It’s Sunday afternoon and a group of 40 people form a circle in the courtyard of the town hall in Cinzana Gara, a city located about 30 km from Ségou, Mali. In the middle of the crowd, Seydou Traoré leads a meeting of the School Management Committee.
The committee includes teachers and parents, and discusses solutions to local education issues. Today, the group is discussing keeping girls in school.
The committee listens closely to Mr. Traoré because he is the mayor and a community leader. He uses his position to promote discussions between teachers and parents, and raise awareness about keeping girls in school.
Mr. Traoré believes that girls drop out of school because of lack of awareness and household poverty. He explains: “Most cases of dropping out are encouraged by parents. In particular, it is the mothers who encourage their daughters to leave school to go to work in the big cities as a housekeeper, in order to earn the finances necessary for their future marriage.”
With the support of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, the committee helps women accept the idea of keeping their daughters in school. The women that the NGO supports are called “stock market mothers,” and organizations like EDUCO MALI register the women’s daughters in school. The mothers receive 27,000 FCFA ($49 US) per month. In return, they allow their daughters to continue their education and not do as much housework. Young girls who live far from school are provided with bicycles so that distance does not hamper their education.
Dramane Diallo is the orientation advisor of the Educational Animation Center of Ségou. He estimates that 32% of 7-12 year-old girls in Cinzana Gara are enrolled in school. The rate drops to about 15% for 13-15-year-old girls.
These figures motivated Mr. Traoré to organize awareness-raising sessions for parents. He also set up consultations with community stakeholders, including NGOs, parents, and the School Management Committee.
Mr. Traoré tells the community that every child has the right to education, and that keeping girls in school is one way to ensure that they have a bright future. In turn, the girls can take care of their parents later in life.
He uses radio to share this message, and to inform parents of meetings with the committee. With the help of school principals, the mayor also gives meeting invitations to students to pass on to their parents, or goes door-to-door.
Mr. Traoré explains, “With these methods, we are able to involve parents in our sessions. The sessions convince many parents to let their daughters continue school.”
Now, even parents who don’t attend meetings are interested.
Bernadette Maïga is in charge of girls’ education issues at the Ségou Teaching Academy. She also supports the School Management Committee meetings with Mr. Traoré by sharing testimonials and information with attendees.
Mrs. Maïga approves of the methods used by the School Management Committee. She says: “In several areas, the School Management Committees are not functional and hardly collaborate with parents. [But] using his sessions, Mr. Traoré breaks the ice between teachers and parents, and at the same time, he opens the city to the many partners involved in education.”
Mrs. Maïga invites other cities to follow Mr. Traoré’s example and keep girls in school.
This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada as part of the DEFI project implemented by the consortium of Alinea, Farm Radio International (FRI), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and Education International (EI), in partnership with the Ministry of Education in conflict-affected areas in Mali.
Photo: Sara Frizzell, 2013.