CALLAHAN, Florida — Mali Rising Foundation, established in 2004, is an organization dedicated to providing education to middle school students in the country of Mali. In 2022, Mali placed third in the world for the lowest-ranked education systems and adult literacy rates. Mali Rising Foundation is working to change that by providing quality education to children in Mali.
The Education Crisis in Mali
As of 2018, the average literacy rate in Mali for people aged 15 and older is 35%, making Mali one of the least literate countries in the world. Furthermore, the gross enrollment ratio for primary school is 75%, but that percentage drops to 41% for students enrolled in secondary education. It is notable that more males are enrolled in school than females by a significant amount. In 2018, the number of female children out of school stood at more than 711,000 in comparison to more than 631,000 males. These numbers are only increasing, as in the year prior, Mali noted about 566,000 female children out of school and about 465,000 out-of-school male children.
Many factors contribute to the lack of available education in Mali, such as “household poverty, child labor, child marriage, insecurity and a lack of schools close to children’s homes.” The lack of qualified teachers also plays a role. In addition, poor quality education gives parents less of an incentive to send their children to school. In 2010, Mali estimated that 35% of Malian children who complete primary school would not meet the requirements for secondary education. Even then, private secondary education and vocational schooling can cost up to $500 a year, which is almost half of the average annual salary in Mali, $1,260 per year in 2022.
Mali Rising Foundation chooses to focus on giving an education to children in Mali because the country is home to a plethora of languages, ethnic groups and cultures. In 1960, Mali gained independence from France, but the country struggled deeply until the 1990s.
For a few decades, Mali stood as a stable country noting economic and social progress, until 2012, when a coup in the northern part of the country resulted in widespread conflict. The government has regained control since then, but terrorist attacks still happen throughout the country.
Improving education will kickstart the change Mali needs as more education will result in more development across the country improving the workforce, economy, health care system and overall government. “Mali faces an enormous challenge when it comes to developing the teachers, farmers, doctors, politicians and other leaders necessary to build a stable and prosperous future,” the organization says on its website. With conflict throughout the country, it is vital that the youth receive an education in hopes of changing their country’s future.
In the last several decades, education has improved for primary school students, but most do not make it to secondary school, which is why Mali Rising Foundation focuses on middle school education. With each added year of attending secondary school, a student’s income will rise by 10%-20% in the future. With every added year of a student attending school, the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) “will increase by nearly half a percent,” which strengthens the economy overall. In addition, higher numbers of middle school students will also contribute to the safety of Mali. Research indicates that “for each 10[%] increase in a country’s middle school enrollment, the risk of war decreases by 3[%].”
Mali Rising Foundation’s Programs
- School Access Program: The overall goal is to increase easy access to safe and sustainable schools for children while maintaining Mali Rising Foundation’s current schools. Mali Rising has already provided 23 schools within walking distance of children’s remote southern villages. The organization continues to partner with villages in constructing new schools and continuing the schools already established. Three of the organization’s schools even use solar panels to keep the classrooms lit and functional during the evening. The organization is looking into new ways to incorporate solar technology into schools to bring light into classrooms at a lower cost.
- Ensuring Quality Education Program: The overall goal of this program is “Strengthening [Mali Rising Foundation’s] schools’ educational efforts to deliver real results for Mali’s children’s futures.” To ensure quality education, Mali Rising provides “annual teacher training and peer group support, textbooks and other learning tools, health and hygiene training, and much more,” the organization said on its website. Another program has stemmed from this initiative: the Girls Project. This pilot program is working to enroll more girls into school, retain them in school and help them acquire skills and knowledge to improve their lives. This project is important because 55% of girls attend primary school, but that number drops remarkably to 23% for girls in secondary school.
- The Inspiration Program: The overall goal is to support students who dream of continuing their education past the ninth grade. Mali Rising focuses on middle school students, but the goal is for students to keep expanding their education. The Inspiration Program is a form of programming to show students the value of education and it gives scholarships that help outstanding students proceed to high school or vocational training. The Youth Ambassadors project engages U.S. high school students in helping Mali Rising students through “outreach, service and fundraising.”
Since Mali Rising Foundation’s founding, more than 13,000 children have received access to quality education, a number that will only increase as the organization works with more villages and children. Mali Rising Foundation plays an essential role in access to education, which benefits not just students but communities at large.
– Dylan Olive