2021 Year-End Newsletter

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Great news! Our 28th school has just begun construction, with the 29th right on its heels. We hope to have another in the works by mid- 2022 – making a total of 30 schools since Build a School in Africa built its first in 2005. Not bad for a team of just 4 people! Build a School in Africa has no paid employees and no overhead (our office is in a spare bedroom), so 100% of every donation goes directly into constructing our schools. Wishing you a happy holiday season and a joyous and healthy new year!

A couple of months ago we sent out a newsletter about our joint project with Mali Rising, a small NGO that has also built quite a number of middle schools in Mali; we are collaborating on a school in Tentoubougou, a town on the highway between Bamako and Bougouni. The land has been cleared, all the arrangements with the mayor or of the town, the regional school board, and the village School Management Committee have been made, and construction is due to begin momentarily.

In the meantime, we have received funding from a non-profit organization in Adelaide, Australia, for a three-classroom middle school for grades 7, 8, and 9 in the village of Kintieri.

We broke ground a few days ago, and already there are rows upon rows of concrete blocks lined up in neat ranks at the building site.

Workers with the cinder blocks for the new middle school in Kintieri, Mali.

In contrast to those of you who probably would buy them ready-made at your local Home Depot or Lowe’s hardware stores, these are made one at a time on site, using a two-piece mold. At remarkable speed, the workers fill a mold with wet cement pack it down, level it off, flip it over, and remove the mold. Repeat – about 5,000 times! The blocks are watered down periodically so that they don’t dry out too fast, which would make them break apart. As many times as I’ve seen this process, it’s still a thrill to watch. There is very little mechanization involved with the construction process; the foundation is dug with pickaxes and shovels, sacks of cement and the finished cement blocks are transported to the work site via donkey carts. Yet the construction is usually finished in three months or less. The three classrooms, the latrines, and the office/supply room buildings will probably be finished by the end of February.

Unfortunately, the world-wide rise in inflation, oil prices, and supply-chain delays have driven up the price of building materials like cement and iron re-bar, as well as the cost of transporting them. For many years were able to keep the cost of two classrooms, plus latrines and the school office building, to $15,000 USD, and three classrooms and outbuildings to $22,000. We estimate that the higher prices will add an additional $2,000 to each project, unless prices come back down. By American standards this is still a bargain. The school classrooms each measure about 27’ x 22’; my 22’ x 24’ horse barn, smaller than the size of one classroom, cost more in 2006 than an entire middle school did in 2021!

We currently have at least two more communities on our waiting list: Sanobougou, whose middle school currently has over 100 students per classroom; and Gagnebougou, which has outdated mud-brick classrooms that do not meet government standards.

We are hoping to raise enough funding to build at least one of these schools in 2022.

Existing school building in Gagnebougou

In other news, we would like to tell you about a young man in Singapore who contacted us about his project.

Aarit, founder of the First Aid Project in Singapore

He wrote, ‘Hello everyone, my name is Aarit. I am a 16-year-old Grade11 student at UWC East, as well as the founder of a service initiative, called the First Aid Project. Our goal is to get First Aid Kits to non-profit schools in underdeveloped regions. I had felt the need to address this after learning about how so few non-profit schools have First Aid kits and how important they are to creating a safe education space. I first thought someone has to do something about this like the UN; then I realized that I myself can do something about this, so I rolled up my sleeves and started fundraising and collected $8,500 SGD (about $2,000 USD) for 4 different organizations, one of them being Build a School in Africa!”

Backpacks full of first-aid supplies donated by the First Aid Project

Abou wrote “Here is one of the First Aid kits. We are procuring 50 first aid kits to be distributed to our partner schools. The kits will be customized with the BSA logo as you can see in the picture.”

As a kindergarten teacher for 33 years, I know how important a good first aid kit can be in a class of lively youngsters. Thank you, Aarit!

Best wishes to all for the holiday season and thank you all for your support!

Judy, Abou, Madou, and Matthew

Build A School in Africa – 2021 Newsletter

Dear BSA supporters,

We ordinarily send our annual newsletter toward the end of the year, but we want to tell you about an exciting new project! Build a School in Africa has always concentrated solely on infrastructure. We build attractive, durable classrooms in under-served communities that are often making do with substandard buildings made of mud brick, or temporary shelters, called “hangars,” that are often no more than straw mats tied to a pole framework. Once the school is built, it becomes the responsibility of the village’s School Management Committee, with support from the regional school board.

But this year we are embarking on a joint project with Mali Rising, a small non- profit organization based in Utah. Their focus is on building middle schools — grades 7, 8, and 9. But they also have impressive programs for teacher training, curriculum development, and empowerment programs for girls. Far too many young girls drop out of school after completing the 6 primary grades (if they even get that far), since middle schools don’t exist in many communities. And although the legal age for marriage in Mali is 18, early marriages still are far too common.

Building site for proposed middle school in Malian village of Tentoubougou.

On the North/South highway between Bamako and Bougouni lies the community of Tentoubougou, which does have a middle school. However, middle-schoolers have to cross a busy highway to attend the school, which has nearly 700 students crammed into 6 classrooms! The school-aged student population numbers are high: this is a very heavily-populated area, so literally hundreds more would like to come, but there is no room for them. The proposed school will be located on the opposite side of the highway from the existing school. Students would go to the school that is located closest to their homes, so they won’t have to cross this dangerous high-speed road.

The proposed school would have three classrooms, with 6 latrines: 3 for girls and 3 for boys. The land has already been cleared (see photo). We are hoping to start construction in November. (The school year start in Mali has been delayed until then). BSA will take primary responsibility for the construction, with Mali Rising taking over the staffing, curriculum development, teacher training programs, etc.

Because BSA is partnering with Mali Rising on this school, we hope to have some additional funds to add something special to this school. The current plan for the project is to present a short “menu” of option to the school committee, such as: a small stocked library space, support for teacher housing, etc. We welcome your support for this innovative partnership: donations may be sent to Build a School in Africa, 83 Groton Street, Pepperell, MA, 01463, or click here to donate online.

More News From Build School In Africa

In spite of sporadic political unrest in parts of the country and the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, BSA managed to build our 27th school in the village of Tionso, and we are working with an Australian foundation on plans for a new middle school in Kintieri.

New school in Tionso, completed in 2021

According to its Community Profile, “Kintieri has had a primary school since the 1980s which is supported by the community members. The middle school was created in 1993 with 3 classrooms built by the community, but nowadays it does not meet government standards for classroom size and is also insufficient for the number of children passing to grade 7. To continue their education beyond grade 6, most children must move to M’Pessoba, at 30 kilometers from home; or Koutiala (75 km) or Bla (40 km). The school office is shared by the two schools and the only latrine has to be shared with children and teachers. They need 3 new classrooms to accommodate grades 7, 8, and 9, plus office/ storage rooms and latrines.”

Students at the new school in Fantala, completed late 2020

We continue to monitor health precautions at our building sites. So far, the Covid pandemic has not taken a disastrous toll in Mali, though fewer than 200,000 Malians have been vaccinated, out of a population of over 20 million. To date, the death count has been quite low. Given the availability of medical care in Mali, official statistics are probably an undercount. Nevertheless, we can hope that our plans for the coming year will be able to progress without setbacks.

We will keep you informed!

Judy, Abou, Madou, and Matt

P.S. The Pepperell Business Association gave this “Best of 2021” award to us for our accomplishments in promoting education in developing countries.

Photos of new schools in Africa

Here are a few recent photos of schools we’ve helped build in Mali, West Africa. The generosity of you, our donors, has made this possible. Thank you!

Build a School in Africa 2020 Newsletter

Dear Build a School in Africa supporters,

This past year has presented many challenges. With the Covid-19 pandemic, a tumultuous political climate in the US, and a coup in Mali in August, you might expect that BSA’s projects in 2020 would have come to a halt. Nevertheless, we built 3 more schools this year, bringing our total to 26 new schools since 2005.

February 2020 – Zangabougou under construction

Early in 2020, a two-room school was built in Zangabougou, financed primarily by the Schools for Africa Club at Lincoln/Sudbury Regional High School in Massachusetts, followed by another two-room school in Fantala, funded mostly by a California tech company which has helped us build several schools in recent years. Additional funding to complete the schools was provided by numerous individual donations from our generous supporters.

April 2020 -New school in Fantala

Our most ambitious project yet, a three room middle school , including electricity and water hookups and teaching supplies and materials, was completed in Mancourani B, a neighborhood in the city of Sikasso. We have built the vast majority of our schools in small rural villages, but the Mancourani schools were dramatically overcrowded, and we were happy to be able to provide three additional classrooms to solve the problem.

April, 2020 – Mancourani B under construction

A family foundation that has built several other schools in partnership with us provided all the funding. The school was finished just as the Covid-19 pandemic had reached Mali. We were concerned about construction workers carrying the virus back to their home villages or neighborhoods, so they were required to avoid public transportation and take other social distancing precautions; the school was finished safely in June.

June 2020 – Finished school at Mancourani B

We remain in frequent contact with our partners in Mali. Until the fall months, Co-Vid had not created catastrophic cascade of infection and mortality you might expect, given the crowded living conditions and multi-generational family structures. But Abou writes,” Recently the pandemic is unfortunately progressing, and we are now experiencing a second surge, which is growing quickly in densely-populated Bamako; schools are now closed.”

He adds, “We have two more villages on our waiting list, Kintieri and Tionso, and hope to build at least one of them this year. If we can secure the funding, we can build safely by integrating safety protection measures and policies during the building process.”

Interior of an old classroom in a mud-brick school building in Tionso

The village of Kintieri has had a primary school since the 1980s which is supported by the community members. The middle school was created in 1993 with 3 classrooms built by the community, but it does not meet government standards and is small and overcrowded. Most of the children entering grade 7 must move to another village in order to continue their education.

The village of Tionso has some old-style mud-brick classrooms for their 441 students – 204 girls and 237 boys. Community leaders would like to build three concrete block classrooms to improve the working and learning conditions that presently exist, as the mud-brick schools also do not meet government standards and are too small, as well as dark and stuffy, with poor lighting and air circulation. This could be a serious problem if the Covid virus reaches the village.

Solar panel to provide light at a rural primary school

We hope that you all have been able to stay safe and healthy during the past harrowing year, and can maintain good health in 2021 as well. Let’s hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

Sending you best wishes for the holidays,

Judy Lorimer, Madou Traore, Abou Coulibaly, and Matthew Heberger

Our 26th School Now Complete!

Our 26th school is now complete! We recently completed construction of a 3-room middle school for grades 7, 8, and 9 in Mancourani B, a neighborhood in Sikasso, Mali’s second largest city. This is our first school in an urban setting; the majority of our schools have been built in small rural communities.

New school in Mancourani B, a neighborhood in Sikasso, Mali
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2019 Newsletter

Dear Build a School in Africa supporters,

In 2002, Kyla McKenna, a senior at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Massachusetts, founded Build a School in Africa as her senior Humanities project, and asked me to mentor her efforts. Our goal was to raise enough money to help build one school in Mali, West Africa. We raised almost $10,000 the first year of the program, with other students taking over in succeeding years. We built our first school in 2005, and just kept going! We are now proud to announce that our 23rd school, a three room primary school in Zandiela, is almost finished, and we are planning to break ground for the 24th school in Zangabougou, funded largely by Lincoln- Sudbury High School’s “Schools for Africa” club, in January 2020.

The old school building in Tabacoro after heavy rains in August 2018

In January of 2019, we started off the year by building two new classrooms in Tabacoro, financed primarily by a California tech company, to replace two mud brick classrooms that collapsed during heavy rains in August of 2018. Students there now have two sturdy concrete block classrooms, a substantial improvement over the dark and disintegrating mud brick rooms that fell apart.

New schoolhouse in Tabacoro completed in 2019

Our benefit trail ride this August was very successful; forty-three riders followed a marked trail through conservation land and private trails, with a choice of 7 or 14 miles, followed by a home-cooked African buffet dinner. Co-sponsored by the Littleton Horse Owners Association, a large portion of the profits were donated to Build a School in Africa.

Wall map for the classroom in Tabacoro

I did not go to Mali this year–I had long-delayed home improvement projects to deal with. But in October, in the capable hands of our Malian partners, Abou Coulibaly and Mamadou Traore, we started construction on a new primary school in Zandiela, financed by the same generous family that built classrooms in Kodialanida (2017) and Danzana (2018). The new school will have solar lights in one of the classrooms, plus much-needed school supplies. Maps and globes are standard in American classrooms, but sadly lacking in many Malian schools.

New globe (and world map!) for the classroom in Tabacoro

We have several more communities on our waiting list: Fantala and Ifola rural villages, and Mancourani B, in a more urban setting in Sikasso. We’re not likely to run out of communities in need of schools any time soon…

New school in Zandiela under construction in November 2019

Many thanks and very best wishes to all our supporters for the holidays and the New Year!

Judy Lorimer, Mamadou Traore, Abou Coulibaly, and Matthew Heberger

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Help raise $1,000 to finish our next school building project

We’re just $1,000 short of what we need to build two new classrooms, latrines, and an office/storage building in village of Zangabougou in southern Mali.

Zangabougou will be our 23rd school! Please consider making a year-donation to help us break ground.

Because we are a small, all-volunteer organization, all donations go 100% to school construction.

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Build a School in Africa 2018 Newsletter

The past year has been another very successful one for this small, all-volunteer organization. A year ago, we started construction on our 18th and 19th schools, in Kodialanida and Nolabougou, which were completed in late winter; our 20th, in N’Dalle, was completed later in the spring.

On my recent visit to Mali, we visited all three schools, and found all were doing well. N’Dalle now has enough classrooms for grades one through nine, but Kodialanida and Nolabougou would like to have enough cement-block classrooms for grades 1 – 6.

Danzana Middle School under construction
Danzana Middle School under construction

In the community of Danzana, construction of a three-room middle school was well under way. Construction is expected to be completed by late February or early March; the walls are up already; the roof will go on next week.

Meeting with the School Committee in Kodialanida
Meeting with the School Committee in Kodialanida
New classroom in Nolabougou
New classroom in Nolabougou

The family that funded three classrooms last year in Kodialanida has also fully funded the school in Danzana, including solar panels to provide lighting for evening studies, adult literacy classes, homework, and community meetings. They also donated $1,000 for classroom supplies: maps and globes for each classroom, dictionaries, both English and French, science charts and posters, teachers’ manuals for all subjects, and much more.

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Photos from November 2017 Visit to Mali

Dear Build a School in Africa supporters – I’m happy to share with you a few photos from Director Judy Lorimer’s visit to Mali in November 2017. Judy helped start construction of two new schools in the villages of Kodialanida and Nolabougou, visited several schools we had built since 2011, and visited two communities that have requested funding for new schools.

The two schools begun in November are now completed and in operation. Since then, we have also begun construction of a new school in the village of N’Dalen.

New school building in Kodialanida, begun in November 2017.

New school building in Kodialanida, begun in November 2017. There are three new classrooms in Kodialanida.

There are three new classrooms in Kodialanida.

The family that funded the entire school also donated funds for solar panels for one classroom, so children and teachers could do homework or work on curriculum plans in the evenings.

New school in Nolabougou.

New school in Nolabougou.

Class in session at the new school in Nolabougou.

Class in session at the new school in Nolabougou.

Students in Nolabougou

Students in Nolabougou. One of the few photos where the kids smiled for Judy. Education is serious stuff in Mali!

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Build a School in Africa 2017 Newsletter

This was an exceptional year for this tiny non-profit organization. Our 17th school was completed in Doumanaba last spring, providing new classrooms to replace classes that had been housed in an old storeroom, and two more schools are presently under construction.

New school in Doumanaba, Mali

New school in Doumanaba, Mali

Our 18th project was to build a new school in the community of Kodialanida; the roof of one of their classrooms had collapsed earlier in the year, injuring several children. We were exceptionally fortunate to be contacted by a generous family in the American west; they not only donated funds for THREE classrooms, but also added solar panels for one classrooms, giving children and teachers the ability to do homework or plan lessons after dark, and provide evening literacy classes or hold meetings.

In November, BSA Director Judy Lorimer traveled to Mali (at her own expense) to participate in the groundbreaking ceremonies for Kodialanida and also Nolabougou, where we planned to build two new classrooms.

laying the first brick

“Briki Folo Da” or laying the ceremonial first brick for a new school on Nov 20, 2017

In 16 days, the walls of Kodialanida’s new school were up to the tops of the windows.

new school in Kodialanida under construction

Quick progress on building the new school in Kodialanida

In Nolabougou, they had three cement block classrooms that had been built 20 years ago and were showing their age – crumbling cement around rusted or missing doors and windows, cracked walls, and broken concrete floors. Since Save the Children had recently built new latrines and the office/storage building that BSA usually builds, we will be able to use those funds to repair and paint the old classrooms as well as replacing temporary or mud- brick classrooms with brand new ones, thanks in large part to a substantial donation from Wigigo.

The current school building Nolabougou that is in need of repairs

The current school building Nolabougou that is in need of repairs

We visited four schools that we have built since 2011: Sossoro, Kounfouna, Tiogola and Doumanaba. The donor for Kodialanida also designed a survey that we gave to the ten most recent schools, to determine how having the new schools has impacted life in their communities. The survey will help us determine future expansions and track the growth in the number of children attending school. We hope to publish the survey results on our website after the information is compiled. Most of the communities where we have built new schools have reported increased enrollments, and they would like more classrooms. Visits to other communities on our waiting list reveal that there are still far too many villages that are making do with temporary shelters: walls of straw mats or cornstalks lashed to wooden poles, or the small, dark and stuffy buildings made of mud brick.

Children learning in a temporary classroom.

Children learning in a temporary classroom.

N’Dalen, our next project, is fortunate to be a large village that draws students from nearby communities to its middle school, which has an enrollment of 400+, but they need more concrete classrooms for their grades 1-3, now housed in mud-brick or temporary classrooms. As you can imagine, it is much easier to hire and keep teachers if they have decent, light and airy classrooms in which to teach.

An older classroom in Tabakoro

An older classroom in Tabakoro

All our classrooms meet or exceed government standards, with 5 large windows in each classroom. Contrast the photo below with the one in Tabakoro: the mud-brick walls have large cracks, and the doors and windows are in disrepair. But we also have a request for a new middle school in the large town of M’Pessoba. Middle schools are rare outside the major cities, which means that for most children in rural areas, their education effectively ends with grade 6, unless there is a middle school within walking distance or parents can afford to board their children with friends or relatives in a town that does offer grades 7 through 9. High schools are usually found only in the major towns and cities.

An airy and bright new classroom in Kounfouna

An airy and bright new classroom in Kounfouna

There is no end to the demand – and need – for more schools, and our waiting list keeps growing. The two schools presently under construction should be completed by the end of February, and depending on available funding, we will start construction in N’Dalen by next fall.

Build a School in Africa is a very small organization, but we have managed to raise funds for 19 schools since 2005; N’Dalen will be our 20th. A popular Malian proverb states “Dooni dooni kononi be nyaga da” — “Little by little the bird builds its nest.” Every donation helps, and we thank all our supporters for their generosity.

I ni ce — Thank you! Best wishes for a joyous and healthy year in 2018.

Judy Lorimer, Madou Traore, Abou Coulibaly, and Matt Heberger

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