Opening our first school in Mali was a major milestone for Humanity First USA. But for the children of Soruntiguila and the surrounding villages, Bilal Primary School was much more.
Located in a remote area of Mali’s Koulikoro region, Soruntiguila was 15 kilometers from the nearest school. Education was so inaccessible to the villagers that only one woman in the entire village had so much as a sixth grade education — and only because her father could afford to send her to stay with relatives over 30 miles away.
Embracing the Gift of Knowledge
We now have six schools in Mali, but back then, Bilal was the only one school serving eight villages. With no access to transportation, just attending Bilal could be a huge challenge to children in the surrounding villages — but at least it was now possible.
One student who enthusiastically rose to the challenge was Mamadou Goudatou Coulibali. Although the young boy lived 12 miles away in the village of Kalifabougou, he was determined to get an education. One of 9 children, Mamadou knew he had to make the most of an opportunity that his older siblings had never had.
Fortunately, his older sister live near Soruntiguila, and agreed to put him up so that he could be closer to the school.
From Student to Scholar
The school has grown a lot since then. From an initial enrollment of [number], Bilal now serves more than 300 students per year. it was even ranked as the second best school by the regional education department, outranking many schools in more prosperous town centers.
But the growth of Mamadou and children like him has been nothing short of miraculous.
While Bilal school was receiving its award, Mamadou was participating in the “Concours d’Excellence,” a competition for primary school children held by the local education department. Although Mamadou was only in 5th grade at the time, he took the test with hundreds of 6th graders, many with advantages he’d never had. And he came in first in the entire region.
Mamadou is still in school, but through his success he has already given back to his school and his community. Partly as a result of Mamadou’s award, the education department gifted notebooks, curriculum books, and stationary to almost all of the students in the school — a precious gift in a region where many students can’t even afford basic school supplies.
Bringing Education to All Children
Not every Malian child is like Mamadou. Few children anywhere have his gifts, and many still lack the opportunity to participate in school at all, let alone excel as Mamadou has. But through the work and generosity of volunteers and donors like you, we’ve been able to give thousands of children in Mali and around the world the chance to gain an education and build a better future.
We hope you’ll be part of it.