Room to Read | 2021 Annual Report


Education means so many things to each of us. For my mother, education was the freedom to avoid an early marriage, train as a nurse and launch a medical career. For my son and daughter, education is a chance to become informed and shape their futures. For Dewmini, a Girls’ Education Program participant in Sri Lanka, education has provided the knowledge and tools to grow an award-winning garden and supply food for her family during one of the most difficult crises in her nation’s history.

For Dewmini and many other young people, education also equals endurance — the ability to persevere through the numerous obstacles that a world in crisis presents. As young women face increasing pressure to drop out of school and marry early due to the financial repercussions of the global pandemic, I’m proud to share that 95 percent of girls enrolled in our Girls’ Education Program returned to the classroom once schools started to reopen in 2021. This is due to our network of social mobilizers, who provided more than 550,000 remote mentoring sessions to girls throughout the year. There are so many extraordinary stories behind these data, and you’ll find a few in the pages that follow. Another achievement in 2021 was the distribution of 4 million books — an all-time annual high for Room to Read. While we took advantage of every type of local infrastructure available to us (camels, boats, bikes, trucks, phones and computers) to get high-quality materials to children wherever they were, we simultaneously made our programs stronger by facilitating and fine-tuning home learning. We also continued our focus on scale, which resulted in government partners replicating our models and the integration of our program elements into education systems around the world. Broadening the reach and depth of our programs is essential, as the magnitude of the education crisis comes into focus. The World Bank has estimated that 70 percent of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries cannot read a simple story, an increase from 57 percent pre-pandemic. The long-term implications of this kind of learning loss show global gross domestic product potentially dropping by 0.9 percent, or an annual loss of US$1.6 trillion, by 2040. Room to Read has the solution to avoid this giant step backward and deliver on children’s fundamental right to education. Because of the generosity and unwavering support of our exceptional board members, chapter volunteers, investors, partners and staff, we benefited more than 8.8 million children in 2021 and have emerged even better equipped to meet the evolving needs of children and families. Tâm, a Girls’ Education Program alumna, refers to our staff as “sowers” because we sow “the seeds of hope and dreams that foster the minds” of young people. Together, we must sow a bumper crop of “seeds” to create the equitable, peaceful and prosperous world we want for the next generation.

Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO


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