Until 2017, Reyhana Endigay, age 10, had never attended school and could not write her name.
She lives in the Philippines’ southern Mindanao region, where violent extremism and poverty prevent many children from obtaining an education. But thanks to a $360,000 U.S. government grant, students like Reyhana are now going to school.
The grant supports “alternative learning sites” where children can safely acquire math and reading skills. The entire community is involved: Villages lend buildings; local authorities provide tables and chairs; parents prepare meals and snacks for the children; and the Philippine Department of Education monitors students’ attendance and progress.
When Reyhana’s parents heard about the project, their daughter was soon going to school every day. “Reyhana insists on going to her classes. She tugs at my clothes every morning to urge me to accompany her to school,” says her mother.
Today Reyhana can read and write. She is more confident and has new friends. “Without this program, we would have given up on providing the education she needed,” her mother says.
The alternative learning sites are part of a larger program called the Innovation for Rural Advancement project, carried out by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
A longer version of this story originally appeared on USAID’s website.