The Power of a Step

This lesson conveys the obstacles girls face in their schooling, and is designed to help students gain a sense of empathy for their life challenges.


Using critical thinking skills, students/participants will be able to:

  • Consider each scenario within the story.
  • Understand that there are approximately 62 million girls around the world that should be in school but are not.
  • Identify the benefits that educating a girl can extend to her family, her community, and any family or children she may have in the future.
  • Using The Story of Lola, help determine if and how the main character progresses to achieve her goal of graduating from school.
  • Identify the ten most common barriers that prohibit girls from going to school.


  • Flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • Colored construction paper (enough for each participant to have one green, one red, and one yellow piece of paper)
  • Copies of The Story of Lola for each student/small group (optional)
  • Tape to hang the flip chart paper on the wall/board
  • 10 pieces of construction paper to symbolize the “steps” on the floor.


60 minutes


More than sixty-two million girls around the world are not in school that should be. This lesson plan aims to raise awareness to the barriers girls can face when trying to access an education.

Within this lesson, students will “step” into the life story of Lola, a girl who is trying to graduate from secondary school. Learners will play a critical role in helping the main character on her journey towards graduation day.

This activity can be facilitated in small groups or in larger groups.

Beginning This Exercise:

  • At the start of class, ask the students/participants “Can anyone recall their first real memory of school when they were younger? What was that like? Who was there to support you? Why do you think this was an important day for you?" The goal is to get the students thinking about their first memory/experience of school and to reflect on this experience.
  • Share that for many children, especially young girls, the first day of school or even going to school is not promised. In fact, for many girls around the world, they will never have a first day of school because there are many barriers preventing them from going to school.
  • Explain that today the group is going to explore what some of those barriers are. Ask students what the term barrier means to them. Give learner the opportunity to share their own definitions. Express that one definition of a barrier is “a law, rule, or problem etc. that makes something difficult or impossible." 
  • Ask students to think about possible barriers or obstacles that prevent girls from attending school. Provide a space/opportunity for learners to brainstorm on flip chart paper. Go over a few ideas as a group and thank learners for their ideas, suggestions, and participation. Or watch the videos provided to develop a list of barriers.
  • Using students' answers, develop a list of major barriers girls face when accessing an education, including, but not limited to:

  1. Social and Cultural Factors 
  2. Early Marriage 
  3. Opportunity Cost of Schooling (this refers to when a girl attends school and is away/out of the home, are there any opportunities or costs/losses to a family due to her absence?) 
  4. Lack of Separate Toilets for Boys and Girls 
  5. Lack of Female Teachers 
  6. Violence at School or on the Way to School
  7. Direct Cost of Schooling
  8. Distance to School 
  9. Low Value Placed on Girls’ Education 
  10. Poverty

  • At this point, break the students up into smaller groups or continue on as a large group. The directions below are designed for a large group. Indicate that the group will now apply what they have learned in a story-based activity.

  • Ask for two volunteers to help facilitate the story. Volunteer #1 will represent the main character in our story – Lola. Volunteer #2 will represent high school Graduation Day. Graduation Day from Secondary School is Lola’s goal and it will be the class's job to help her get there! Ask the two volunteers to come to the front and stand on opposite sides of the room.
  • Explain activity directions and that first, the class will read a story about a girl named Lola. This story requires your attention and participation. On their seats or desks, students should each have 3 pieces of colored paper: one RED, one GREEN, and one YELLOW.
  • As the class reads Lola’s story aloud, each learner will have an opportunity to determine whether Lola takes a step forward towards her goal of graduating from high school, if she takes a step backwards, or if she remains where she is. Colored paper will serve as a voting tool. Students will decide what happens to Lola in the story, and hold up a piece of paper to cast their vote. 

  1. GREEN = Move one step forward
  2. RED = Move one step back
  3. YELLOW = Stay in the same spot

  • Ask students to listen closely to Lola’s story. They will hear a mixture of opportunities and challenges that she faces on her journey. Some situations are not as easy as they might seem to be. Instruct learners to use their critical thinking skills to help Lola graduate!

Questions for Reflections and Discussion:

  1. How did that exercise feel for you?
  2. What did you think of Lola’s story?
  3. Were there any surprises for you as you listened to Lola’s story? What surprised you the most?
  4. Where there any challenges that Lola faced that you could also relate to?
  5. What do you think was one of the biggest challenges Lola faced in her quest to graduate from school?
  6. What do you think were some of the biggest supports Lola received in her quest to graduate from school?

Importance of girls education

The impact of pregnancy on a girl's education

Girls education in Ethiopia

Girls Education in Ghana

Girls Education in Mongolia

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