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May 1, 2018

Eight Schools Reopen in Niono Thanks to Effective Community Dialogue

Children of Niono are finally able to resume schooling.

Under threat from armed groups, nine schools supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA) in the district of Niono were forced to close in 2017. Anxious over the future the children in the area, the Centre d’animation Pédagogique (the district-level branch of the Ministry of Education, commonly referred to as the CAP) of Niono, with support from USAID/EESA, convened a day of dialogue in the affected communities to develop solutions to reopen the schools that were closed due to insecurity. Following the dialogue, eight out of the nine closed schools resumed classes.​

The conflict that has raged in Mali since 2012 continues to affect the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Mopti, and a portion of the region of Segou. The crisis has devastated the education sector in these areas, bringing about the destruction of education infrastructure and widespread school closures. In support of the Ministry of Education’s ongoing efforts to ensure the right of children in conflict zones to access quality education, USAID launched the Education Emergency Support Activity (EESA), implemented by CAMRIS International and its partners.

In all, USAID/EESA supports 40 schools in the district of Niono (region of Segou) through the distribution of materials, support of school-based associations, training of teachers, and construction and rehabilitation of school buildings. Among these 40, four schools in the commune of Diabaly and five in the commune of Dogofry were forced to close due to jihadist activity, and therefore held no classes or school activities in the 2017-18 school year. This considerably disrupted education in Niono and prevented USAID/ESSA from providing support to these schools. In response to this unfortunate situation, the CAP Director coordinated with the USAID/EESA project to convene a day of dialogue. The primary objective was to establish a strategy to reopen the nine closed schools.

The community event took place on April 16, 2018 with the Deputy Prefect of Niono presiding, and in the presence of the Director of the Académie d’enseignement (the regional branch of the Ministry of Education, commonly referred to as the AE), the Director of the Niono CAP, the Deputy Prefect of Sokolo, the Mayor of the commune of Diabaly, representatives of the nine villages, and representatives of the USAID/EESA project.
 
After a fruitful conversation covering the difficulties the faced by the schools, the participants formed two working groups to draw up plans to resume classes. Several ideas emerged from the working groups, including:
 
  • Paying overdue teacher salaries and integrating teachers into public service via the conversion of community schools into public schools.
  • Organizing dialogues among the School Management Committees (community groups tasked with school oversight and management), teachers and school principals to prepare for the teachers’ return and the resumption of classes.
  • Reinforcing patrols by the Malian Armed Forces in the affected communities to further secure the area and facilitate school reopening.

Following the day of coordination and community dialogue, we report with pleasure that out of the nine schools that had closed, eight are now reopened. The USAID/EESA project proceeded with the distribution of school supplies to 365 students, 196 of which were girls, and sanitation and hygiene supplies to the eight reopened schools.

The reopening of these schools has resulted in renewed hope throughout the communities, which are more committed than ever to active involvement in their schools and ensuring the success of their children.