Schools reopen in Timbuktu, Gao
A WEEK after Islamist groups fled, pupils have returned to schools in Timbuktu and Gao, both region hitherto held by rebels in Northern Mali,
Teachers claimed about half of school pupils fled the troubled region when Islamist groups took over much of the North and shut down many public schools, dismantled the curricula and forced some children to to enrol in Koranic schools.
“You cannot imagine the joy I felt in returning to this classroom,” said a director of Timbuktu’s main primary school, Coulibaly Ami Doucaré.
She abandoned the school last April when Timbuktu was taken over by Islamist group – Ansar Dine.
“It’s important we save this school year. We’ll do everything we can to catch up, even if we have to study on Sundays,” she said, appealing to all teachers who fled to return.
A campaign to recruit volunteer primary school teachers has signed up 12 so far.
Aminata Touré, a student in the 9th class, told IRIN: “First of all, I feel like I’ve been let out of prison. I can walk around town, I can dress as I like – look, I’m wearing jeans. My second joy is that I have been reunited with my classmates, my friends, my teachers and my school-books.
“I thought the school year was ruined, but now I will be able to pass my diploma and go to the lycée next year.”
Most Timbuktu pupils have lost at least four months of the school year.
Governor of Timbuktu Region, Mamadou Mangara, encouraged parents to help repair schools so that all can reopen.
Many schools were destroyed in Timbuktu and Gao, with tables and benches looted or damaged.
Education network – Education For All and local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) – Cri de Coeur, have ordered 100 school desks and benches, as well as notebooks and pens to be distributed to schools in the north, said Cri de Coeur President, Almahady Cissé.
Half of the 5,000 students at the Teaching Academy of Timbuktu have fled to Central and Southern Mali or to neighbouring countries, according to a teacher, Mamadou Camara.
The Ministry of Education estimated that 10,000 displaced children from the North had no access to education at the end of 2012.
In Gao yesterday, girls and boys made their way to public and private schools.
Gao is the largest town in Northern Mali which was deserted under Jihadist rule by many of its 70 000 residents.
At a primary school in the Eastern Aljanabandia District, “about 600 pupils” out of a normal attendance of more than 1,100 children turned up, its headmaster Abdou Cisse told AFP.