A successful project keeps girls in school in Kenya

Today’s FHI 360 Gender 360 Summit in Washington, DC, will focus on ways to achieve gender equality. Four Pillars PLUS is one of several projects that FHI 360 has undertaken to improve outcomes and increase equality among girls, boys, women and men.

In most primary and secondary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, girls and boys learn math, science, language, art and history along with other subjects. Seldom do they receive the critical information they need to keep them safe, healthy and able to withstand the challenges that threaten their well-being and basic right to education. Completing a full cycle of education can become little more than a dream.

Turning the dream of education into a reality was the driving force behind the Four Pillars PLUS project. With funding from the GE Foundation, FHI 360 launched this robust girls’ education, mentoring and empowerment project in the counties of Kisumu and Siaya in Kenya. The project “pillars” included:

Girls mentoring. More than 50 trained and passionate mentors worked across 27 primary and secondary schools and one vocational training school. Each mentor met with a group of 25 girls two times per month to address topics such as reproductive health, making good decisions, peer pressure and planning for the future.

Scholarships. A rigorous and transparent scholarship-selection process fully engaged school administrators and parents. The scholarships defrayed the cost of education for more than 1,000 primary- and secondary-level girls and boys.

Teacher professional development/innovative approaches to learning. Almost 300 teachers were trained in student-centered interactive methods, gender-sensitive approaches, use of visual aids, peer-tutoring to improve students’ academic performance and methods to nurture a love for learning — particularly in math and science.

Community participation. Parents and caregivers were engaged from the start to create a supportive culture for the education of girls and other vulnerable children. Income-generating activities empowered families to save for girls’ education, increase food security and invest in entrepreneurial activities.

A “PLUS” component of the project helped students transition from school to the labor market through ongoing mentoring, internships and partnerships within the public and private sectors.

I am proud to say that, after seven years of project implementation, mentoring has become the new culture among the primary and secondary school communities. Young men and women are now agents of change and role models to their fellow students. Project beneficiaries who moved on to colleges and universities have returned to their hometowns during holidays to work with young students.

I invite you to explore more about the inspiring Four Pillars PLUS project through this video.

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