Most of us grew up being read to by parents and grandparents until we could read ourselves. In Mali, very few children’s parents are literate and only a minority of children currently have the opportunity to attend school where they can learn to read.
African children are the future of the continent. Their education is key to sustaining democracies, improving health, increasing per capita income and conserving environmental resources. Increasing access to education, particularly girls, has proven to reduce birth rates and infant mortality, and correlates to increases in marriage age and life expectancy.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a sea-change in Mali around the understanding of the importance of education, in particular the importance of educating girls. Today, parents' greatest dream is for their children to receive an education and there is a wide-spread need for schools.
The biggest inhibitor to children attending school in rural areas is distance. In the case of Nienebale, the nearest school is nearly 4.5 miles away. Without a bicycle, the distance is too great for small children to walk. In agrarian communities, families rely on the help of their children to survive. Thus, the further the children must travel to school, the longer they are away from home and this imposes added hardship to the family.
For those of us privileged to have received an education, it is difficult to imagine life without schooling and without books. It is our mission to give the children of Mali the same opportunity we’ve had -- a chance to expand their minds and create greater opportunity in their lives.
Some statistics about Mali:*
life expectancy: 49.2
literacy rate for ages 15 and older: 27%
birth rate: second highest in the world
infant mortality rate: eighth highest in the world
* souces: World Bank and UNDP, 2010