With two thirds of its land desert or semi-desert, Mali is one of
the twenty five poorest countries in the world with some 80% of
its population engaged in subsistence farming and 10% leading a
According to recent
data four out of five adults are illiterate which naturally
hampers employment opportunities. As such, education is seen as a
priority for the country, however many children in Mali have no
access to schools at all, and those who do find themselves in
classrooms of over one hundred children often without tables and
chairs or even books and pens which all cost despite the education
itself being free.
In 2009 it was estimated
that some 900,000 children aged 7-12yrs did not attend school out of a total
child population in Mali of some 6,507,000.
Although the situation is improving as the government builds more schools,
one of the biggest problems is an acute lack of teachers as adults have
simply not been trained to do the job and the high levels of illiteracy
amongst the population has compounded the problem further.
There is currently an estimated shortage of qualified 45,000 teachers in the
country. As with other impoverished countries with poor health records, many
Mali kids people drop out of school to provide care or work to supplement
the meagre family income. Some Mali school children attend residential
Koranic schools mainly at the insistence of their fathers who not only want
them schooled in Islamic tradition but also because of poverty and an
inability to provide for their children. Many of these children end up
begging on the streets which is seen by the schools as an integral part of
their religious instruction.
Those who do attend school in Mali (about 49.3%
of girls and 64.1% of boys despite it being compulsory between the ages of
7-16yrs) are tested weekly and have shared boy/girl classes where they stay
with teachers moving from classroom to classroom with the school year
running from September to the following June. Elementary education last for six years at the end of which
children undertake the Malian primary school completion
Those who pass enter the second three year
cycle of education (junior high school) from grade 7 to grade 9.
At this point English gets taught as a foreign language and
successful students are awarded the Diplôme d'Etudes
Fondamentales (DEF.) Those who remain in school then
progress to senior high school or vocational/technical schools
at the end of which a Baccalaureate is awarded; the key to