ADAPTING EDUCATION SO THAT CHILDREN RETURN TO SCHOOL IN A SAFE AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
Today almost four million children are returning to school across Mali. This is partly the result of the contribution of 5,732 child and youth ambassadors from the Second Decade of Education who are engaging with parents, children and caregivers to share the details of the protective measures in schools against COVID19, and reinforce the benefits of school education.
BAMAKO, 1 November 2021 – The 2021-2022 school year begins today in Mali in a healthy and protective learning environment even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every effort has been made to ensure that the spaces are safe and that protective measures are observed in order to avoid the spread of the disease in schools.
In Mali, the Back to School Campaign and a massive enrolment in the first year was launched in October 2021 and will continue until the end of November 2021. The resumption of classes is part of the programme adapting education towards continued learning, in and out of school, context of attacks and threats against education/educational instutions.
Some 1,664 schools in Mali remain closed, with nearly half a million children and approximatively 10,000 teachers impacted, in the context of the multidimensional crisis in Mali (August 2021 education cluster data).
The Malian authorities have taken advantage of the start of the school year to also raise awareness on the harmful impact of climate change through the "one student, one tree" initiative.
"Young people are the builders of tomorrow. You will become school teachers, entrepreneurs, model farmers and decision-makers. We are counting on you. We are rehabilitating classrooms throughout Mali and encouraging reforestation in all schools," Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga told students during a visit to a school in Bamako.
The Minister of National Education, Madame SIDIBE Dédéou OUSMANE, stressed to the entire education community the importance of returning to school, even in a context of insecurity. As students return to school, everything must be done to reopen these closed schools to allow students to continue classes, according to authorities.
UNICEF has supported academies across Mali to mobilize 4,914 child ambassadors - with equal numbers of girls and boys to support the efforts to get all children back to school and to enroll a large number of school-age children, especially the most vulnerable. This activity was made possible with the technical and financial support of the Global Partnership for Education, Norad (Norway), AustrianDev and the Peacebuilding Fund.
"We need to find innovative ways for children to continue learning in areas where schools are closed," said UNICEF Representative in Mali Sylvie Fouet.
To respond to the phenomenon of non-enrolment or dropout, the young ambassadors of the Back to School campaign have been contributing since 2017 to strengthening awareness in their communities on the importance of education through door-to-door activities, radio broadcasts and community dialogue sessions.
As part of the continued implementation of catch-up strategies and on the occasion of the opening of classes, the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with partners, also developed a condensed programme with adapted pedagogical tools available to date, in all schools to support the return to school learning.
In addition to school-based learning, UNICEF supports and encourages alternative options adapted to the context and needs of the location, including distance education through radio. Several programmes validated by the Ministry of Education are being broadcast through more than 60 community radios across the country.
Providing vulnerable households with solar radios and USB keys with lessons will continue in 2022, along with organizing radio listening groups in communities and schools. This alternative education model has a double objective: it not only allows the continuity of learning for children who do not have access to school for various reasons (school closure, remoteness and/or low parental income) but it also reinforces the importance of quality of education, for students and teachers.
The provision of hand-washing facilities, soap and masks in schools as part of COVID-19 preventative measures is part of UNICEF’s support to the Back To School Campaign and the safe reopening of schools. It is along with the distribution of school kits, consisting of notebooks, school bags, school supplies and other materials for vulnerable children and teachers in all regions.
UNICEF has been working to promote the rights of children in Mali since 1960. It is the only organization specifically named in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child as a source of expert advice and assistance for its implementation.
For more information on UNICEF Mali, please visit www.unicef.org/mali.