|© UNICEF Mali/2011|
|Assan attends class at a community centre in Bamako, Mali. Staying in school is a challenge for many children, especially girls.|
Youth journalist Minata Sissoko, 16, is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Children and Young Communicators (APJEC) of Mali.
By Minata Sissoko
BAMAKO, Mali, 4 January 2012 – “My dream is to become a doctor, to treat children in difficult circumstances,” said Assan Coulibaly, 10. Her father passed away, and she now lives with her mother, who gets by with the income from a small business. Assan has three sisters and a brother. Helping at home has meant missing the opportunity to be enrolled in school.
But Stromme Foundation West Africa has implemented a strategy to reduce the number of children like Assan who have had to forgo school in order to work.
Staying in school is a challenge for many children, especially girls. Without this programme – conducted in partnership by Stromme Foundation, the Support and Counseling Network (Réseau d’Appui et de Conseil) and UNICEF – Assan could have easily ended up on the street, where she could have been exposed to hazardous work, prostitution and trafficking.
An intensive education
Stromme Foundation’s model extends school access through accelerated enrollment – nine months of intensive training for children aged 8 to 12 years – in order to reintegrate them into the formal education system in third and fourth years of primary school.
Assan has benefitted from this training, which is hosted in a community centre in Bakarybougou, an industrial neighborhood of Bamako, the capital.
At the centre, teachers like Aminata Diarra Coulibaly conduct classes for children who have not had the chance to go to school. “Assan lives in very difficult conditions. Sometimes she tells me she did not eat,” said Ms. Coulibaly. “She’s really a very intelligent girl who loves school.”
Assan said she was discouraged by the thought of staying in the street and not going to school. “Before my arrival at this centre, I was in the street. I saw my classmates from school and I was sad,” she said.
But with intensive training, her progress has been tremendous.
“Assan was distinguished by her courage and foresight. For a girl who had never been to school, in four months she can already read, write and calculate. It is impressive,” said centre corordinator Armand Douyow.
Assan herself is aware of the progress she has made over the past four months. “I am very happy to be in school. Here, we are taught to read, write and calculate. It has allowed me to change my way of seeing things and develop my intelligence,” she said.
Hope for a brighter future
The partnership has made possible the implementation of a related initiative called ‘Project to support the education of working children or children at risk’ in the District of Bamako and in the Kayes Region of northwest Mali. This initiative focuses on the education of one thousand vulnerable children, with the aim of integrating at least 75 per cent into the formal system after two school years.
For children like Assan, these programmes offer hope for a brighter future.