By Imani LaTortue, ONE Digital Intern
Many people are aware that higher education grants people the chance to further pursue their future career goals. But unfortunately, everyone in the world can’t take advantage of these opportunities. Room to Read aims to change that with their early warning system to reduce the number of students — particularly girls — who have to drop out of school.
In 2014, the Room to Read team tracked dropout risk factors among 3,015 girls in Nepal. The key goal of their monitoring system was to identify the factors that contribute to students dropping out of school. The risk factors include missing school, failing an exam, missing life skills sessions, and parents failing to attend a Room to Read parent meeting. It has been noted that girls who exhibit these factors over the course of a year were more than five times as likely to drop out of school as girls who did not. With this information, program staff and Room to Read’s social mobilizers — local women who act as mentors to young female students — are now able to immediately intervene with specialized support.
Since its success in Nepal, the organization decided to launch the system in Tanzania and Zambia in 2015. In the past, these countries have experienced some of the highest dropout rates of any of the countries where Room to Read implements its program. In 2016 after the risk and response system was introduced, the dropout rate among program participants in both countries fell by more than two-thirds compared to the previous year.
Tanzania was also noted for having a successful first year with the program. Just ask Warda, a 16-year-old student at Lugoba Secondary School.
Warda was in 11th grade when she started missing school days. “I am one of six children in my family, and only two of us have attended secondary school,” she says. “The other was my brother, and he dropped out before graduation. My parents are small-scale farmers, and they cannot always provide for our basic needs. Sometimes we manage to have one meal a day, and sometimes none.”
Going to school takes time that girls like Warda could otherwise use to help their families. So remaining enrolled seemed like a luxury she couldn’t afford. But Rachel, a Room to Read social mobilizer, noticed Warda’s absences and responded according to her training. Rachel met with Warda and they discussed the long-term benefits that education could hold for her and her family. After attending Room to Read’s life skills education sessions, Warda’s attitude shifted and she re-enrolled.
“Room to Read has made me realize the importance of school and who I am today,” she says. “Thank you for everything that you are doing to support me and take me to a right path.”
Earlier this month, Room to Read celebrated reaching 50,000 girls through life skills and mentorship in secondary school. You can read more about this milestone here.