Over 70% of people in Mali can neither read nor write. Around one million children aged between 7 and 12 do not go to school, while 46% of children enrolled in school leave without completing their primary education. The limited available space in schools in Mali coupled with the poor standards of teaching (which is often ill-suited to local circumstances and needs) are only two of the major stumbling blocks that the education system in Mali has to overcome.
The «Support for non-formal education in Mali» project seeks to remedy the situation by developing a range of education initiatives in the regions of Sikasso and Mopti. Its overarching aim is to facilitate 1,200 children between the ages of 9 and 15 to return to school or to embark on a technical apprenticeship of their choice (agriculture, livestock farming, market gardening, etc.).
The project has introduced «catch-up classes» to enable the youngest children to return and stay in school, while older children who have embarked on a technical apprenticeship receive rural entrepreneurship advice. The project has also developed a new teaching aid: «science kits». These contains a series of illustrated fact sheets that should encourage technical apprentices to whet their appetite for the natural and physical science subjects which are taught as part of their technical training.
Adult education initiatives
The project has also launched adult education initiatives. Up to 240 people, two thirds of whom are women and young people, attend literacy classes which are taught in the local language. One quarter of them are then employed in the village reading centres set up by the SDC. The purpose of these centres is to help children to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. Other graduates of these literacy classes opt for modular training courses which will equip them with the necessary know-how to diversify their existing farming activities.
Bringing local communities on board
The project is also keen to encourage local communities to become involved. To achieve this aim, it supports hundreds of communities in their efforts to lobby the Malian Minister of Education. The hope is that this assistance will contribute to upgrading rural education, as well as lead the national government to give its backing to the introduction of innovative changes in educational practices. With government support, these developments could be rolled out nationwide, thereby benefiting a maximum number of out-of-school children.