A volunteer-run, non-profit organization, since 2005 we have built over 30 schools in deserving communities in Mali, West Africa. Explore our website to learn more about the schools and how you can help us build more!
It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Build a School in Africa Director Judy Lorimer passed away in June.
Judy was a dear friend and we will miss her tremendously. Judy was with Build a School in Africa since its earliest days, first as a mentor to high school students raising money for charity in 2002, then making the organization “official,” and serving as director for over 20 years. Judy visited Mali many times over the years, and, as a former teacher herself, loved visiting the villages and meeting the teachers and schoolchildren. You can read Judy’s obituary at legacy.com.
Here is a touching remembrance from a friend and fellow African dancer, reprinted with permission:
The organization’s Board met on July 15, 2023, and asked Matthew Heberger, volunteer and long-time webmaster, to serve as acting director. Our priority is to finish building the school that is under construction in Diassidian, Mali, and to ensure that all funds the organization has received are used for their intended purpose — building schools in deserving communities in West Africa. If you have any questions or concerns, please be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last month, we began construction of our 32nd school in the village of Diassidian, Mali (pronounced Jah-see-janh). We usually don’t start construction until we have all the funds needed, but our project managers Abou and Madou wanted to get the construction materials purchased and delivered before the rainy season begins and the dirt roads turn into axle-deep mud. So far, we have spent $12,000, but we still need another $4,000 USD to finish the school.
We need your help! Please consider making a donation to help finish building the new elementary school building in Diassidian.
All of our schools are a partnership with the local community, where we provide building materials like steel and cement, and pay the tradesman. In turn, the village provides sand and gravel and contributes labor.
The team is working fast to get as much done as possible with the funds on hand. They have already accomplished a great deal!
Great news! A donation by a group of high school students in Massachusetts puts us close to being able to build our 32nd school (!).
Lincoln-Sudbury High School in Massachusetts. Photo by John Phelan.
The Africa Club at Lincoln-Sudbury High School recently sent us $2,100. Last year, the club raised most of the funding for a new elementary school at Zangabougou, Mali.
That puts us within $3,000 of our next 2-room school. An additional $11,000 for would build a block of 3 classrooms. The next community on our waiting list is the village of Diassidian. We’d love for you to help us make that possible! Click Contribute to find out how easy it is.
Remember that, in addition to the funding we provide, communities make significant contributions to building schools, by providing sand, gravel, and labor. The new buildings often replace old mud-brick schoolrooms that are dark and dusty and require constant maintenance.
We are happy to announce that BSA celebrated our Twentieth Anniversary in 2022. By the end of the year, we will have built 31 schools — 30 more than our original goal of helping to build just one!
New Middle School in Kintieri, completed in January 2022
Class in session in Kintieri
In January, 2022, we finished a middle school in the village of Kintieri, Mali. The school was funded by a couple from Australia, and coordinated with the Ripple Foundation. We managed some successful calls over Zoom to share progress reports. Coordinating meetings in Bamako and Sikasso with time zones in Massachusetts and Australia was a bit of a challenge!
New middle school in Tentoubougou
In mid-March, our joint project with Mali Rising was completed in the community of Tentoubougou. BSA contributed some cash, plus the construction expertise of our partners Abou Coulibaly and Madou Traore; the rest of the funding from Mali Rising came through a family foundation in Utah which has built several other schools for BSA in previous years. Most of our schools have been located in rural areas, but the Tentoubougou school is on the busy north-south highway between Bamako and Bougouni. Children will no longer have to cross the highway to get to their classes, which had presented a safety issue.
Our 30th school, a two-classroom building in Gagnobougou, was completed in May 2022. The school has about 150 pupils with 5 teachers. The old mud-brick classrooms did not meet the current government standards.
The old school in Gagnobougou
New classrooms in Gagnobougou – a big improvement!!
Many schools in Mali are still made with mud bricks, and the rooms tend be small, dark, and stuffy, and vulnerable to collapse during heavy rains. All our schools are made from durable concrete blocks, with 5 large windows and roof vents in each classroom, for adequate light and ventilation.
In early August I got an e-mail from a Canadian resident, inquiring about the cost of building school. He and his fiancée were interested in becoming involved. I’m very happy to report that, as a result of their gift, a new middle school is becoming a reality in Nankorola; in fact it’s almost finished.
The funding was in place by early September, and even though it was the middle of harvest time, he villagers wasted no time in gathering the materials, digging the foundations, and readying the site for the construction crews. By the middle of November, they were putting on the roof. It should be finished well before the end of the year and ready for the students when school starts again after the holiday break.
Construction of the new school in Nankorola, begun in the Fall of 2022
By November 2022, the new school in Nankorola was nearly complete, ready for the second term in January.
Future projects There are at least two communities on our waiting list: Diassidian, near the city of Koutiala, and Sanonobougou. Fortunately, there are two major fund-raising projects in progress – a fast food restaurant in Australia and a school in California. Both have set the goal of raising enough to build in both villages, and some recent generous donations may make a third school possibility in 2023 . We are grateful for the generosity of our supporters, and every donation helps.
Here’s wishing you a Happy holidays and a joyful and healthy New Year!
– Judy Lorimer, Madou Traore, Abou Coulibaly, and Matthew Heberger
Dear friends and supporters, here are a few photos of the three new classrooms completed last month. Construction was completed just in time before the rainy season, when villagers are busy in the fields planting and tending crops, and when the mud makes construction activities difficult.
Staff and students in front of the new middle school classrooms in Kintieri
The new middle school in Kintieri is our 28th school-building project in Mali. The village of Kintieri has had a primary school since the 1980s which is supported by the community members. There has also been a middle school since 1993, with 3 classrooms built by the community. However, the old schoolrooms did not meet government standards for classroom size and was too small for the number of children passing to grade 7. To continue their education beyond grade 6, children had to move to M’Pessoba, at 30 kilometers from home; or Koutiala 75 km, or Bla at 40 km.
The old school office was shared by the two schools and the only latrine had to be shared with children and teachers. Today, the middle school has three new bright and airy classrooms to accommodate grades 7, 8, and 9, plus new office/storage rooms and latrines.
We are happy to report that Build a School in Africa is alive and well! We have carried on with raising money and building schools despite the pandemic and the recent political turmoil in Mali.
Thanks to keen readers who notified us that our Finance page was out of date. For a snapshot of our income and expenses, you can also look up our profile at Guidestar, an organization that tracks charities and reports on their finances and management. As an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff, nearly 100% of the contributions we receive goes toward building new schools.
Since 2005, we have built at least one new school every year in Mali, West Africa. In addition to our regular fundraising activities, we have received extraordinary support from individuals, schools, and small foundations and businesses. Consider making a donation today to support education in West Africa.
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!
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.
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 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.