In general, Guinean communities recognize the importance of school and its capacity to open up doors through community development and to provide children with invaluable knowledge and training. Despite this recognition, however, primary school enrollment and completion rates in the country continue to be low. Among the contributing factors are insufficient resources, household responsibilities, lack of teachers, and community perceptions.
Since 2002, School-to-School International (STS), a nonprofit organization based in Pacifica, California, has collaborated with its local affiliate School-to-School Guinea (STSG) and its staff based in Conakry, Guinea. Their goal is to implement the Whole Child Model to improve the education of children. The Whole Child Model is a holistic approach to supporting students. Its guiding concept is that students' basic needs must be met in order for them to thrive and become healthy, productive citizens that can fully participate in society.
STSG has carried out the Whole Child Model in 28 schools through teacher and community equity, instructional trainings, and a girls' scholarship program. The implementation of school health policies, latrines, clean water, school medical supplies, and nutrition and health workshops helped to promote healthy learning environments. The Whole Child Model also succeeded because STSG involved the larger community through local partnerships, school management trainings, parental involvement, and cross-cultural learning opportunities.
After many years of collaboration, School-to-School Guinea became independent from School-to-School International in July 2018 and went through the equivalency determination (ED) process with NGOsource later that summer. STSG's subsequent certification as equivalent to a U.S. public charity made it easier to obtain funding from Alcoa Foundation for a project titled "Préparation des jeunes au marché de l'emploi"(preparing young people for the job market). In addition to opening up opportunities for cross-border funding, NGOs like STSG benefit from the streamlined ED process that allows them to spend less time on paperwork and more time on carrying out their important work.
Many young graduates in Guinea struggle to find their first job because they lack computer skills and have not mastered the English language. Thanks to the funding it received from Alcoa Foundation, STSG is implementing a new project to train nearly 300 young men and women in vocational training centers. Students will receive six hours of English lessons per week for four months and six hours of computer science lessons per week for three months. STSG staff will then work with the students to discuss difficulties they could encounter while searching for their first job and to brainstorm possible solutions.
STSG is making an impact on the education system in Guinea, one student at a time. We cannot wait to see what they do next.
We thank Mr. Dominique Bangoura, STSG's Director of Programs, for his contributions to this article.
Top photo: Food distribution to female scholars
All photos used with permission from STSG © 2019.