Frequently Asked Questions
Check out our Why Liberia section for more information.
Check out our Why Girls section for more information.
Who is the typical MTM student?
The typical MTM student is passionate and energetic, and loves going to school. Most MTM students come from West Point, one of the most notorious slums in Liberia, while others live in Central Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city. All of our students qualified to attend the MTM Academy based on need. The typical student shares a household with an average of 12 other people. Many students have to work on evenings or weekend to support their families. Some students are orphans, many have lost parents or relatives to Ebola, and some have fought the virus themselves.
Most of all, our typical student is excited to learn and hopeful for her future.
What is a typical day at the MTM Academy like?
Each school day is a day for the girls and by the girls. Leadership and student involvement are core elements of the MTM Academy (MTMA).
A typical day at the MTMA begins early, and girls arrive ready to conquer the day. Most girls are up at 5:30am to do some morning chores and then head off to school. The girls get to school around 7-7:30am, grab some breakfast to nourish the mind, and play outside while the teachers meet. Beginning at 7:45am, the bell rings and the students raise the flag, sing the national anthem, say the pledge of allegiance, and sing the school song.
Next comes class! In the morning, students head to their core subjects: math, english and science. In the afternoon they take French, art (embroidery, tie-dye, or other craft). Library, social work and health class are offered to all grades and computer class is offered to 4th to 6th grade. MTMA uses a holistic model to offer their students every opportunity they need to be successful.
When the school day ends, every student is offered the opportunity to stay after for tutoring for an hour.
FUN FACT: Everyday a “word of the day” is posted and the students are expected to practice and use the word in a sentence, encouraging them to understand and confidently learn the word. Motivational quotes are constantly provided, reminding the students of their value and potential.
MTM Academy is MORE than a school– every Friday we hold a “showcase” where learning comes to life through student-led debate, spelling bees, drama, journalism, poetry, and a cultural dance program. Recently, the girls formed a track team and cheerleading squad and competes with other schools!
What services does each student at the MTM Academy receive?
- Free tuition, including full uniform, socks, shoes, book bag and school materials
- Tutoring (even for alumnae)
- Two home cooked meals a day
- Health Insurance and healthcare at MTMA Clinic; including family planning and health classes (also for alumnae)
- Suite of Social Work services including:
- Providing individualized support for students at school
- Home visits
- Health & Well-Being class twice per week
- Parent training and education
- Guaranteed tuition paid through 12th grade
What extracurricular activities are offered to MTM students?
After-school tutoring, track club, cheerleading, kickball, African dance, choir, quizzing team, spelling bee team, and news team.
What’s MTM’s curriculum?
We follow the Liberian curriculum, but supplement it to ensure students are receiving a high quality education. Supplemental materials include USAID’s Early Grade Reading and Early Grade Math programs designed for Liberia for grades 1-3, and Khan Academy and Common Core for grades 4-6.
Do you work with the GoL?
We follow the Liberian curriculum, but supplement it to ensure students are receiving a high quality education.
How does MTM identify girls to be part of the program? What is the recruitment process?
Girls admitted to MTM are identified through referrals. We have partnerships with local NGOs like the West Point Women for Health and Development, International Rescue Committee, the Sex Crimes Unit under the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Gender, contact tracers who worked for the Ministry of Health during Ebola and staff members living in West Point and central Monrovia. People from the mentioned partnerships refer students to be part of the organization using our referral form; MTM requires that referrals be for girls the referee knows are out of school, at risk of abuse or mistreatment, living below poverty level, or is otherwise considered disadvantaged by the referee. Because of the Ebola outbreak, there was an emphasis on recruitment of Ebola orphans who are no longer able to go to school.
MTM social work staff then review the referrals and conduct a rigorous follow-up with each prospective student and their family to determine if they qualify to attend MTM based on their needs. Each student is assessed according to certain risk factors (child, family, and community risks), and then a social worker conducts an interview with each child to understand their family dynamics, current living situation, previous grade level, problems the student raises about home, and a number of questions about schools and why they want to come to MTM or go to school in general. The Social Work department conducts an assessment survey, which asks about their daily life (how many times a day they eat, are you allowed to study, do you work, do you bathe, who are you living with, etc.), and the social worker assess their housing situation (what kind of house, electricity, furniture etc.). These measures are meant to assess if a student has a genuine need.
Based on answers, each child’s need for schooling at MTM is rated. If there are more applicants than seats available, students with the highest need ratings will be entered into a lottery for seats and a waitlist will be created for those not selected.
How does the MTM Academy compare to other Liberian schools?
We’re outperforming other schools! Learn more about our impact here.
Who is your staff and where to they come from?
The majority of our staff members are from Liberia, and many of them come for West Point, the home of the majority of our students. Meet our team here!
What is the role of parental or guardian consent and/or engagement relative to MTM?
While MTM has always captured basic information from parents or caregivers on each child, this was recently formalized so that each parent or guardian signs a Media Release Form and a Student Registration Form, giving consent for attendance and committing to engagement. Parents and guardians are sent regular communication from the school via a letter alerting them to PTA meetings or any other important happenings.
PTA meetings are held the second Sunday of each month. During each meeting we review what is happening at the school and also the time where we distribute grade sheets to each parent so they know how their child is doing. In addition, The PTA chair, who lives in West Point, and one of our teachers also living in West Point, regularly follow up and visit each student’s home to ensure parents have received the news we have communicated via letter. Parents are welcome to request meetings with teachers or social work staff if they have concerns about their child’s performance or school activities. One-on-one meetings with teachers are also offered on a quarterly basis when grades are distributed.
MTM also seeks to strengthen parent engagement at home. In 2015, we completed a parent training program where each parent was invited and highly encouraged to attend a workshop designed to help parents understand their students, practice healthy parenting behaviors, and learn more about their students’ emotional needs. Members of the International Rescue Committee designed the program and trained our staff on how to conduct the program. Over 85% of parents attended this training.
What is the selection criteria and process for staff who directly interact with students and potential students?
More Than Me (MTM) puts student safety at the center of its policies, procedures and practices. When filling positions that will have direct access to our students, women are highly encouraged to apply to support our commitment to child protection and provide positive adult role models for our students. MTM always seeks to first identify qualified Liberian staff to take on positions, and when considering those with direct access to the girls, women are encouraged to apply to support our commitment to child protection and provide positive adult role models for our students.
All jobs are publicly posted, and MTM invites all qualified candidates to apply. Applicants are screened by the appropriate management team members for initial fit and then complete an additional one to two in-person interviews and, in some cases, a written assignment. Potential staff are always evaluated by multiple team members. Final candidates must provide references MTM can contact as well as any previous employers.
In 2015, MTM will perform additional criminal background checks on staff working with children or finances. This has been challenging due to the complexity of completing such checks in Liberia – there is a lack of digital records and an extremely low rate of convictions for such crimes – but we have since sourced an international partner to assist. Reference checks and strict guidelines for appropriate behavior continue to be well-established protective measures.
What is the complaint process for staff and program beneficiaries? What is the process to investigate and/or respond to complaints?
More Than Me has a whistle blower policy whereby students and staff alike are REQUIRED to report (anonymously) any incident observed or reported that breaks our code of conduct within 24 hours of receiving the report or making the observation. This policy also protects the reporter from retribution and allows for anonymous reporting. Staff are also welcome to file formal complaints at any time with their managers. Students have the additional option of making complaints in person through the social work department, which guarantees confidentiality. The social work department is equipped to intervene with groups outside MTM if a student’s safety is compromised.
MTM’s child protection policy designates a chain of command to ensure senior staff and organizational leadership are notified rapidly if a student’s safety has been compromised. Complaints are automatically directed to the Country Director, who communicates with the CEO and if they are of a serious nature, the MTM board is then notified. The Country Director interviews the involved parties to determine what took place in the incident, evaluates if the code of conduct was breached, and takes appropriate action to discipline students or staff or mediate the disagreement.
Complaints about the Country Director are routed through the CEO; likewise the CEO through the Country Director or Board.
What policies and processes does MTM have in place to ensure the safety of its students?
MTM has a formal Child Protection Policy, School Visitor Policy (no personal visitors allowed on campus), Code of Conduct (signed and acknowledged by all staff) and Whistle Blower Policy.
Key processes are built into the school day to ensure student safety is at the forefront of operations.
- Each morning, attendance is taken and students’ whereabouts are known at all times on campus. Absences are promptly reported to the Program Manager.
- Repeat absences (more than 3 days) trigger a visit by a social worker to the family.
- Bags are checked when students or staff enter campus.
- Students may individually request meetings with a social worker; regular check-ins are also scheduled, and the social worker has time set aside in each class to teach on topics such as sexual abuse, emotions, behavior, etc. to promote awareness and prevention.
- Older students are paired with the younger students to walk home after school.
- No males are left alone with students, ever. Staff must have at least a two-to-one ratio when with students.
Please describe the mechanisms that management uses to monitor staff interaction with program beneficiaries.
The Country Director, Principal and Head Teacher actively and regularly monitor classrooms and teachers. The Principal rotates around classrooms throughout each day at random to provide added oversight. We also have female security guards who monitor all restrooms and regularly walk through the hallways and across our campus. There are also security guards on station throughout campus and recently more fencing with barbed wire was installed to further protect from external threats. All staff are required to understand and sign a Code of Conduct that outlines appropriate and inappropriate physical and non-physical, behavior and interactions with students and other staff.
In addition, under no circumstances are girls allowed alone in a vehicle or room with any male staff member. A female staff member is always required to be present. Under no circumstances are girls left alone on campus with only male staff members. There are ALWAYS female staff members present for any activities that occur after school hours.
Unless there is a medical or social work issue that requires privacy on the student’s request, students are never left alone one-on-one with staff. Doors on all classrooms and meeting rooms are kept open and unlocked.
Have there been any incidents involving students and staff?
In June 2014, one of the girls confided to the school nurse that our community liaison male staff member had sexually assaulted her. Upon hearing that news, the school administration contacted Liberian police and the suspect was arrested two days later. His trial began in September 2015, with a case being brought by the Government of Liberia. The trial ended when the defendant passed away in March 2016.
Our response gave other girls who claimed abuse the trust to come forward. In cooperation with their parents and the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Protection, we pay for housing, a full-time social worker and schooling for the girls in a safe house with its location only known to select personnel. We remain committed to each girl and to providing them with a stable and safe place to grow up.
Of course, this incident increased our vigilance over personal safety. In the time since that incident, we reevaluated our ratio of male and female staff and have made every effort possible to hire qualified female teachers as they interact with our students the most. We continue to monitor all of our staff, regardless of gender, to ensure there is no abuse of any kind.
Under no circumstance are girls left alone on campus or in vehicles with males. We also have a schedule that is followed and we know where every single child is at any time during the day. The schedule allows no time for students to be alone with anyone in the building except with the nurse or social worker.
Key actions taken since the sexual abuse case was reported include:
- Revision of the child protection policy
- Revision of the code of conduct which all staff signed
- Instituted reference checks, and background checks where possible
- Policies on males on campus/student-staff ratios and locations
- Created and implemented whistleblower protection policy
- Created system for anonymous complaints and also formally documented complaints
- Implemented sexual and reproductive health classes that include age appropriate awareness education on assault and abuse so students can recognize inappropriate behavior
How has MTM Academy engaged the Liberian Ministry of Education (MoE) in development and/or accrediting its curriculum?
We work closely with the MoE and they are aware of the curriculum we are currently using (a mixture of Liberian and US curriculum, but following Liberian standards). The MoE has accredited our institution and our Country Director and Principal have regular meetings with officials at the MoE. They are very supportive of our policies and practices and look to us as a model for other schools.
They have recently asked MTM to participate in a pilot to reform additional schools in Liberia. We are in the early stages of exploring this next level of partnership. Learn more here.
What is MTM's plan in the event of a similar Ebola outbreak?
Given the ever-present threat of Ebola in Liberia, MTM has a policy of ongoing vigilance. Our goal is an environment that is safe and where we are able to manage potential risks. During the outbreak, we followed Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education recommendations on when to open the school and how to operate safely and we would continue to follow their guidance if the epidemic, or a similar threat, occurred. During the early days of Ebola, UNICEF came to the school and trained children and staff on safety and precaution before we were officially asked to close. Partnerships forged during Ebola continue, and will serve us well should another outbreak occur.
Staff and students continue to check temperatures daily and wash hands when entering campus, which also reduces risk of other transmissible diseases.
When a child or staff member is ill, if they are treated on campus, we document all symptoms and treatment and take appropriate measures to protect others from infection of any kind. There is space on campus for sick students to rest safely during the day that also prevents transmission of communicable diseases. Staff are encouraged to take sick days when needed and our policy is to release staff early if they arrive or become ill during their shift.
We are also developing a crisis response policy that will address contingency plans for the protection of students and staff under different circumstances, including a potential outbreak.
We believe awareness and education kept our students and staff safe during Ebola and would focus on these areas again if there were another outbreak. Students, their families, and staff received initial Ministry of Health-approved trainings on Ebola in the early phases of the outbreak. MTM staff also received more in-depth training during the epidemic from teams at World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders. Additionally, MTM nurses completed a “training of the trainers” program on how to prevent and identify Ebola.
Where does my donation go?
Your donation makes the MTM Academy possible – from the uniforms and supplies, to the Liberian teacher staff, to the team that keeps the lights on – you are the reason we are here. Your donation, depending on the amount, could provide a MTM student with two hearty meals, uniform, shoes, and a backpack, medical care, after-school enrichment programs, and the list goes on! For more information on donating, click here.
Are you a 501c3?
Yes, More Than Me is an official 501c3. Our EIN #26-2599199
Is my donation tax deductible?
Yes. We are a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization and your donation is tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law. To claim a donation as a deduction on your U.S. taxes, please keep your email donation receipt as your official record. We’ll send it to you upon successful completion of your donation.
Where does your funding come from?
We are funded by a mixture of foundations, corporations and individuals.