The Africa Education Initiative (AEI) is a multiyear basic education Presidential Initiative with a mandate to provide 550,000 scholarships for African girls, pre-service training to 160,000 and in-service training to 260,000 teachers, providing 4.5 million textbooks and other learning tools, and increasing the role of parents in their children's education by making school systems more transparent and open to reforms. The Ambassadors' Girls' Scholarship Program (AGSP) is one of the three components of the AEI. The AGSP began under AEI's predecessor, the Education for Development and Democracy Initiative (EDDI) and focuses on the girls' scholarships and mentoring aspects of the AEI program.

AGSP now continues under the new initiative with modifications to program focus, management, and administration. The new phase of the AGSP is under the auspices of USAID's Bureau for Africa, Office of Sustainable Development, Education Division (AFR/SD/ED).

AGSP in West Africa/Region 1 is implemented by World Education, Inc. (WEI) and its partner SageFox Consulting Group, LLC, a small business located in western Massachusetts. The program, awarded on September 30, 2004, has already surpassed its goal of administering 183,000 scholarships and provide supporting activities over five years. Under World Education's auspices, AGSP has been implemented in 13 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania [1] , Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

[1]Due to political unrest in Mauritania in 2009, Peace Corps suspended the program and pulled its Volunteers out of the country. Accordingly, the AGSP stopped activities and awaited further instruction from USAID. Peace Corps reported in the spring of 2010 that the Girls Mentoring Centers continued to operate on their own. Official instruction from USAID to discontinue the Program in Mauritania was received in November 2010.

Student from Sierra Leone

The objective of AGSP is to support the goal of the AEI to retain girls and boys in school, focusing on girls who would otherwise have no means of continuing their education. This is accomplished through awarding scholarships and encouraging complementary mentoring programs that inspire and encourage girls in their educational pursuits. Additionally, supporting activities focus on HIV/AIDS mitigation and prevention, and community participation and democracy, with collaboration from in-country consultants and NGO partners.

Since the beginning of the program, stakeholders at every level of the program advocated for the inclusion of boys in the program. School authorities, parents associations, scholars and implementing partners repeatedly made the case for boys in their communities that could not attend school primarily for economic reasons. As a result of this open dialogue, in 2007 USAID made the decision to include boys in the program. Forty of our partner organizations welcomed this opportunity to include boys in the program. The target number was set at 7,000 scholarships, and in most cases, the NGOs were able to enroll more boys than their target number. These boys are from the same communities as the girl beneficiaries, and were selected using the same criteria. NGO partners and communities have taken increased ownership of the program, as they see an increase benefit to their children and because they feel like USAID and World Education listened to their pleas. Their voices were heard. To date, the program has distributed 26,083 boys’ scholarships in eleven countries.