship. Local community and business leaders frequently serve as guest speakers to make girls aware of opportunities for their future. AGE Africa trains both students and faculty to serve as mentors for the program. AGE Africa also partners with local organizations to help introduce and run CHATS in schools that do not participate in the scholarship fund.
3. Tertiary transitions program - This component assists girls as they transition from secondary school to other forms of schooling or the workforce. AGE Africa provides university entrance exam preparation, assistance for admission or scholarship applications, and small stipends for housing and transportation for AGE Africa alumni pursuing higher education (such as university, vocational training schools, nursing school, or teacher training colleges). For those pursing employment AGE Africa’s curriculum is designed to teach small business skills and train students to search for and secure wage-based employment.
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CEI approaches in action
AGE Africa employs a rigorous, multi-step selection process to award scholarships. Program staff first meets with district education managers to identify schools that are most in need, then meets with schools' headmasters and faculty to gauge their interest in the program. Upon selecting a partner school, a selection committee is established and consists of parents, faculty, and administrators. The committee narrows the pool of eligible students based on two main criteria: economic need and a demonstrated desire to learn (not necessarily reflected by academic performance). Program staff then conducts informal interviews with nominated students. As a final step, program staff and volunteers make household visits to assess need, see where students live and sensitize families to the program.
Number of learners served is on an annual basis and includes both scholarship recipients (about 150) and CHATS participants (about 400)
Though AGE Africa has not yet reached full scale, the program now provides scholarships to more than five times as many girls as in 2011. With help from local organizations, AGE Africa has seen the CHATS program expand to a number of additional schools outside of the program.
AGE Africa is currently working with the government to propose a pilot program of the CHATS curriculum in 10 public schools for one year. Based on the pilot's impact and results, AGE Africa would then lobby for the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MOEST) to reform the national curriculum and scale up the program in government schools nationwide.
AGE Africa has the backing of the MOEST to scale the CHATS curriculum throughout the country at the secondary level and is actively seeking partnerships to invest and collaborate in this expansion. The program is also seeking private sector engagement over the long-term to help develop a more robust school-to-work curriculum as part of the Tertiary Transitions Program.
Last September, AGE Africa was invited by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Brookings Institution to join a very special initiative called CHARGE: Collaborative Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls Education. CHARGE brings together thirty NGOs, companies, foundations, governments and bilateral agencies in committing $600 million dollars to ensure that more than 14 million girls globally will have improved secondary educational opportunities. Championed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education, CHARGE ‘commitment makers’ will collaborate to implement programs that improve girls’ educational outcomes over the course of the next five years.
AGE Africa is thrilled to be a part of this historic initiative in girls’ education! As a CHARGE commitment maker, and over the course of the next five years, commits to reaching 12,000 disadvantaged girls in Malawi by scaling up its core curriculum, Creating Healthy Approaches To Success (CHATS). Currently operating in four districts in Malawi’s poorest region, the program will expand to include at least four additional districts and reach an additional 12,000 girls, serving the majority of districts in the Southern half of the country. The program costs approximately $100 per girl, meaning a $1.3 million commitment over the course of 5 years. CHATS Girls Clubs utilize peer-to-peer facilitation, leadership, self-advocacy, career guidance and life skills education as tools to address the multiple causes of dropout and to give young women viable alternatives to early marriage and early pregnancy.
Monitoring & Evaluation
In 2013, AGE Africa launched a new, robust monitoring and evaluation framework to track the progress of the program's scholarship recipients and CHATS participants. The program's key objectives include
- improved secondary completion rates (including healthy outcomes through sexual and reproductive health knowledge, delays in marriage and childbirth)
- improved leadership and self-advocacy skills, and
- improved post-secondary transitions (through knowledge of higher education and small business skills).
The primary tools used to gather these data are pre/post tests, self-reporting, focus groups, and school data collection at the beginning and end of each school term and year. AGE Africa frequently compares scholars' performance and responses to non-participants and national averages (regarding marriage and pregnancy rates, grades, promotion rates, etc.) to measure the overall impact of the program.
100% of participants delay pregnancy and marriage
- 88% of scholarship recipients graduate from secondary school (compared with national average of 26%)
- 74% of scholarship recipients pursue higher education, find wage-employment, or work in small businesses