Access to education, like most other resources, is nearly impossible in the Azawak. Illiteracy is over 99%. There are fewer than 100 schools in the entire region. Of those that exist, 30% are located in the major cities. Of the 70% in the more rural areas, fewer than 10% are functional. Around 2% operate year-round as the rest function only during the rainy season. The rest of the time, the populations, including the children, are looking for water.
With access to water provided for the community, a primary benefit experienced by our borehole villages is the impact on education. All except Tangarwashane had a school, but these had been abandoned due to the fact that the children were spending all their time looking for water instead of attending school. Tangarwashane has since built a school, as a direct positive consequence of their borehole.
In addition to survival depending on people spending time searching for water, cultural practices in the Azawak are another challenge.
- Girls marry as early as 11 or 12 years old.
- Culturally, people are against schools that take away from traditional pastoral lifestyle.
- Parents, fathers in particular, do not want their children to be more educated than themselves (feel threatened).
- Some see education as a challenge to Islam
The quality of the education that exists is very poor, as teachers themselves have a very low level of education. Schools have few materials, including school books, pencils, etc. In fact, most schools are simply abandoned buildings.
- Improving overall education levels among adults and children in our communities
- Increasing school attendance of children, particularly girls
- Encouraging girls to stay in school through middle school
We have begun addressing these objectives through the following activities:
- School materials distribution
- Couloubade school building
- Adult literacy courses
- Youth and parent sensitization endeavors
School materials distribution
As mentioned above, the few schools that exist in the Azawak are schools in name only. They have no materials or supplies, and hence offer a challenging (almost impossible) learning environment.
According to the ministry of education, Amman Imman is the only entity that has expressed interest in supporting educational endeavors in the region. We distributed school books and teacher manuals, writing materials (notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.), and other basic supplies for 12 rural schools in 2012.
We repeated this for 6 rural schools (including our borehole community schools) in 2014. Each school had between 50 to 150 students.
The feedback from these initiatives have been very positive, where schoolchildren and teachers alike have commented on how much they have learned since these contributions.
Couloubade school building
Couloubade, our only predominantly Fulani community and also our poorest community (with Tangarwashane) did not have a brick school. However, they showed commitment toward educating their children, as they held classes in a straw shed.
After the borehole construction, their children had more time to dedicate toward education. Amman Imman supported their endeavor toward educating the community children by building a school building. The building also includes a room for storing grain for the school restaurant.
Adult literacy courses
Early 2014 we launched an adult literacy class for the men and women of Couloubade. 46 women and 50 men attended these courses. The purpose was to give these adults basic reading and writing skills (signing their names, reading very basic french, etc), and counting skills.
This community relies on commerce more than any other community. The women in particular spend almost 40% of the year traveling to Chad or Nigeria. Without counting and literacy, conducting commerce has been challenging. Since the women have attended these courses, they claim to make more money selling their goods, and have an overall better understanding of opportunities while in cities abroad.
While we have stopped this program due to lack of funding, we would like to resume it in the future. The adults were very motivated, were showing good progress, and felt this project beneficial to their economic success.
Status: On hold
Youth and parent sensitization endeavors
Our field team works with the parents and youth of our communities to emphasize the importance of education, and also to offer discussions concerning early marriage. These sensitization courses and sessions aim at increasing attendance at school, and helping to counter the taboos that exist culturally surrounding education.