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  • Writer's pictureLaura Leeson

2020 in 20 pictures

2020 was full of surprises, challenges, and transformations - certainly for the world, and for us at Projet Jeune Leader, too.

In photos below, we share some of our best 2020 memories.

#1 PJL Educators and staff jump for joy at our newest hub.

2020 centered around an exciting expansion for our small, but mighty team. As a winner of Grand Challenge Canada’s Stars in Global Health program, we began working in the Vakinankaratra region of Madagascar – reaching an additional 3,000 students with integrated, holistic, and youth-led sexuality education.

#2 PJL Educator Anselme leads his students in an energetic ice breaker during their PJL course.

7,527 middle school students had weekly courses with their PJL Educators for the 2019-2020 school year. From students’ perspectives, PJL courses are a part of their normal school schedule – and judging from the picture above, we think they are pretty happy about it!

#3 Maia and the team talk scale.

Are we simple enough? Cheap enough? BIG enough?*

Maia, PJL’s Executive Director, led the team through a passionate and honest discussion about our vision and Projet Jeune Leader’s future. From this, we decided to test an equity-driven version of our model and try new strategies to shift power to local champions – but more on that below. (*Our thoughtful discussion was inspired by the SSRI article featuring our long-time partner, Blue Ventures)

#4 PJL’s partner school directors are all smiles post-symposium.

Lots of laughs and great ideas – that is how we would describe our 2nd annual gathering with directors from PJL’s partner schools. During the day-long, participatory symposium, we collectively decided on small, feasible actions to create more awareness, understanding, and support for PJL in partner school communities.

#5 Reading from PJL’s curriculum, PJL Educator Santatra guides students through a visualization exercise.

In 2020 we tried something new: Scripted lesson plans. In the past, PJL Educators taught with an outline-based curriculum; however, they report that these new scripted lessons help them focus on their energy, tone, and learner-centered teaching. Not to mention, this revamped curriculum ensures that educators are always providing students with clear, non-biased, and evidence-based information.

#6 A student casts his vote (a bean!) in a makeshift voting booth, giving feedback on his PJL course that day.

It may be just a bunch of beans, but this youth-led, participatory rating system helps improve our accountability. One of our favorite data points from 2020? 85% of bean-voting students said they believed what they learned in their PJL course that day would help them in their lives.

#7 Together, boys and girls work on an activity about leadership during their PJL course.

In 2020 we enhanced our curriculum to go beyond lessons on gender bias, stereotypes, and inequality – interweaving issues of gender and power into all 27 health and leadership lessons our educators cover throughout the school year.

The results were powerful: Even though students were not able to complete the overt lessons on gender due to the shortened school year, they still reported more equitable attitudes about gender roles when we surveyed them post-COVID-related closures.

#8 PJL Educator Myriam chats with a student while they walk into class.

Even though the school year only last four months, our educators still provided an impressive 1,381 counseling cases to their students.

What did students most commonly ask PJL Educators for help with? Their studies, menstrual health, and general health concerns – highlighting how PJL Educators serve as multifaceted mentors for their young adolescent students.

#9 Parents read our constituent voice magazines.

Since 2018, we have used innovative, paper-based constituent magazines to reach parents and teachers with clear, accessible, and locally relevant information about Projet Jeune Leader. Instead of just a one-way transmission of information, these magazines also enable us to collect, synthesize, and respond to feedback from over 26,000 rural constituents. In 2020, they were as popular as ever: Despite the shortened school year, we still received nearly 2,000 comments, suggestions, and questions from magazine readers!

#10 PJL Educator Leonel leads drills with his after-school basketball club.

Over 1,400 middle school students participated in 14 different types of clubs organized by PJL Educators this last year. Zumba, chess, soccer, Spanish, theatre, and crocheting were just a few of the talents PJL Educators shared with their students during these extracurricular activities.

#11 Masked up, our technical team works through a new accountability and learning plan for the upcoming school year.

In 2020 Projet Jeune Leader was selected for WomenStrong International’s Learning Lab, a group of amazing women-led organizations promoting solutions for women and girls across the globe. In one of our many collaborations together, WomenStrong is supporting us with technical assistance on measuring and continually improving the quality of our program at-scale.

#12 PJL Educator Ranjah smiles in front of Iboaka middle school – PJL’s 20th partner school and equity-driven “innovation hub”.

Faced with limited resources, how can we bring PJL to the students who need it most? This was the question on our minds when we decided to test a new, cheaper approach for PJL: Placing a single educator at a partner school without building our beloved and effective Youth Space.

Ranjah, a dynamic 2nd year educator, took up the challenge. He moved to the rural community of Iboaka to teach PJL courses to the entire middle school, completely integrating into the school infrastructure and personnel.

This 2020 hub of innovation in Iboaka was eye-opening: We documented the same high levels of support for PJL among students, parents, teachers, and school officials (even without the upfront, tangible benefit of a Youth Space), yet we had cut the cost of our model by more than 80%.

#13 Students read PJL’s health and leadership magazines (“VINA magazines”) with PJL Educator Bakoly.

This year we produced the 4th edition of our youth-friendly, culturally-relevant, and fun (!) health and leadership magazines. The ten new issues closely follow and complement our school-based curriculum. Check out a few that have been translated into English on our website.

#14 PJL Educator Gerard and his new partner school Director lead an impromptu icebreaker during a pre-year partner meeting.

With support from AmplifyChange, in 2020 we started documenting new strategies to build support for sexuality education at the local level. One tactic we used was a pre-year orientation meeting - leveraging our close relationship with partner school directors to fully integrate their PJL Educator into local systems.

#15 Regional Technical Manager, Hanitra, eats lunch with PJL Educator Arnaud during a site visit to his school.

In 2020, we restructured our organizational hierarchy around a new position: Regional Technical Manager. These managers are ensuring PJL Educators are supported in their work in public schools in each of our three program regions. Hanitra (above) has been with PJL since 2014, when she was first hired as a PJL Educator. Since then, she has become a growing leader within the organization, now managing operations in 18 schools in the Vakinankaratra region.

#16 Students read VINA magazines and other books during recess with PJL Educator Felana

One of the most common suggestions we received from students during 2020 was to offer more extracurricular activities. We responded to this by overhauling our educators' after-school programming protocol to include more time, flexibility, and range of activities for the students to choose from. It was one of the many things we accomplished during the COVID-19 quarantine in Madagascar!

#17 Students in grade 7 work on a group activity about communication skills during their PJL course.

During the quarantine period in Madagascar, we also developed a new 27-module, scripted curriculum for grade 7 (‘5eme’) students to be taught alongside our grade 6 (‘6eme’) and grade 8 (‘4eme’) curricula across all partner schools. Whether it was from teachers, parents, or students, the most common suggestion we received was to teach PJL courses to more grades - and we wholeheartedly agreed!

#18 A father of a student looks up during a group activity at one of PJL's popular parents' workshop.

Parents could not get enough of our parents' workshops to learn about better communicating with their adolescent children - our participant waitlists were sometimes five pages long! Looking beyond 2020, we aim to scale up this important program to meet demand and further complement our holistic approach in schools.

#19 PJL Educators from urban partner schools hold up their certificates of completion after the 2019-2020 school year ends early due to COVID-19.

Although we were saddened to say goodbye too soon, we were incredibly thankful for the hard work, dedication, and passion of our 41 educators during the 2019-2020 school year.

#20 Lilie, PJL's Advocacy Manager, cannot hide her smile (even with a mask!) as she stands with the Minister of Education after signing an official partnership agreement with Madagascar's National Ministry of Education.

What a remarkable way to end 2020: In December, on Christmas Eve, Projet Jeune Leader signed an official partnership agreement with the National Ministry of Education, providing a path to deliver our program in any (and theoretically, all!) public middle schools in Madagascar.

Seven years in the making, we hope this partnership will amplify our efforts and help us achieve our vision of bringing quality, youth-led comprehensive sexuality education across Madagascar.


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