I admit it; I loved school as a kid. I'd play it cool at the end of the summer and pretend to dread the coming school year like everyone else, but secretly I couldn't wait to meet my new teacher, get my new textbooks…and don't even get me started on the joys of school supplies.
So when I think about the 77 million students who should be in primary school but aren't, I am saddened. I am also angry at the leaders across the globe who have failed millions of children and blatantly wasted resources that could have put this generation on the path out of poverty. I am outraged at the systematic exclusion of girls from educational opportunities. But I am just sad to think that millions of bright, talented children don't have the chance to discover their favorite book, ace a math test, whisper to their best friend or dread gym class.
And that's why each kid who starts school with CARE's help lights a little spark of delight within me. I met a girl named Hawa in Mali who is top student in her community's brand new school. This community is so remote, "the middle of nowhere" doesn't begin to explain it. And there has never been a school here. For generations, kids have been "hangin' out," helping their parents and biding their time until they are old enough – say 12 or 13 – to leave home or get married. With no school, there were just no other options. But today it's different. Hawa said, "Studying at school opens the world to us. Our world was closed before, and school is opening it for us."
Hawa's childhood couldn't be more different from mine. But I could tell she loves school every bit as much as I did.
Hawa, 15, the top student at her community's first school ever in Monobondo, Mali. Â©2007 ValendaCampbell/CARE
I am proud to have that in common with her.
Hawa's class. Â©2007 ValendaCampbell/CARE
Hawa's school is supported by the Development Education for Girl's Empowerment(DEGE) project,
which offers education opportunities for students - primarily girls - who have missed out on basic schooling.
The goal, in rural communities, is to curb migration to Bamako by offering education and vocational
training relevant to local context. The curriculum is progressive, focusing on gender equality and rights,
and all teachers are trained in child-centered active learning techniques.
Chart showing a breakdown of the students at Monobondo school by gender and age. The Monobondo
school has 28 female students and 12 male students, ranging from 12-15 years old. Â©2007 ValendaCampbell/CARE