Quality, inclusive education & COVID-19 prevention in Mali

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Plan International, with funding from Irish Aid, is continuing to ensure children can access education during the pandemic & is working with communities to prevent COVID-19 taking hold

Plan International Ireland, funded by Irish Aid, is working with Plan International Mali to deliver the EQuIP Programme – ensuring the delivery of inclusive,quality education to children.  While the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to the programme’s delivery, activities have been adapted to ensure children can access education and protect themselves from COVID-19.

Mali has been affected by a complex insecurity situation since 2012. Following the outbreak of the conflict, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and many thousands of children were left without access to education.

Plan International has been working in Timbuktu in the north of the country to ensure children have access to quality, inclusive education via the EQuIP programme funded by Irish Aid.  

The project is being implemented in 60 primary schools and 30 preschools in villages in Timbuktu, with a core focus on inclusion for marginalised children, especially girls and children with disabilities, through their participation and that of their communities in educational decision-making at all levels. Partners and participants are also supported to advocate for positive changes in education policy and practice.   

As a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent public health restrictions, children and their families have been, and will continue to be, affected by the far-reaching impacts of the disease. COVID-19 restrictions initially resulted in the closure of schools and pre-schools, and due to the need for social distancing many other programme activities, like teacher training and community sensitisation, had to be postponed. 

Plan International Mali staff worked closely with relevant local stakeholders and communities to figure out ways that the EQuIP Programme could adapt and support educational needs remotely, while also assisting in awareness raising about COVID-19, and prevention and protection measures that could be implemented. 

Below you will see some of the activities we have been implementing in Timbuktu since the outbreak of COVID-19!

Student, Fatouma Mint, is demonstrating handwashing in the Kasbar Reception Centre for children of families who have been displaced by the violence in the Timbuktu area. The project is supporting these children to return to school. The photo was taken during an awareness raising session on COVID-19 prevention and protection and was organised in partnership with the Taoudenie Children’s Parliament.

Here, one of the children attending Arouane kindergarten in Timbuktu, Mohamed Touré, is showing everyone the handwashing techniques he learned to protect himself from COVID-19. He was showing the techniques he had learned at a ceremony for the presentation of COVID-19 prevention kits to the Araouane kindergarten on behalf of the EQuIP programme, funded by Irish Aid.

Although in-person education came to a halt as a result of the pandemic, education modules were broadcast on local radio to ensure children could still access learning. Above is a photo from the opening ceremony of the validation workshop on the module to be broadcast on local radio during COVID-19. From left to right: Idrissa Maiga, representative of partner organisation Humanity and Inclusion; Yehia H Konta, Coordinator of the Municipality; Seyo Tamboura, director of the Timbuktu Teaching Academy (local office of the Ministry of Education); Bocar Sidiki Djitteye Plan International, Timbuktu Office.

Community leaders and women’s organisations have also been engaged in activities to prevent COVID-19. This picture was taken during a training of women’s organisations in the urban municipality of Timbuktu on COVID-19 prevention and protection, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.  The training was carried out in partnership with the coordination of women’s associations in Timbuktu.

When children are out of school, they can miss out on the provision of essentials, such as school meals and period products for girls. The above picture shows the preparations by Plan International and the Timbuktu Academy (local office of the Ministry of Education) for the delivery of dignity kits to 50 vulnerable children (girls and children living with a disability) and also COVID-19 prevention kits to target EQuIP schools.