2013 Passports with Purpose Goal: raise $115,000 for buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, Africa.
For more than two decades buildOn has mobilized rural villages in some of the poorest countries on the planet to build more than 500 schools. buildOn constructs schools in Mali, Malawi, Senegal, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Nepal where school construction and educating children are vital components to long-term economic growth and sustainability. Research shows there would be a 12% drop in global poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.
Strong outcomes can be achieved by educating adults as well. Research shows that women’s education is responsible for half of the decline in the child mortality rate in sub-Saharan African over the last 40 years. Men and women with a primary education are 1.5 more times more likely to support democracy than people without an education. And with every year of education attained, a country’s chances of falling into civil war are reduced.
buildOn in Mali
The 5th poorest country in the world according to the UN’s Human Development Index, Mali also suffers from one of the globe’s lowest literacy rates at 31.1% and only 20.3% for females.
buildOn constructs schools in Sikasso, the southernmost region of Mali, 200 miles south of the capital Bamako. To date, buildOn has completed nearly 200 schools in the region. More than 24,000 children attend buildOn schools in Mali on an annual basis. Villagers in Mali have contributed 513,000 volunteer work days helping to build their schools, often helped by buildOn Afterschool Program students from the United States or buildOn “Ambassadors” who have funded the school.
Steadfast in their commitment to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in Mali, buildOn has sustained their school construction program in the country amidst the current civil unrest north of the capital. They have continued building and all of buildOn’s schools and staff members have remained intact and safe since early 2012 when the Islamist attacks began. This highly-charged situation further underscores the need for education in Mali for children and adults alike.
Among the countries buildOn works in, we have seen the greatest increases in female enrollment in Mali. In a 2007 survey of buildOn schools in Mali, 37% of students were girls. Today, 43% of students attending buildOn primary schools in Mali are girls. Having schools located as close as possible to home with the availability of clean sanitation is critical for achieving an increased rate of female enrollment.
buildOn is designed to educate girls and boys in equal numbers and empower both women and men to make change in their communities, including the following strategies:
- Project Leadership Committee: Each school construction project is led by a committee of 12 community members, 6 women and 6 men, who guide the project.
- Volunteer Work Days: Both men and women help construct the schools.
- Girls Enrollment: Each member of the community signs a buildOn Covenant before the construction of the school begins. For many women, it is the first time they are asked to sign a document. The majority of the community members in Mali sign with a fingerprint as they are not literate. The covenant outlines their participation in the project and that they agree to send their girls to school in equal numbers to boys.
- Adult Literacy Program: In the same school children attend by day, buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program provides fundamental numeracy and literacy skills as well as new knowledge about nutrition, family planning and income generating activities. In each class, 60 students, half of whom are women, spend the first six months learning to read, write and do basic math through the lens of health, agriculture and relevant life skills. Participants then put these skills to test through income generating activities. The Adult Literacy Program is delivered by two educated villagers selected by buildOn for our facilitator-training program, in which they engage in a 4-day intensive program about how to teach adults to read and write. The two facilitators receive a monthly stipend to teach the adults six nights per week over an 18-month period (villagers take school breaks during farming and holiday seasons). The Adult Literacy Program creates opportunities for empowerment and wealth building among its participants, at least half of whom are women. buildOn is proud of their 85% completion rate and that 100% of the men and women who graduate from the Adult Literacy Program leave knowing how to read, write and do basic math.