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A new chance to go to school for disadvantaged children

© UNICEF/MLIA2011/Sangaré
Assan's intelligence stands out; she has learned to read and write in just four months and enjoys learning.

By Minata Sissoko, 16, Child journalist, member of the Association for the Advancement of Children and Young Communicators (APJEC) of Mali.

"My dream is to become a doctor, to treat children in difficult circumstances, "said Assan Coulibaly, 10.

She was orphaned by her father’s death, and now lives with her mother, a housewife who gets by through small business to meet their needs. Assan has three sisters and a brother. Helping at home means she is missing the opportunity to be enrolled in school. Without a program conducted in partnership by Foundation Stromm, the Support and Counseling Network (RAC), in partnership with UNICEF, Assan could have easily ended up in the street. She would have been exposed to hazardous work, prostitution and trafficking.

Staying in school is a challenge for many children, mostly girls. Stromme Foundation West Africa has implemented a strategy to reduce the number of children like Assan who are without access to school and are forced to work to support their families.

It is an effective model to increase the enrollment in the countries of intervention. Accelerated enrollment is a strategy consisting of nine-months of intensive training, for children age 8 to 12 years, in order to reintegrate them into the formal education system in third and fourth year primary school. Assan is one of the children who has benefited from this training, hosted in the community centre of Bakarybougou, an industrial neighborhood in Bamako, the capital.

© UNICEF/MLIA2011/Sangaré
Non-formal education programmes help students like Assan to integrate into the primary school system.

"From the start in December to today, 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 Armand Douyow, coordinator of the centre. Assan said she was disparaged at the thought of staying in the street and not going to school. "Before my arrival at this center, I was in the street, I saw my classmates from school and I was sad because I had not the means."

In this center, there are teachers like Ms. Aminata Diarra Coulibaly, who conducts 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. She’s really a very intelligent girl who loves school. When given an explanation of a lesson, she can make the report [on the topic] even a month after," says Coulibaly.

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."

The partnership has made possible the implementation of an initiative called "Project to support the education of vulnerable or excluded children” in the District of Bamako and in Kayes Region, in the northwest of Mali. This initiative focuses on the education of a thousand vulnerable children with the aim for at least 75 percent to integrate into the formal system after two school years. Project results to date include: the opening of 19 centers hosting 445 vulnerable or excluded children. More than half are girls and over 80 percent of children enrolled in centers can read, write and calculate.

 

 
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