Today's education system in much of the developing world leaves children out or, too frequently, abuses those that are in. It also fails to address the root problems that impact learning, literacy rates, and eventually, workforce development and thriving communities. In Liberia, where More Than Me is piloting our solution, 65% primary school aged children are not in school. Girls drop out at alarming rates and a sex for grades epidemic makes the education system a treacherous, abusive place. Schools focused on improving literacy - a highly valued, necessary aspiration - have neglected their role in promoting the full development of the personality and respect for human rights, both first defined by the UN in the aftermath of World War II as necessary to grow strong, healthy minds and create thriving communities. We believe that this failure has contributed to the massive growth in populations impacted by humanitarian crises and creates a vicious circle post conflict. The number of people affected by humanitarian crises has nearly doubled in the last decade with 250 million children living in countries affected by conflict, 30 million children displaced from their homes, and 500 million at risk of flooding. To rebuild the lives of these children and protect them from future disaster, the education system must expand its role.
The MTM Public School Network aims to catalyze change for over 2 million Liberians under age 15 - girls and boys. The MTM Public School Network is committed to protecting the Five Fundamental Rights of Children: safety of person, access to informed healthcare, adequate food, quality education, and monitoring of adult capacity to sustainably protect these rights. In 2016, MTM launched the initiative in six schools, and are planning interventions in 500 schools targeted by Ministry of Education funding through Partnership Schools for Liberia. MTM will staff each school with a full time professional team that includes: a social worker, community engagement officer, nurse, cook, monitor, K 3 school capacity lead and grade 4 6 school capacity lead. Through this government endorsed apprenticeship and mentoring program, we are building each school's capacity to offer children safe spaces to learn, access to informed healthcare and counseling (nurses, social workers, and a curriculum addressing preventative care and reproductive health), healthy meals, a robust academic curriculum (strengthened through teacher training and workforce development technology), and sustained monitoring and evaluation of the capacity of adults in the community to sustain the model. Prior to engaging with a school, this mentor team participates in their own training program, using Unleesh workforce development technology. They then train teachers and staff to implement a quality academic curriculum, address students' psycho emotional needs, and challenge opportunities for abuse, while collecting data and experiences for best practices. Nigeria, Pakistan and Ethiopia have expressed interest in scaling MTM's Public Schools Network to their school systems.
Evidence of Effectiveness
With successes achieved at More Than Me Academy and scaling quickly, we are receiving guidance regarding scale, curriculum, and government relations from Fundacion Escuela Nueva (FEN), an established Colombian equivalent of More Than Me, which scaled to more than 20,000 schools in Colombia and 16 additional developing countries. External studies have been conducted to measure the impact of FEN schools on both cognitive performance and civic and democratic behavior. All found that FEN students outperformed other students in Spanish and math. They reported higher levels of self esteem and involvement in the community. The studies also measured the impact of the schools on parent and community behavior, and 72% of parents surveyed claim school activities have helped them organize and solve community problems. Our theory of change is supported by successful programs addressing societal challenges in U.S. cities, including Communities in Schools (CIS) and Schools of the 21st Century, conceptualized at Yale's Bush Center for Child Development and Social Policy to transform the traditional school into a year round, multi service center. A 2016 evaluation of CIS found that of the 1.5 million students connected to resources by CIS, 99% stayed in school and 93% of seniors graduated.  Emily Gustafsson Wright and Eileen McGivney, Fundacion Escuela Nueva: Changing the Way Children Learn from Columbia to Southeast Asia, Brookings Institution, April 23, 2014. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education plus development/2014/04/23/fundacion escuela nueva changing the way children learn from colombia to southeast asia/  Clemente Forero, Escuela Nueva's Impact on the Peaceful Social Interaction of Children in Colombia, 2006. http://escuelanueva.org/portal1/en/who we are/escuela nueva activa model/escuela nueva s evaluations.html  Communities in Schools National Impact Report, 2016. https://www.communitiesinschools.org/about/publications/publication/spring 2016 impact report
When our team witnessed young girls selling their bodies for access to clean drinking water, we started a scholarship fund to keep them in school. When Liberia's schools failed them, we opened our own. When we learned that a staff member was abusing our students, in a country rife with culturally acceptable rape and exploitation, we went after him and demonstrated to our families and others the tremendous value we place on the lives of our girls. When the Ebola epidemic closed the country's schools and left orphans in its wake, we transformed our school into a disaster relief hub and Ebola central command center, bringing the community together in shared purpose, learning and leadership. Within months, we had pushed back Ebola, as recognized by TIME when they selected two of our leaders for TIME Person of the Year. More Than Me Academy (MTMA) is a top performing tuition free K 6 girls school providing high quality education and services like healthcare, family planning, psycho social support, and nutrition for the most vulnerable girls in Monrovia. With proven increases in academic performance, attendance, a sense of safety, and self esteem, the Minister of Education has identified MTMA as an incubator for innovation and a research and development center to test initiatives that, if proven successful, will be implemented in more than 500 schools across Liberia. The MTM Public School Network is designed to replicate success at the Academy for children across the country.
More Than Me is building a public charter school network for the developing world that scales. With a pilot in Liberia, we are growing the capacity of schools and parents to fulfill the promise of Five Fundamental Rights of Children: Safety: children should feel safe from violence; they should experience love and respect, and be nurtured as individuals Health: children should have access to adequate healthcare Nutrition: children should have access to adequate food that enhances their ability to thrive in school Education: schools should have access to professionals with the knowledge and skills to teach, as well as a curriculum that prepares the next generation workforce for success Monitoring: adults in every community should be held accountable for protecting the rights of children in their midst
TIME Person of the Year Katie Meyler founded More Than Me and remains a guiding light and visionary leader for the organization. Our President, Saul Garlick, a successful social entrepreneur, drives the strategy, operations and government relations. Our Chief Marketing Officer Katie Borghese brings years of experience as a creative director, entrepreneur and philanthropist. We are currently in the process of on boarding a Chief Academic Officer, a former Peace Corps volunteer with leadership experience and data analysis in charter schools, who will take the lead on curriculum and teacher training. Our new Chief Medical Officer, an Ethiopian born, American educated practicing surgeon, will be responsible for the vision and implementation of the safety and health components as we grow. The majority of our more than 65 person team is based in Liberia and of the local community. They report directly to the leadership team. Leading on the ground operations are our Finance and Operations Director, Measurement and Evaluation Director, More Than Me Academy Principal, and Program Manager (a nurse and TIME Person of the Year for her work during the Ebola epidemic). We have engaged TrueSchool Studio, an education innovation firm and Fundacion Escuela Nueva to support scaling activities as consultants.