In Mali, West Africa, not all children have equal opportunities to go to school. But, thanks to Access to School for All Children in Mali – a project we are proud to be implementing in partnership with Education Development Center, Educate A Child, and others – we are opening school doors for children with disabilities and others who have been largely excluded.
Balkissa is 13 years old and lives in Tiécouraré, in the region of Mopti, in central Mali. For most of her life, Balkissa was deprived of an education and instead of going to school, her daily life consisted of helping her mother with the housework. Living with albinism like her father and two other siblings, Balkissa and her family were largely excluded from society in Mali.
Balkissa’s village also had no school infrastructure which exacerbated her exclusion, as traveling to the nearest school, located 6 kilometers away was too dangerous given Mali’s security situation and teachers’ strikes. But, Aide et Action’s Access to School for All Children in Mali program posed a solution.
Fighting against discrimination
Access to School for All Children in Mali established academic courses in the village’s traditional Koranic school. This was made possible by the provision of educational supplies and materials and the provision of a volunteer teacher who received training under the project. Now, Balkissa is attending school and alongside her new classmates, can follow the learning of the Koran as well as benefit from a more traditional education, in French. This opens up new perspectives for students who can access the various exams of the general education system.
“My dream is to become a doctor”, says Balkissa. “As my village has no health infrastructure, I would like to build a dispensary and take care of the patients”, she adds. In class, Balkissa enjoys reading and writing and is a diligent and attentive student despite the challenges her albinism presents.
Offering new perspectives
Awa, is 7 years old and has been living with a deformity in her neck since birth. Her disability posed a problem for the school in her village and they refused to register her because of a lack of appropriate care. But under Access to School for All Children in Mali, Awa was able to join an Accelerated Schooling Strategy Center and then later be enrolled in the village school. “I’m very happy to go to school despite my disability, every day I travel with my classmates, it makes my journey easier”, she says.
Awa’s mother is thrilled to see her daughter finally go to school. The arrival of Aide et Action’s project changed everything. “Since her registration, we have noticed her enthusiasm, she is no longer as isolated as before and at least once a week the village chief and the relays come to inquire about her situation”, she explains. Thanks to the project, Awa is receiving special attention to support her with her disability and her late school registration.
A brighter future
With the school doors now open, Awa and Balkissa can dream like the other children in their villages. Awa’s enrollment was the first enrollment of a pupil with a disability in her school and we’re hopeful it’s going to set a precedent, demonstrating not only do all children deserve their right to education but that schools and communities can adapt to meet student’s needs with the right resources. As more children like Awa and Balkiss attend school, we are confident it will lead to a shift in attitude among parents too, who will be more open to sending their children to school, despite a disability, and particpate in our collective fight against discrimination.
Building more inclusive education opportunities for marginalized children is a key component of our work. In Cambodia, thanks to support from Educate A Child, Aide et Action is leading The Cambodian Consortium of Out of School Children to increase access to education for all.