Empowering Girls in South Africa; US State Dept.

The state of science and mathematics in South African schools is universally regarded as an 'international crisis’. 
The United States Department of State announced today that a team of Montanans are the winners of the inaugural Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund and selected as one of 25 winning projects charged with increasing the U.S. government’s investment in international exchanges by supporting public service projects using the skills and knowledge of U.S. citizen alumni who traveled abroad on U.S. government-funded exchange programs.

Attorney and Montana State Representative Ellie Hill, Missoula, an alumni of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, and Dr. Cynthia and Dr. David Thomas, Great Falls, Fulbright scholars and retired mathematics professors, have traveled abroad on U.S. government-funded exchange programs and joined forces in their commitment to opening doors for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), providing hands-on, community-based lessons, expanding educational opportunities and building skills and confidence in their future leadership.  Joining the delegation will be award winning Montana graduate and chemist, Dr. Tyler Smith.

Access to basic quality education for most sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) children remains a challenge, with the majority of children not attending school being girls. Educating girls in SSA is critical to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), especially those associated with improved maternal health, universal primary education, and reducing acute poverty in the region.                                                                

Mathematical Modeling for Girls (MMG) will strengthen math education in South Africa through an extracurricular mathematical modeling program for secondary school girls (ages 14-17).  Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) is a proven method for teaching science and to inspire girls to enjoy science. Learning through exploring, discovery and investigation is emphasized.  

The Montana alumni team will partner with college students and faculty members at the University of Pretoria in South Africa to develop and implement a pilot program in a nearby township that will connect the girls with college aged mentors and local professionals while teaching them math skills. 

Mentoring programs have been positively evaluated as improving women’s participation in STEM. 

"We know we have to improve on-the-ground engagement with girls in order to see progress. Girls need to meet women leaders, and be exposed to authentic understanding of STEM careers, and access to female role models," Hill said.  

"Partnering these teenage girls with college-aged mentors, makes the possibility of next steps in education and leadership development accessible.  Through this grant, we are able to pilot larger-scale, long-term partnerships to replicate.  My passion is gender equity in STEM and leadership development not just in Montana, but worldwide."

Math and science lessons will include topics on gender equality, maternal health, global warming, empowerment activities, AIDS interventions, and sustainable agriculture. 

Education is the single greatest obstacle to socio-economic advancement in South Africa' – only 3.1% of black people over the age of 20 have a university degree. One in three young people in South Africa is unemployed. In the poorest schools, less than 1 in 100 students will have received STEM education. Solid STEM skills are imperative to bring about the ability for community's to problem-solve. 

The Montana team is raising money from a Go Fund Me campaign to assist in purchasing educational supplies for the program and provide the girls and their mentors with a graduation award ceremony.  

View State Department announcement and other funded projects. Click here. 

The project website is now LIVE! Click here. 

Dr. Thomas provides updates and educational milestones.. Click here. 

Representative Hill brings politics, photos and humor through Facebook. Click here.

Thank you! Dankie! Ngiyabonga!



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Fundraising team: Citizen Diplomacy Action Team, Montana Alumni (2)

Ellie Hill Smith 
Raised $330 from 9 donations
Missoula, MT
Dave Thomas 
Team member
Raised $175 from 3 donations
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