More Than Me started in 2009 helping girls get off the street and into school by providing scholarships, free meals and supplies, and an after school program. We realized the girls were learning more after school than during class and decided to start our own school. The President of Liberia heard about our work and gave us a building. In December 2012, MTM won a million dollars through the CHASE American Giving Awards, a Facebook voting contest where the winners were announced on national TV.
We converted the building into the first tuition-free girls school, the More Than Me Academy, and opened the doors in September 2013. After successfully running the school for a year, Ebola hit and our students were in the middle of the crisis. We knew we had to help, and decided to give everything we had to fight for them. After six months on the front lines, running ambulance services and home healthcare teams, and taking in Ebola orphans, MTM was recognized as a TIME Person of the Year.
The More Than Me Academy is a free, MoE accredited private school providing an education to 165 of the most vulnerable girls in West Point and Central Monrovia aged 5-17 in grades K-6. In addition to a free education, each student is provided with a uniform, backpack and two meals a day, and a suite of auxiliary services. MTM has a social work department which makes regular visits to students' homes and provides daily support in school, a clinic and nurse that provide medical care and monitoring for girls and staff, sexual and reproductive health training, parent trainings to improve student/teacher relationships, an active PTA, and a commitment to support girls when they graduate from MTM through the 12th grade. This past year, MTMA had 18 girls graduate from primary school who received high test results and entered into the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades.
More than Me follows the standards of the Liberian curriculum to ensure that anything we do can be scaled in the future. In addition to achieving the Liberian educational standards, teachers supplement curriculum to enable students to reach their highest potential. Furthermore, we put a special emphasis on critical thinking, empowerment, positive decision-making and strong values.
MTM is completely FREE
Isn't school always free? No
After Ebola, we reopened our school in March 2015, but we knew we had to do more. Our girls will never be safe, they will never be able to truly thrive, until Liberia does.
The first step to rebuilding Liberia is education for all. A generation of students lost out on an education during the civil war, and schools were closed for most of the last academic year due to Ebola. We must act now to stop another generation losing out on an education.
Our vision of Liberia’s future classrooms is one where all students are welcome, receive the support and resources they need to succeed, and have access to excellent teaching. To reach this goal, MTM and the Ministry of Education will work for change across the education system in revolutionary ways.
*See Why Liberia section to learn more about the issue.
For all of Liberia’s struggles, its future potential is high. A broken system is also one that is ripe for reform. In a country of just over four million people, half under eighteen, an effective model could be scaled rapidly and change the lives of an entire generation in a decade.
Imagine a world where leaders look to Liberia as a model of educational success. Rarely is there an opportunity to fully reinvent a system from the ground up, but investing in education in Liberia now offers the opportunity to make radical, creative innovations that will impact millions of lives.
Because of its promising evidence of impact and results focused mindset, MTM has been asked to work jointly with the Ministry of Education to coordinate a multi-organizational team to join in rebuilding public primary schools in Liberia, expanding its best practices as a key component of the reform effort.
Project REAL is a collaborative effort to support the Ministry of Education (MoE) in improving outcomes for all children. MoE has asked More Than Me (MTM) to create two model schools in every county, a total of 30 schools.
Each of these scheools will focus on the following pillars:
With the holistic needs of these communities in mind, We will be seeking partners who have expertise in these pillar areas who will take part in forming model schools. This project will also identify needed reforms in administrative systems and policy concerns that will sustain improved conditions in schools, education quality and relevance, and institutional efficiency.
We will also continue to test and identify new interventions at the MTM Academy in Monrovia that improve learning outcomes across the country. We are committed to partnering to hold each other accountable to achieving real results for children and maintaining transparency for the community.
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Want to help?
We need everyone to join in rebuilding Liberia’s education system. If we can get 4 million people to stand with 4 million Liberians by giving $4/month, we will reach our fundraising goal.
Liberia, West Africa has a population of about 4 million people. The official language is English - the name Liberia derives from "Liberty" meaning freedom. Liberia's current president (and Nobel Laureate) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first female head of state in Africa! A 14-year brutal civil war left the country in shambles, including destroying over 80% of its schools. The recent Ebola epidemic further weakened Liberia's infrastructure.
Liberia's education system is in a state of emergency.
According to GirlUp, more than 40% of Liberian girls ages 10-14 have never gone to school. Unfortunately, young girls fall victim to the most frequently reported crime in Liberia, rape. But investing in girls has huge rewards:
When a girl in the developing world receives 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
An extra year of primary school boosts girls' eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent.
When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.
More Than Me has a zero tolerance policy for abuse. When our founder, Katie Meyler, met girls who were forced to give oral sex for clean drinking water, she know she had to do something. More Than Me was founded because we believe that no young girl should have to sell themselves to meet their basic needs.
Unfortunately, these girls' stories are not unique in Liberia, as rape and child rape continue to be huge problems. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has denounced the country's epidemic of child rape, calling it one of Liberia's "biggest challenges" and "a growing concern". According to Liberia's Ministry of Gender, two-thirds of all rape victims in 2013 were between the ages of three and 14, yet less than one percent of perpetrators were convicted.
In June 2014, one of our students confided to the school nurse that our community liaison male staff member had sexually assaulted her. Upon hearing that news, the nurse informed the school administration staff who 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. 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.
This incident increased our vigilance over personal safety. We want our stance to be heard loud and clear that we have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for abuse. We’ve since taken the following actions to ensure the safety of our students:
The safety of the children we serve is our number one priority. More Than Me has a zero tolerance policy for sexual violence.
We are extremely proud of our students for speaking out when rape and transactional sex are all too commonly accepted, and victims are expected to stay silent. Our students proved that they can stand up and advocate for themselves, and that’s HUGE. Creating a culture of trust and safe space for children to share what is happening with them is a vital first step to systemic change, and a step we hope more schools and communities will strive for.
We refuse to stay silent. As we work to rebuild Liberia’s education system alongside the Ministry of Education, we are committed to making child protection one of the key pillars of these reforms.
MTM is committed to transparency and acting as a resource for other organizations and communities. We're compiling a list of our own resources and outside resources that have helped shape our actions along the way. If you’d like to talk to someone from our team about an issue at your school or in your community, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info coming soon.