Dear Donors and Friends of the Caravan to Class School for the Tedeini school:
As Executive Director of Caravan to Class, I just returned from a trip to Timbuktu, Mali where I visited Caravan to Class’ first school in the village of Tedeini. Both buildings, the brand new 3 classroom building and the completely renovated 3 classroom building look great! The school recently reopened due to the problems facing Northern Mali mentioned below.
Before I tell you about the school, I would like to update you on the challenges facing Northern Mali. There were a series of kidnapping of foreigners in the town of Timbuktu itself and in the a nearby town. While the Malian Government, at times like to play up the Al Queda link, in order to induce involvement of both the French and US forces, the situation itself if very complex. The biggest change, for the negative on the situation in Northern Mali, was the downfall of the Gadhafi Government in Libya. Gadhafi himself had invested a lot of money in Mali and in Timbuktu in particular. He had a large house in Timbuktu and a few hotels. All are now unoccupied and the Timbuktu government is now waiting for the new Libyan Government to claim them. Long-term, it is good to get Gadhafi’s influences out of Timbutku, but short-term there are challenges.
Many of Gadhafi’s best-trained soldiers were Turage. After the fall of Gadhafi, they loaded up their trucks and left with their arms. These ex-soldiers are well-armed, well-trained, and know the desert well. They created a very combustible situation in the desert and reignited a Tuareg rebel group to take arms against the Malian government to have their own separate state, the Azawad. While there are very legitimate complaints by the Tuareg and others in Northern Mali about the lack of investment in basic necessities like health services, education, and infrastructure, it is only a tiny percentage of the population that is militant. After a few clumsy attempts to attack some villages that the rebels took over, the rebels counter-attacked, killing and beheading many Malian soldiers. This ignited significant ethnic tension between the Tuareg and the Bombara (Mali’s main ethnic group) as far away as Bamako. As a result, many Tuareg fled their villages in the Timbuktu area to Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger and are only now starting to return.
The above challenges, directly lead to the military Coup d’Etat that toppled the Government last week. The military was very unhappy with the support from the government in fighting the rebels. These are challenging times in Mali, previously one of Africa’s most stable governments. However, for Caravan to Class, we view our mission as a long-term one and we continue to move forward.
The above has also impacted the Tedeini school. Many of the families, particularly the “white” Tuareg fled to Burkina Faso and Mauritania as refugees due the fear and perceived risks of ethnic strife between the Bombara and “white” Tuareg, which fortunately has not occurred. Families are said to be on their way back. However, at the moment there were about 40 students, most in the lower grades 1-3. I was able to be there during the daily lesson for each grade (1-6) put out over the entire country via radio, roughly 20 minutes per grade. We have a good director at the school Abdoulaye, and the students seem to be learning but there is a long way to go. Caravan to Class is in this for the long-term and our challenge, once families come back to the area, is to put in place a strategy and programs to be sure all children in the village are coming to school, that there is equal access for girls, and that the children are on track to be literate by the end of the 6th grade. We are determined to achieve this.
Please find enclosed pictures and a link to a short video of one of the classes at Tedeini.
Executive Director, Caravan to Class