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