Educating Girls for A Better Future

Dear Friend,

Nothing empowers a child living in poverty more than an education. But there are many obstacles that prevent children in the developing world, especially girls, from going to school. Those barriers include long walking distances from school, hunger, early and forced marriages, and time-consuming chores at home.

In the West African nation of Burkina Faso, for example, barely half of the country's girls attend primary school. In some areas of the country, this rate is even lower than 30 percent. And of those who begin school, fewer than 3 in 10 graduate.

For nearly 50 years, CRS has sought to improve education and increase school attendance in Burkina Faso through programs such as school feeding, in which a hot meal is provided each day as an incentive for parents to send their children to class. This simple hot meal has evolved into a comprehensive food-assisted education approach combining school feeding with activities that focus on girls' access to education, support for teachers, health education and services, school infrastructure improvement, and increased parental and community involvement in schools. The success of this approach has been acknowledged by the prime minister of Burkina Faso, as well as several government ministers who benefited from CRS school feeding. These types of programs have also brought great benefits elsewhere. In Mali, a CRS food-assisted education project in 80 primary schools has resulted in a significant increase in attendance among girls.

This model has been adopted by the government of Burkina Faso in implementing a two-year initiative funded by the Millennium Challenge Account to improve girls' education in the country. The project, called Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls' Chances to Succeed, will provide a package of incentives intended to remove these barriers and encourage increased enrollment and regular attendance of children in schools, particularly girls.

The program, which CRS is helping to implement, is simple, but grand in its scope: to build, equip and support 132 schools in the 10 provinces with the lowest education rates for girls. These schools are being built with three classrooms, a borehole for drinking water, latrines for girls and boys, playgrounds and teacher housing. They are being constructed in remote communities that have no education infrastructure.

Each school will be equipped with sufficient desks to allow children to sit comfortably, free school textbooks and school supplies, and a midday lunch program. An incentive will be provided to girls who have at least a 90 percent monthly attendance rate in the form of a take-home food ration in order to ensure that girls enroll in and regularly attend school. An awareness-raising campaign is being organized with children's parents and community leaders during the two-year project period to convince parents of the importance of girls' education.

Over the long term, we believe that these kinds of programs aimed at improving the education of girls will lead to increased food security. This is because girls in school receive the knowledge and develop the skills that will enable them to better manage resources for themselves and their families. Better education for girls also contributes to improvements in the nutrition, health and education of future generations.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers,

Ken Hackett

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