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A National Back to School Appeal in Mali Brings Children Hope

© UNICEF Mali / 2013 / Cao

“Peace is back and so is school”

TIMBUKTU, 21 October, 2013 – The Prime Minister of the Republic of Mali, Mali’s Ministry of National Education and their partners, including UNICEF, have launched a national appeal for more than 500,000 children and approximately 9,000 teachers in Mali to return to school. This appeal is the first stage of the “Back to School” campaign targeting 500,000 school children, 300 000 in the south and 200 000 in the north of the country, to resume classes within the next three months.

Children who attended school in the north of the country and those in refugee camps in Burkina Faso, the Niger and Mauritania, took special exams at the beginning of October. As the new school year was approaching, Mali’s Ministry of National Education and its partners, including UNICEF, stepped up efforts to provide access to education to half a million children affected by Mali’s political and security crisis. Children who are victims of seasonal flooding and the food crisis are also included.

“Peace is back and so is school”, is the campaign’s theme. “Providing access to education is the motto of the back to school campaign. With the return of peace, we need a new start to school is also needed,” underscored Ms. Togola Jacqueline Marie Nana, Mali’s National Education Minister.

The goal of this campaign is, on one hand, to facilitate children’s access to school and to keep them in the classroom and, on the other, to improve learning and teaching conditions with a view to providing better quality education. In fact, children and teachers will receive school supplies and training throughout the 2013-2014 academic year. Social mobilisation and advocacy campaigns are being conducted all throughout the country. 460,000 school kits for 460,000 school children, 20,000 recreation kits and at least 800 development kits to enhance early childhood development are being distributed. Temporary learning spaces will be set up in schools that were damaged to accommodate children. Approximately 15,000 school children will receive new school desks within these rehabilitation efforts.
 
“Education is a fundamental right for all children. Education which is crucial for development, ends the cycle of poverty and contributes to the sustainable development of the society”, said Françoise Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Mali.

It is estimated that close to 1,200,000 school-aged children, most of them girls, are not in school. According to the National Education Department, over the last two years, 800,000 children were forced to stop going school because of the conflict, the food and nutrition crisis and seasonal flooding.

In refugee camps in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Niger, UNICEF, the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR) and several other non-governmental partners pooled their efforts to offer formal and non-formal access to education to Mali’s children. In collaboration with education ministries of the countries listed, UNICEF also assisted in integrating child refugees into their respective host countries’ school systems to allow them to continue their studies until they could return to their home country.

“The ‘Back to School’ campaign is the first stage to returning children to the classroom. Even though it is aimed at children directly affected by the conflict, we can’t ignore the fact that more than 1.2 million children in Mali have never attended school or had to drop out, more than 52% of them girls,” said Ms. Togola Jacqueline Nana.

In 2013, UNICEF needed more than €16 million to meet the immediate educational needs of Malian children in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Niger. In June 2013, only 38% of that funding was acquired. In Mali, only 27% of the €9 million needed for emergency education has been received.

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About UNICEF

UNICEF operates in more than 190 countries and territories throughout the world to help children survive and develop from birth until the end of adolescence. As the first global provider of vaccines in developing countries, UNICEF supports children’s health and nutrition, access to drinking water and sanitation, basic quality education for all girls and boys and protects children against violence, exploitation in all its forms and AIDS. UNICEF is completely funded by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work: www.unicef.org

For more information or to request interviews, please contact:

Boubacar Diallo, Head of Communications, Ministry of National Education, +223 76 32 96 40, jdiallob@gmail.com
Hector Calderon, Head of Communications, UNICEF, +223 75 99 40 89,  hcalderon@unicef.org
Ismaël Maïga, Communications Specialist, UNICEF, + 223 76 40 91 01, imaiga@unicef.org
Birama Cisse, Communications Specialist UNICEF, + 223 79 02 52 08, bicisse@unicef.org

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