“Since I’ve gone to school, my life has changed…”
Here is an interview recently conducted by Fatoumata Coulibaly, the president of our sister organization in Mali, with Awa Coulibaly (no relation).
Translated by Sophie C., Bethesda Chevy Chase HS School Girls Unite member
I was born in 1998 in Sanandjè (located about 75 km from the capital city of Bamako). I started receiving scholarships in 2005, thanks to Les Filles Unies and SGU. My parents didn’t have the money to send me to school so this scholarship allowed me to have access to an education. It was a lucky opportunity for me to go to school. Thank God since I started school, I haven’t had to repeat one class between my 1st and 9th year.
My father died as I was taking an exam (during my 9th year in 2013). It was a very difficult time for me. I will never forget that day. I was living in Warala at my grandmother’s in order to pursue my studies. My father had always pushed and encouraged me to continue with my studies. My older brother wanted me to get married but my father didn’t agree. He was a great supporter of me and my schooling.
During the second cycle (7th, 8th, and 9th year) the only problem I had was that some teachers with bad intentions wanted to sully me. I don’t know why, but I fought it because my hope was to follow my studies, to move forward, to finish that second cycle. [Les Filles Unies reported Awa’s situation to the regional school district authorities which helped to stop this sexual harassment.]
I can say that after experiencing both primary and secondary school, there’s a difference because you recognize the importance of education in these upper grades classes. And right after lower secondary school, you go to high school and it’s located in a large city (Bamako) so you have to obtain the DEF: Diplôme d’étude Fondamentale.[One reason why the majority of girls in Mali never advance this far is they have to pass this entrance exam for upper secondary school.]
After passing my DEF, I went to live with my older sister in Dialakorodji (near Bamako) to continue my studies—my sister didn’t go to school and her life is very difficult. Our home is located in a neighborhood far away from the city.
Djiguiya de Dialakorodji is the name of my school. It includes a high school and a technical school. I chose the technical school to study to become a secretary because I would like to be the secretary of an office. I have to study four years after the DEF to qualify to be a secretary—it is called BT2. Going to high school would be too complicated—I would have to get my baccalaureate and it would not be easy for me, and then there would be university. I am not in a situation that would allow me to go to university. No means of transportation or food, I can’t pursue long studies.
I am calling on the Education Ministry and the people in power to improve the education system, especially in rural areas where we need more classes and we at least need more higher level schools. For example, I went to a primary school in Sanandjè, then had to move to my grandmother’s in Warala for secondary school, and afterwards to my sister’s for technical high school. Most of the students give up on school because of this sort of problem and lack of opportunity.
All I can say to Les Filles Unies and School Girls Unite is that they have to go on with their program of sponsorship because kids in the rural areas need that help to get the opportunity to go to school. You give us what we need for school: backpacks, books, journals, etc. You provide for every girl you sponsor, you pay for their school year. What you do for us is amazing, our parents don’t have to worry anymore about our schooling and the things we need.
I thank the FU/SGU very much for sending me to school. Without them I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. Since I’ve gone to school my life has changed. Being educated is very important. I am respected, I see things differently than someone who has no schooling. My education has helped me understand many things in life.
Thanks to my education my life has changed for the better, I have come out of the darkness. Thank you so much to Les Filles Unies & School Girls Unite, God bless you.