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UNICEF Gears Up to Help More Than 500,000 Displaced Malian Children Return to School

NEW YORK (September 3, 2013) – With the new school year in Mali starting on October 1, UNICEF is scaling up efforts to provide access to education  to half a million children displaced  by the conflict, seasonal flooding and a nutrition crisis. Alongside its partners, UNICEF is mobilizing teachers and parents to get children back to school in safe environments.

Across Mali, about 9,000 teachers will undergo training during the 2013-2014 academic year. In addition, temporary learning spaces will be set up while damaged schools are rehabilitated. About 15,000 of the pupils will sit in classrooms with new desks.

“This school year in Mali has to be different from last one, and we need to make every effort to have children back to school,” said Francoise Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Mali. “This is a critical moment. Less than a month after the election, Malian people are very keen on rebuilding their country and returning to their normal lives. They know education is the cornerstone of this reconstruction process. What is a more visible sign of things going back to normal than a girl and a boy walking to school in the morning?”

According to the Ministry of Education, an estimated 800,000 children in Mali have had their education disrupted. Displaced children, fleeing conflict in the North of Mali, have put more strain on an already weak educational system.

In 2013, UNICEF needs some $21 million to meet the immediate educational needs of Malian children living in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger. As of July 2013, only 38 percent of this funding has been received. In Mali, specifically, only 27 percent of the $12 million funding for emergency education has been received.

Additional funds are urgently needed to ensure children in Mali have continued access to a quality education.  The funding shortfall may undermine the ability of UNICEF and its partners to support the Ministries of Education in their efforts to encourage school attendance and retention.

Francoise Ackermans visited schools in Gao, in northeastern Mali, where 168 children were sitting on the floor in one classroom. “In the North, many schools have been looted and children have often no other option but to sit on the floor during class. More than half of the schools in Timbuktu and Gao are still in need of teaching, learning and recreational materials, including notebooks and desks,” she said.

“My first day of school last year, I was very happy. But now we have nothing,” said Aminata, 12, from Timbuktu. “The fear is gone but we have a lot of concerns. Classes are there, I have many classmates that have stayed and that came to school but we have nothing. The UNICEF notebooks are not enough for us. I like to be with my classmates. I like the tap in the courtyard because you can get drinking water. Our school is very old. I would like my school to get modernized. I want UNICEF to stay with us at school.’’

At the refugee camps in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger, UNICEF is also working with governments and other partners to provide 42,973 Malian children with access to formal and informal education. In Mauritania alone, 7,166 refugee children received formal and informal education, with nearly 70 percent of these children successfully passing their exams at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Throughout the summer, about 4,900 school-aged refugee children were expected to attend catch-up courses.  UNICEF also helped bring together the Ministries of Education from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania to ensure the integration of refugee students in their school systems, which will enable these children  to more easily continue school once they return to Mali.


About UNICEF

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org

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