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Benin: Newsline

Girls' Education Wins with Lunch and Mentors

The Ambassadors Girls Scholarship Program (AGSP) puts a smile on Rachida Moussa, right, and her mentor, Madame Bernadette Ouinin Mora

Benin, 6 July 2009 - “Before, I had to take food from home,” says Mamanfati Issifou, an Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program (AGSP) scholar; now, thanks to the scholarship lunch, I have lunch at school”. AGSP started in Benin in 2004, as part of the African Education Initiative, to help the poorest children go to primary school. To date, more than 5,000 girls have received scholarships. Since 2007, 1,200 of the neediest boys also receive scholarships, including a new uniform, school supplies and lunch every day. Like for Rachida Moussa, on the right in the picture, the lunch is what entices poor children to stay in school. Most live far away and travel to school by foot. Without the school meal, they would not eat all day.

Mamanfati, 12, has been an AGSP scholar since 2004. She attends 6th grade at the Zongo primary school of Parakou, a town at the heart of Benin. Her father died four years ago. Her mother raises her and five brothers doing laundry, and can afford school for only two of Mamanfati’s brothers. One is in 8 th grade, the older in the last year of high school. Thanks to the scholarship, her mother had convinced the father to send Mamanfati to public school with her two brothers. Mamanfati is lucky because she gets support from her mother to go to school, and help with homework not only from her older brothers, but also from her mentor, Madame Bernadette Ouinin Mora (left on the picture). Mentors are volunteers and key AGSP players in keeping girls and boys in school. A teacher assistant, Ms. Ouinin visits 35 scholars in their homes after class, providing advice and supervising their home work. Ms. Ouinin also makes sure parents let the scholars study instead of working.

World Education and two local Beninese partners, Groupe d'Action pour la Justice et l'Egalité Sociale and the Association pour la Protection de l'Enfance Malheureuse, utilize an extensive and transparent community participation process to identify and support the neediest girls including victims of child trafficking, the hearing impaired, and other special needs girls.

Mamanfati and her schooled brothers prefer to speak French at home. Mamanfati has ambition and wants to become medical doctor. In Benin, AGSP is giving hope of a brighter future to many of the most vulnerable children like Mamanfati and Rachida.


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