Photos of the new middle school classrooms in Kintieri, Mali

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Thanks to keen readers who notified us that our Finance page was out of date.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.

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

New School in 2009: Mounkonkoro, Mali

Judy Lorimer from Build a School in Africa visited Mali in November with our annual contribution to help build our 5th school. Save the Children hosted a ceremony on November 18th to lay the first brick for a new elementary school in the village of Mounkonkoro. Our project this year was helped greatly by the Binnie family from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Their two sons, Adam and Dylan, with their Dad Bill’s support, raised $10,000 this summer. This donation, plus the $9,000 raised by Build a School In Africa, will provide about 2/3 of the funding for the new school building.

Mounkonkoro is a village northwest of Sikasso, populated by the members of the Senufo ethnic group. Last year Save the Children built one three-room school in the village, and this year we are adding 3 more classrooms, so they will have a complete primary school for grades 1 – 6. At the Binnie’s request, the new school will be named for Christine Laidlaw.

Welcome to Mounkonkoro

Welcome to Mounkonkoro, site of our 5th school – in partnership with Save the Children and the Binnie family of Portsmouth, NH

Mounkonkoro 2

Senufo Balafon players

High-tech transport

High-tech transport for sacks of cement

Mounkonkoro 4

The school foundation is dug with pick & shovel

Mounkonkoro 5

Cinder blocks for the new school. The first school building is in the background, for grades 4, 5, and 6. The new school will house grades 1, 2, and 3.

Mounkonkoro 6

Grinding millet in Sintani, using smooth stones to crush the grains

Mounkonkoro 7

Fulani women in Sintani

Mounkonkoro 8

Build a School in Africa volunteer Judy Lorimer with Assetou Diarra, her new sponsored child.