"I didn't have the chance to go to school when I was younger because I was sick all the time and the school is about 6km from our village,” explains 12-year-old Alama who like many other girls in Mali has had her education interrupted by COVID-19.
Due to the long distance and cost of getting to school each day, many parents in Alama’s village are reluctant to send their young children to school. In total, 24 children (11 girls and 13 boys) aged 6 to 12 years old were out of school, including Alama.
So Alama was very excited when Plan International opened an accelerated learning centre in her community. The PASS+ project helps children who are out-of-school catch up with their peers so they can transfer to the primary school system.
“At home I used to help my mother with cleaning. I washed my little brothers and sisters' clothes. I also did the dishes. But with the opening of the centre in our village, my father did not hesitate to enroll me. I was very happy because I was very envious of other children who had the chance to go to school,” Alama explains.
Plan International and the Strømme Foundation launched the PASS+ project in West Africa with the goal of seeing over 180,000 children back in the classroom. In partnership with Educate A Child, the project aims to provide the Speed School model of education for children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
However, after just six months of classes, the learning centre in Alama’s village was closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. “We were told that the centre was going to be closed because of an illness. That day, I lost all hope and became sad," she recalls.
Now back at home, Alama is once again helping her mother with the household chores and looking after her younger siblings, but recently she received a home learning pack from the centre. "A few months later, to my great surprise, they brought us some booklets that we can use at home with the support of our facilitator while waiting for classes to resume.”
Alama and 1,252 other young students from 46 PASS+ centres in the country have each received a learning pack which aims to support the children’s education, as well as raise awareness about the prevention and protection measures against COVID-19.
By using the booklets at home, along with regular visits by the facilitator to help her with her schoolwork, Alama has not fallen behind with her studies and is at a comparable level to other children her age. “After the closure of the center because of coronavirus, I had lost hope because of my age. But today, I have a second chance to continue my learning.”
The COVID-19 awareness messages in the booklet have also helped Alama and her family stay safe. "Thanks to the booklet, I have also learnt a lot about the virus and the visits by the facilitator have helped me to understand things better.”
“I am very happy to be registered at the centre. I had given up all hope of studying but I will now do everything I can to continue my studies at the primary school after I leave the center.” Alama says. “I'm in a real hurry for our centre to open again.”