Build a School in Africa Inc., based in Pepperell, recently broke ground on its 12th school in southern Mali, West Africa. Established in 2002, this small, all-volunteer organization built its first school in 2005, in the Kolondieba District, and has been building one or two schools every year since then.
The political unrest in Mali in 2012 delayed construction of its 10th school in the tiny remote village of Kounfouna, but building began in January of 2013 and the school was finished by the end of April.
This community had no school at all until 2012, when they started a first-grade class in a windowless storeroom, with the only light shining through the open door on a chalkboard propped on two chairs.
They now have two large, light and airy cement block classrooms and hope to add more in the future. The young mayor of the Blendio Commune, of which Kounfouna is a part, has promised an additional teacher, and will give birth certificates at no charge to parents who want to enroll their children in school.
In November, project Director Judy Lorimer returned to Mali to participate in the "Briki Folo Da" ("laying the first brick") ceremony for school number 11 in the community of Kongoliko; construction was completed in early February.
Usually Build a School in Africa's projects are begun in November, by which time the organization has raised the $15,000 that they have been contributing toward the total $30,000 cost of a new school. It is also the end of the harvest season, so the community has time to clear the land, gather the building materials -- foundation stones, sand and gravel -- and contribute the unskilled labor which is part of the village's contribution to the school project.
However, two large donations totaling $15,000 were received in December, which made it possible to begin construction right away, instead of waiting until late fall. So school #12 is now being built in Ngolokouna, about 20 kilometers east of Sikasso. Construction is proceeding on schedule and completion is expected by the end of April or early May.
Many communities in rural Mali still have no schools at all, or are holding classes in temporary shelters, windowless storage buildings, or crumbling mud-brick class-rooms. It is difficult to keep teachers under these conditions. Having an attractive new school that meets or exceeds all government standards always creates increased enrollment, and makes it easier to recruit and retain teachers.
Fundraising is already under way for the 13th school, to be located in Kortioni, in the commune of Kapala, a few miles from the present construction in Ngolokouna. We hope to begin building the Kortioni school in November 2014. For information about the projects, check out our website: buildaschoolinafrica.org.