In 2013, an internal conflict in Mali resulted in tens of thousands fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in neighbouring counties Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. This upheaval has meant that huge numbers of children have had their education interrupted at a crucial time in their development, with little prospect of returning to their home countries and picking up their studies again.
Plan Ireland Education in Emergencies specialist Emilia Sorrentino is currently on assignment in Niger, West Africa where thoussand of refugees from the conflict are stating. Emilia has been overseeing Plan Ireland projects which enable these children to continue with their education despite the difficult circumstances
Read her report………
I’ve just visited what are called Plan’s Accelerated Learning Programmes in refugee camps in the northwest of Niger. These programmes allow refugee children from Mali who’ve either never been to school or have had their education interrupted to continue with their studies.
In order to make the programme as inclusive as possible, an ad-hoc curriculum has been developed with the Ministry of Education to include 3 months teaching in local languages and six months in French. Without these programmes, children in the camps would have no opportunity to progress their education.
One of the students I met in the Accelerated Learning Programme was a 12 year old girl called Housseyna Boubacar Ali. She told me of how she was forced to flee Mali in 2013 when large scale fighting erupted. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to return to her homeland.
I also met Housseyna’s mother who told me that she was determined that her daughter’s education would continue despite the circumstances, so she enrolled her in the programme in 2013.
After 9 months of schooling Housseyna has just passed her exams and graduated on to a more formal school in the camp. She explained how empowered she now feels because she can read, write, count and also help her parents with tasks that require literacy as they never had a formal education.
Houssaeyna’s mother explained to me the difficulties of being illiterate and how important it is that her daughter goes to school.
“I am not educated myself, and I know how difficult it is when you can’t read or write. As a refugee, you are sometimes asked to read and sign papers and it is frustrating always having to ask someone else. Education is empowerment, for that reason I have strongly encouraged my daughter to go to school and when the opportunity came up with the Plan programme, I encouraged her to attend and follow her dream.”
For now, Houssaeyna’s future is uncertain. She doesn’t know if she’ll be able to return home and leave the refugee camp. However, while her life may have been interrupted, her education has continued, and will remain with her regardless of what her future holds.