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In Mali, learning again after a lengthy absence

By Naoko Imoto

After losing both parents to conflict and leaving school when classes were suspended, a girl in northern Mali gets a chance to restart her education through a UNICEF-supported accelerated learning programme. 

© UNICEF Mali/2015/Dicko
Adaoula, 11, started her education again after more than three years out of school, though an accelerated learning programme for children in conflict-affected areas in Mali, part of UNICEF’s Every Child Counts campaign.

GAO, Mali, 14 December 2015 – Adaoula was 8 years old when a bomb hit her home in the town of Gao in northern Mali. She lost both her parents in the explosion, and for a long time after, Adaoula was unable to speak.

Her school was closed in 2012, when conflict in northern Mali between separatist groups and the Government displaced tens of thousands of people and worsened conditions for communities already vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, epidemics, drought and chronic poverty.

When schools reopened, Adaoula could not go back, because her grandmother, who had taken the young girl in, didn’t have enough money to pay the school fees. Instead, Adaoula had to help with house chores.

“Through all this time, I just wanted to go to school,” Adaoula says with a shy smile.

Exciting news

A couple months ago, the village chief came to visit her grandmother and told her there would be an accelerated learning course and that Adaoula could attend for nine months, allowing her to continue her studies. Then she would be able to return to school the following year.

She couldn’t have been more excited.

Adaoula, now 11, always sits at the back of the class. “She doesn’t talk much, but I can tell that she’s so happy to be in school,” her teacher says. “I knew her parents. I’ll make sure that she does well in the class. She will – she’s very smart.”

A second chance

Adaoula is among 4,500 out-of-school children in Mali in areas affected by conflict who joined the accelerated learning programme, which is part of UNICEF’s “Every Child Counts” campaign.

Under the programme, children 8 to 12 years old have been given another chance to go to school.

Arakietou, 10, is Adaoula’s classmate and is among 12 children who travel to school by pirogue on the Niger River.

“She has been sick for several years, so I couldn’t sent her to school,” her mother says. “Plus, I was too scared to send her by river because of insecurity.”

Going back to school means many things for children like Adaoula and Arakietou: a renewed sense of stability, a safe environment, and a chance for a brighter future. In many ways, it is a new world for them, and one that every child deserves.



UNICEF Photography: Education

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