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Mohamed's school rebuilds for a brighter future

© UNICEF Mali / 2015 / Diakite

By Cindy Cao

At the onset of a political and security crisis in 2012 in Mali, the region of Kidal was covered in blood and tears. Mohamed Harouna was only eight when he fled with his parents to Gao, another region in Mali. In the middle of Kidal town, Baye Ag Mahaha school, Mohamed’s school, was looted and occupied by armed groups. Like Mohamed, many other children from his school fled to other regions in Mali, while others started a treacherous journey to Algeria, Burkina and Niger. Some children were separated from their parents and the less fortunate became child soldiers or delinquents.

Violence affected the psychosocial well-being of most children. The hostile environment has hindered their learning. Mohamed, like most children from Kidal has had his access to schooling interrupted for four years. Mohamed explains: “I felt desperate when I saw other children going to school.” He came back to Kidal with his family in November 2013. Due to poverty, the boy had to help his family with household tasks, his main chore was to carry water from the well to his home where he lived with 9 siblings and his parents.

On 30 June 2014, Mohamed’s school was by a car bomb that targeted the bank next door. The outer wall of the school was seriously damaged and although no children or teachers were injured, the incident only deepened the feeling of insecurity felt by teachers, children and their families. Many teachers fled Kidal due to the insecurity.

Healing through education

A year after the bombing of Baye Ag Mahaha school, a Peace Agreement was reached in Mali on June, 20th 2015. Community dialogue sessions and awareness raising campaigns took place to facilitate the re-opening of Mohamed’s school for the 2015-2016 school year. These efforts were part of UNICEF’s ‘Every Child Counts’ education campaign, targeting a total of 100,000 children in 5 conflict-affected regions.

“It is the first time in years that we can reach children in Kidal with education activities,” explains Fabio Manno Chief of Education for UNICEF Mali. “Mohamed, like 1,000 other children in this school benefited from learning materials. This distribution helps provide them with the basic materials they need to continue their studies in a quality leaning environment.”

Mohamed is still at risk of exposure to explosive remnants of war on his way to school or in the courtyard. The holes in the outer wall of the school caused by the car bomb has directly exposed children to the risk of attacks. He could also be associated with armed groups or get sick due to the absence of latrines and water point in school.

“Education is a key factor in the recovery process for conflict-affected children. It helps them to restore a sense of normalcy and overcome psychological trauma and other forms of distress. Education is crucial in this context to build peace, by fostering a culture of trust and mutual understanding among groups,” added Fabio Manno. 

Mohamed’s hope for a better future is now restored at Baye Ag Mahaha school. He now has a renewed chance to pursue his studies and develop the necessary skills to increase his social and economic opportunities for the future. “I dream to be a teacher. This is why I will stick to my studies,” he concluded.

More information:

> Video: Baye Ag Mahaha school

> Press release: 380,000 children are out of school in conflict-affected regions

> Fact sheet: The Every Child Counts campaign



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