Since 1956, the village of Ferekoroba, Mali has seen only two of its daughters attain college degrees. Since 1956, the village has had many of its boys and many more of its girls drop out of school after 6th grade. In fact, Ferekoroba is one of the many villages whose inhabitants contribute to Mali’s disastrous 31% literacy rate.
More than 1500 people flocked to the village of Ferekoroba to celebrate its big day. On April 19th, 2014, the village of Ferekoroba witnessed two firsts. On one hand, they witnessed their first and only middle school in the village made possible through a kind donation from the foundation Building Youth Around the World, the Empower Mali foundation and the Mayor’s office of Ouélessébougou ( who donated the village’s portion). On the other hand, for the first time in the village’s history, a minister from the government stepped foot on Ferekoroba soil. This joyous inauguration was attended by the Minister of Education, Madame Togola Jacqueline Marie NANA and her delegation consisting of the school authorities of the region, the local school authorities and her cabinet chief. This was a big day for the village of Ferekoroba as they witnessed their dreams for their future solidified through this new middle school. The village currently only has a primary school initially built in 1956 to which classes were added in 1976 by Peace Corp. So no new educational structure was added in the last 38 years. Currently, to attend middle school, many children will walk 3-7 km along dusty, unpaved roads to neighboring villages of Seguessona, Ouelessebougou and Tamala.
The event was also attended by two members of the Building Youth Around the World foundation who had donated $50,000 towards construction of a fully equipped 3-classroom middle school, office block and 6 latrines. Executive Director Ian McCracken and his son Braedon traveled all the way to Mali from Utah to help dedicate this school to their chosen village of Ferekoroba. This middle school falls in line with BYAW’s mission to help strengthen opportunities for disadvantaged youth all around the globe. We are blessed that BYAW would choose Mali to help bring education to our children here. While they were here, Ian and Braedon McCracken also donated backpacks with school supplies to each middle school child and also solar lamps to the Chief of the village, his second in command and the School Director.
The Minister of Education and her delegation was so impressed with the quality of the school and the spaciousness of the classrooms as well as the equipment within. In addition, the classrooms were cooler allowing for relief for the students from the hot Malian sun. Currently the government of Mali builds schools for a lot more money and they are more cramped and don’t last long falling into disrepair. The Minister stated that Empower Mali was a great partner to the Ministry of Education in Mali. She expressed hope that Empower Mali would continue to work to make education a reality for all, boys and girls and also expressed great interest in continuing to support our work in Mali.
The role Empower Mali plays in education in Mali is unique. When we build our schools, they are self sustainable. By getting the village to pay towards the school with land, labor and a portion of the costs, the village is making a commitment. When you give a hand out, the impact is lost. In addition, our close ties with the Ministry of Education allows us to equip our schools with teachers paid for by the government. There are many NGOs that will build schools in Mali, but then those buildings sit empty because there are no teachers present to teach in the villages. Our approach is unique and our goal is to empower our villages to lift themselves out of poverty.
Since 2004, Yeah has helped bring 19 schools to Mali. Not a small number. 19 communities whose lives have improved and will continue to improve for generations to come because of one man’s commitment to making access to education a reality for all children in Mali.
In Mali, education is a gift and access to education is something we are fighting for , so all our children may have an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty. This school will help the village of Ferekoroba break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy that has become commonplace.
The entire event was amazing and so special that it was covered on Mali National TV ORTM. You can view the coverage here: http://youtu.be/ZLP6fprX-qE