The children are students of the École Chérifoula private school - a primary school - in the SansFil slum of Bamako. The students were recommended for promotion by their teachers based on their diligence, academic achievement, and family circumstances. We have been working with the school since 2014.
The school system in Mali follows a 6-3-3 division, of which 6-3 is part of basic education.
In principle first graders start at the age of 7, but often only when the family has money for school. The language of education is French, which is the first challenge the children face as they speak almost exclusively their tribal languages when they enter school. Thus, the first years are spent essentially with language learning, where the child has to learn not only the curriculum but also the related language. In the first 6 years, the maximum score is 10. In the first, second and third grades the subjects are mathematics and French (which corresponds to our reading subject), in the fourth and fifth grades they also study civics (including the rules of coexistence, morals and etiquette) as well as environmental studies (biology), geography and history.
At the end of the 6th grade the children take the CEP (Certificate de Fin d'Etudes du Premier Cycle) exam,. Those who successfully pass the exam may continue their studies at the upper grades (nearly 1/3 of the children drop out of education at this time). Those who pass, continue their studies in the same school, but already as a quasi-"lower secondary school". In 7th-9th grades the maximum score is 20. In addition to the subjects studied, they also study physics, chemistry and English.
At the end of the 9th grade they take a second exam, the DEF exam (Diplome d’Etudes Fondamentales), which, if passed, allows them to continue their studies at a secondary school of their choice but designated by the ministry on the basis of the exam results.
Conditions for joining and staying in the program:
1st-6th grade: the minimum average of 6 (excellent: 10)
7th-9th grade: the minimum average of 11 (excellent: 20)
We send the sponsors on a quarterly basis school reports showing that the child has attended school , including the results he or she has accomplished, bringing letters written by the children, small gifts during our visits, and reporting on any events affecting the child.