The Mentoring Successful Scholars program was established in 1993 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 a formal club during the school year, and this year, we are also requesting funds to help start more sustainable scholarship clubs. The target group are female youth ages 14-17. This project aims to create an environment where girls have agency and empowerment to develop life skills, technical skills and a basic understanding of the impact of food security and agriculture on the local community and Senegal. The curriculum will focus on leadership, women’s empowerment, food security and the environment as well as essay writing, money saving, menstrual pad making, composting, gardening and tree maintenance activities and will be administered through guest speakers, seminars, field trips and exercise. The community recognizes that closing the gender gap in education will reduce the odds of early marriage and pregnancy while increasing female education rates in Senegal as well as focusing on two areas with potential for large community-level and country-wide impacts.
Once the creation of a girl’s club was decided upon, committee members laid out an intensive club member selection process based on objective factors such as grades and subjective input from administrators and teachers, who provided key local knowledge and insight of each girl’s home and financial situation. The Director and her staff publicized the club, scheduled a kick-off ceremony and follow-up activities tentatively planned for the calendar year. Community involvement is inclusive of club members, so the girls will help in finalizing the draft session plans, selection of guest speakers, and club management.Our community contribution plan:
The young women have been selected through a committee process. The counterparts have participated in MSS by being part of the selection committee. In the future, they will be offering tutoring hours around exam time and helping with specific club activities (such as fundraisers or training for the girls). Additionally, the school grounds, including classroom time will be provided for the club’s use. The importance of counterparts is for the young women to have a relationship with, and witness someone from their own culture, and possibly similar childhood, to have benefited from staying in school.
Peace Corps Senegal has a history of administering girl’s camps. With the transition to clubs, this is an ongoing program will continue as part of our Food Security and Agriculture programs as well as our Senegal Gender and Development (SeneGAD) program, providing support from year to year. For long-term sustainability, community involvement includes knowledge sharing and continuity of the club once the PCV departs. In addition to the material support of the inscription fees and school/club supplies, club members engage in activities that will allow them to train others in their community on new skills that will sustain knowledge and build capacity of the greater community. Club members will elect leadership, assign roles and responsibilities and help administer the club, creating a sustainable approved with involved youth leadership. Finally, through the future planning essay, club members will be asked to specifically look at their futures in education and careers, building sustainable knowledge that will hopefully be shared with their peers and impact subsequent generations.