Mentoring Successful Scholars

  • Education
  • Women & Gender
  • Youth
  • Senegal
This project is led by Maria Ospina, a Volunteer from Maryland

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The Mentoring Successful Scholars program was established in 1993 as the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship program in memory of Michele Sylvester, a former PC Senegal volunteer dedicated to gender and development work. Its purpose is to help close the gender gap in education, as many girls drop out as a result of early marriage or pregnancy, or to help with housework, particularly during the middle school years. The scholarship provides money for school inscription fees and school supplies for girls at each participating middle school, in order to decrease some of the financial barriers to school attendance. All scholarship recipients are required to participate in one formal training during the school year, and this year, we are also requesting funds to help start more sustainable “scholarship clubs.” The local club will begin in October 2019 with the start of the 2019-20120 school year. The club members will include 15 females, that will come together once a month, with the objective of having discussions on young women empowerment. The activities throughout the school year will include leadership, future planning, influential women and personal health. The meetings will be held at the teacher’s home, which is located next to the middle school. We will move away from the class room setting and sit under a tree to have open dialogue. As part of the lesson plan, we will have one ice breaker at the beginning of each meeting. The goal of the icebreaker is the get the young women more comfortable around each other and to see each other as a support system. We will be asking the girls to do activities like to think of their role model, who they see in their life as courageous and who they want to be once they grow up. All of the activities throughout the school year will promote and encourage them to continue with their education. The local counterpart will be a Spanish teacher, who has had experience working with MSS Clubs and Peace Corps. In March 2019, she attended the Gender Workshop hosted by SeneGAD. She is the only female teacher at the middle school and understands the importance of girls education and keeping the girls motivated. At the start of the school year, we will be hosting an award ceremony. This will allow for both parents and teachers, to come together and see the importance of putting an emphasis on young women's education.

School administration and teachers are involved from the beginning of the program at each participating school, by establishing a selection committee to select scholarship recipients, based on objective factors such as grades and subjective input from administrators and teachers, based on their local knowledge and insight of each girl’s home and financial situation. This year, all volunteers must use a committee of teachers for scholarship recipient selection, where they review the list of eligible recipients as a team. Volunteers must not be in a position where they may be perceived as handing out money or be involved in the selection or evaluation of students as recipients of money. The project must demonstrate that only host country nationals should be in charge of the process of nomination, selection, and administration of any funds used for this purpose. School administration and teachers are also very involved in the application process, publicizing the program to students, and planning the congratulatory ceremony and any follow-up activities. Volunteers are also required to involve a local counterpart in their group’s club. Our community contribution plan includes the time host country nationals will put into selecting the fifteen girls and the time spend facilitating each meeting. The principal and the Spanish teacher at the middle school understand the importance of encouraging young girls education and support the implementation of MSS and the required club meetings. Currently the principal and the selection committee will spend time looking at the girls test scores and selecting the girls based on merit and financial need. Due to girls dropping out or changing schools, the selection committee might have to go back and look at the test scores again and reselect recipients, in the case of girls no longer being able to attend meetings.

This is an annual program that will continue each year as part of the activities of the Senegal Gender and Development (SeneGAD) committee, sustaining the benefits of this program from year to year. Counterparts are assigned to work with the volunteers throughout the duration of the program to ensure the continuation of newly established clubs once the program and Volunteer have finished. In addition to the material support of the inscription fees and school supplies, candidates also engage in activities that will allow them to train others in their community on new skills that will sustain knowledge sharing within the community. These activities can relate to the four sectors within Peace Corps Senegal: Community Economic Development, Health, Agriculture, and Agro-Forestry. Volunteers will work with their girls to turn these activities into themed-student-run clubs that are designed to continue after the volunteer has left their site. The girls will also sustain the benefits of the program after taking part in the future planning essay writing. After this session, they will develop plans for successfully completing their educations and embarking on careers. The community will be able to benefit from this project because the activities will be focused on increasing the capacity building of both the counterpart and the fifteen girls. Collaboration between the local counterpart and PCV to create lesson plans, it will ensure that the counterpart will be able to continue implementing the club once the funding from MSS is finished.

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