Lighting a new candle

22 Aug

As in other countries of the francophone world, the Malian educational system inherited most of its principles from the French colonial system. Fundamental education encompasses nine grades, divided into two cycles. Grades 1 through 6 make up the first cycle. In the sixth grade all the students sit for the C.E.P. which leads to the second cycle: Grades 7 through 9 (junior high school). In the last grade of the second cycle, the students take a nationwide exam called the Diplôme d’Etudes Fondamentale (D.E.F.) which leads to high school or vocational and technical school. Secondary education (senior high school) comprises Grade 10 through 12. All Grade 12 students sit for the baccalaureate exam (high school diploma) in biology, math/physics, human sciences, or language and literature. With the baccalaureate the students can enroll at the University of Mali or apply for universities abroad. The baccalaureate is a very selective examination for the students. Students who do not envision completing long-term study programs can enter two- to four years public/private technical and vocational schools, which are all recognized by the Ministry of Education. Two-year vocational and technical schools offer the Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle (CAP) and the four-year schools offer the Brevet de Technicien (BT).

Some Statistics from UNICEF:

UNICEF Mali Data

The data above is very interesting. It is easy to see the marked difference in the enrollment rates among males’ vs. females. It is also sad to see the major drop that goes from primary to secondary education. Still more interesting the data shows enrollment numbers higher than actual attendance numbers.

Education, in my opinion, is a significant key that separates the development and furthering of civilization. It is interesting when I talk with Malians about the way certain things are done or should be done. I have the opportunity in Ouelessebougou, Mali to mingle with educated Malians (like my brother-in-law Bei) and uneducated individuals. The way they approach life, in my opinion, is controlled largely by the education they have received. Malians will constantly tell me my kids are smarter than their kids. I listen to this statement in some amazement. Coming from a country like India, it is this kind of mentality that let the British rule India for as long as they did. When people who I meet tell me this, I am quick to correct them. It is not that children are smarter or dumber. Rather it is my belief that most kids have a decent mind when they are born. It is the instruments that develop these minds that have contributed to the vast gap.

One such instrument is the cycle of illiteracy. I count myself lucky that I had a mom that constantly made sure that my homework was done. There were days when she would come home tired from work and still make sure that my brother and I had finished our homework and were ready for any tests. This constancy when we were small kids prepped us to then take the reins of our fate into our own hands. By the time we were teenagers we could confidently manage our own homework and tests. It is so important for parents to be educated in this day and age. In Mali, however, it is difficult to institute such a practice. Difficult because most families in rural areas do not have a formal school. Difficult because in some villages past 6th grade, the next closest school is sometimes too far. Hard because responsibilities like farming the fields and a family’s crop become more pressing as they address the immediate need of food. It will be important for Yeah to focus on the current generation and show them the light of obtaining a good education. An education will allow them to implement new ideas not only in farming but other sectors. It will also make Malian business competitive in the global market.

Another issue that contributes is the quality of education. The public school system in Mali is pretty bad. It’s almost as if these small inquisitive minds are doomed to failure before they even start to learn. The system is rampaged by a lack of teachers. Teachers are not paid well in Mali. If you thought the teachers in America were paid badly, Malian teachers are worse off. There is no incentive for the teachers to teach their student well. This also contributes to a reduction of future teachers. Again yet another cycle that needs to be broken. A decent education is found in private schools that are sometimes expensive. For example the American school in Bamako charges $12000/year for a child in Kindergarten and $26000 from Grade 1-5. Even for a rich Malian, this is an exorbitant price almost making these schools exclusive to the rich. Yet another cycle that will continue either until the public education system improves or foreigners stop paying for these schools.

The education system in Mali definitely needs some serious revamping. It is the base on which success for future generations lie. Malians need to be encouraged to take a firmer stand in their government’s role in education. Students need to be encouraged to study and incentives need to be provided to those that complete a successful course. For example, do you think students would study harder in college if they were granted a job when they graduated? Do you think education givers would improve if teachers were paid better and pay increases were based on quality of education given and not tenure? These are just ideas. The time has come for the next President to revamp the education system and give young Malians the opportunity to stand firm among global competition. The sheet of darkness needs to be torn and this cycle needs to be broken.

Yeah has already started this through Mali Rising. Mali Rising was co-founded by Yeah. It has partnered with communities in Mali to build 15 schools to date, all in remote villages. These schools provide the opportunity for kids in rural areas to have a dream. It provides opportunities for young girls to not sit in the darkness of illiteracy.

The time for change has come. The time has come to break the vicious cycles that have gripped this great country. The time has come for Yeah to bring change that Mali desperately needs. Support the need for change. Support Mali so education becomes a norm and not a gift. Support Yeah.

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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Past Posts


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