Support beyond AGSP
The Batonga Girls' Education Program
Batonga girls from Benin
The Batonga Foundation, of Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo, has selected World Education as its partner to provide education support to former AGSP scholars in Benin and in Kidal, Mali through the Batonga Girls' Education Program. AGSP scholars who have successfully completed their primary education and wish to go on to secondary school have been selected for further support. Emphasis is placed on developing mentoring activities that will help the beneficiaries build confidence, and provide them with vital personal and moral support to succeed either in middle school, technical or vocational school. Key elements of World Education's strategy include: 1) orientation of partners; 2) provision of scholarships to girls; 3) supporting activities (including mentoring) and scholarship tracking. Monitoring and evaluation are integral components of the program.
Angelique Kidjo and Batonga Girl
The Batonga Girls' Education Program provides former AGSP scholars who successfully passed their exams in Benin with scholarships and is managed by World Education's two NGO partners Actions Communautaires pour le Développement Durable (ACDD), and Groupe d'Action pour la Justice et l'Égalité Sociale (GAJES). In Mali, the program is managed by AGSP NGO partner Aide ŕ l'Enfant du Désert et du Sahel (AEDS) in Kidal.
The program focuses on three interventions to improve the quality of education:
This academic year, Batonga supported 275 continuing Batonga scholars (214 in Benin and 61 in Mali). Scholarship materials consisted of items such as shoes, lamps, bicycles, calculators, stationary, notebooks, school bags, uniforms, school fees, breakfast (only in Benin for the breakfast program) and sanitary napkins provided by Procter & Gamble.
As in previous years, mentoring activities focused on HIV/AIDS awareness and sensitization, education on reproductive health, and career development. This year NGOs provided mentors with a refresher workshop on the use of the USAID Girls’ Mentoring Resource Guide, a tool that has helped standardize the quality of mentoring activities. World Education also carried out a teacher training workshop for 62 remedial classes, which was well-received. Teachers focused on gender equity sensitization and tools for the classroom. Also in partnership with Procter & Gambol, WEI held focus group sessions with girls centered on reproductive health and personal hygiene.
The community, and in particular parents, have continued to be very supportive of the Batonga program and have remained involved in selecting appropriate scholarship materials and monitoring girls’ class attendance and after school studies.
This year, some of the girls were honored with the privilege of speaking with and meeting singer Angelique Kidjo. The interaction was exciting for the girls, and encouraged them to continue to strive and excel both academically and personally.
The Gift of Certain Education in an Uncertain Environment
Maria Seidou, Batonga Girl
''With the Batonga Scholarship I had everything I needed to succeed in school by the end of 7th grade I was the top student in my class…
Maria Bouko Seidou is a former Ambassadors Girls’ Scholar-ship Program Scholar. She is 16 and is in the 8th grade at CEG Bembéréké in a class of 69 students (30 girls and 39 boys). Maria lost her mother at a young age, and grew up with her grandmother in the town of Guéré Bembéréké. After the death of her mother, Maria’s father, a farmer, remarried and continued to live in Sinendé. Maria has four older siblings, two brothers and two sisters who grew up without the opportunity to go to school. At the end of her primary education, with only her grandmother’s meager income from soybean processing, Maria was unsure of what would happen to her. In 2007, with the in-troduction of the Batonga Girls Scholarship Program in Benin, Maria was able to continue her education and began the 6th grade with relief and joy. She said ''With the Batonga Scholar-ship I had everything I needed to succeed in school by the end of 7th grade I was the top student in my class. I have continued to do well and although not first this year, I still earned the fourth place in my grade.”
Maria’s day usually begins at five am with prayers, morning chores and a review of the previous day’s lessons. Morning classes take place from eight until noon and again from 2 pm until about 6 pm. During her two hour lunch break Maria comes home where she eats, reviews her lessons and takes a nap be-fore returning to school. In the evenings she helps her grand-mother prepare the evening meal, reviews her lessons and is asleep by 11 pm. On the weekends she helps with household chores and assists her grandmother in making soy cheese.
She say’s “I am very pleased that I am the first one in my family to attend school. When I grow-up I want to be a children’s doc-tor, and help support my family. I feel very privileged to have the Batonga Scholarship, because of all the support my grand-mother and I receive. Many of my friends do not have this op-portunity, and I will do everything to work hard to maintain this scholarship award. Thank you Angelique Kidjo for thinking of us!”
Empowered to Propel Change in Benin
Leontine Cica Agbannon, Batonga Mentor
“It was because of my mother that I ever begun school. I remember my father saying why waste the little money we have on educating a girl. Despite his attitude my mother did not give up, and with much tact my father finally agreed to enroll me in school.”
My name is Leontine Cica Agbannon. I mentor Batonga Girls in the town of Gbeyizankon, a village in the commune of Abomey. By profession I am a seamstress, but I have also been trained as a para-legal by a local NGO. Through the Batonga program I benefited from training workshops on how to use the USAID Girls’ Mentoring Resource Guide in sensitizing the Batonga Girls on health, lifestyle and career choices.
My involvement in the Batonga program has increased my con-viction in the importance of promoting girls’ education, and the empowerment of women. It has also made me more aware of the support and the sensitization education adolescent girls need to live healthy and successful lives. The training I received through GAJES has strengthened my capacity to be more attentive to the needs of the Batonga girls and protect them against risky behav-iors.
The greatest pleasure I receive from being a part of Batonga is the opportunity to use my knowledge and enhanced skills to reach out to the community and improve conditions for women and girls here. The work we (mentors, NGOs, teachers) do through Batonga is in the interest of the entire nation, and I am proud to be a part of this movement for change. I see academic and mentoring support as the key strength of Batonga. The scholarships and mentoring support mechanisms are very popu-lar with not only Batonga parents, but the whole community.
Northern Mali Girls' Scholarship Program
With contributions from generous individuals and private funders such as Charles Ellis and the HW Wilson Foundation, among others, World Education launched the Northern Mali Girls' Scholarship Program to provide secondary school education to girls who worked so hard to successfully complete primary school. A strong network of parents, local NGOs, and local businesses in Northern Mali were mobilized to support the endeavor. Over 660 girls were supported through this program in Northern Mali.
Procter & Gamble, Protecting Futures
In partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G), Protecting Futures, WEI provided sanitary pads as part of the girls’ scholarship package to AGSP and Batonga students in seven countries including Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. Through the mentoring component of AGSP, the NGO partners have been trained to use puberty education materials with the recipients. A qualitative and quantitative assessment of these activities and outcomes is ongoing.
In spring of this year, the project director for AGSP visited Senegal and Benin and interviewed the girls who received the sanitary pads and puberty education training, as well as their families, and other community members, to gain feedback on how receiving and using the pads had affected them. The general feedback was positive, and the girls and their families were grateful for the addition of the sanitary products to the scholarship package. Most girls and their parents indicated that if they had the financial means, they would continue to buy the pads.
This year, as a complementary activity to AGSP, the NGOs will be given small sub-grants to continue the puberty education activities with the girls.
Ambassabors' Girls' Scholarship Program (AGSP) is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development