Life goes on in Mali. It is the dry season so 100-degree heat and no rain expected until April or May. Water and food are always in short supply. Ebola is a real concern even in Koro, far away from the capital where the few cases have occurred. And yet, life goes on. Just like life in the US really. The challenges are different but stress and fear and sorrow are universal.
And yet, so are joy and community and laughter. At Grace school things seem to be taken in stride. Safe practices and practical information concerning Ebola are now taught in biology class at all levels. Rather than a hug and a handshake, people for now greet each other by crossing their hands on their chest. The 78 children are learning and thriving. Their faith and trust in God is growing as well. Education and faith will carry them far as these children start local businesses, become community leaders and work to make their corner of the world a better place.
The partnership between Grace school and those in the US that care for these children is dependent on our prayers and financial donations. The new school will begin construction as soon as the land situation is finalized. Ibrahima continues to carefully negotiate, ensuring that we get the best location and enough land to eventually build the nine classrooms. The money for the first phase of the school has been raised and set aside. The school still has monthly expenses however and your ongoing support isneeded. As we cover the monthly expenses any extra will be put into the building fund as we start to plan the second phase of construction.
Please remember Grace school on #GivingTuesday and throughout the Christmas season. You may donate by using the PayPal button on this blog site or by sending a check to Grace Missions.
Greetings from Koro!
Thank you for your prayers. We have acknowledged that you are all praying for us.
Now is the season for the crops to come home. Many families go to their farms to harvest and take home on donkey carts everything they have been harvesting during the day. Tradition here recommends in this season, giving in secret some crops to those who haven’t been able to farm because of sickness or to the widows or orphans. Recently the government has taken this tradition to name the month of October, “the Month of Solidarity” to pay visits to the elders and some disadvantaged families in the city of Bamako.
In a situation of fear and suspicion from everywhere and everyone, what we had heard from so far is getting very near to us after deadly cases of Ebola in Mali these days. So many daily practices and cultural behaviors that we share including drinking from the same cup, the communal city or village wells, friendly hand shake greetings, the chaotic overloaded public transportation, visiting patients, very disorganized and short handed health centers are all making it difficult to think of strict health preventions against this frightening deadly disease. In Mali Bamako is everywhere, in the sense of everyone goes there all of the time and every town depends somehow on Bamako for main business. So far everyone is Ebola free in Koro. We are teaching safe practices and we are hoping to intensify it because of the emergency these times.
On November 7th the school was highly shaken by the falling down of one student, Mariam Marico a 9th grader, during class hours. The faith of all students and teachers has never been that challenged. I was in the high school. Rachel called for emergency, asking me to come right now. Students and teachers gathered around Mariam Mariko to pray and call divine healing on her. Everyone student, Christian or not, at the school prayed loud in the name of Jesus Christ. Students urged the pastor to be called. With phone call we asked the local clinic to come and see the student and take her to the clinic. Many tests and analyses have shown that she suffers from heart disease. She stayed 4 days at the clinic and now she is doing better and is back to school. According to her parents she had this disease for many years now and used to fall down that way.
To request an equal treatment with teachers in the cities and advancement of the teachers who haven’t been upgraded since their enrollment from 2006, the local public school teachers went on strike for 72 hours and many courses were boycotted. The situation has calmed down now.
Students have many times complained because many fail their exams. The result for last year was alarming in the public high school of Koro as shown in this table:
Those failures have many explanations including poor elementary and middle school studies, overcrowded classes sizes, lack of suitable place to stay in Koro during their high school. Most of the students have no light to read at night and books to read.
By the help of God we can count only two Grace former students among those who failed. Most of our former students are in the science classes where only the best were accepted. I could never be prouder of them. Let’s keep them in our prayers.
Recently there is a popular practice of sending the kids to Quran schools. For each kid sent to the Quran schools the parents will get 5kg of sugar during Ramadan, fasting month of the Muslim once a year. This seducing method is working well because of the poverty and blinding ignorance. Indeed 1kg of sugar costs 500 F cfa and this is about $1 US. In conclusion the lives of those children are sacrificed because of a gift of $5 a year.
With a local Christian Organization named AEDM we had three nights campaign in some villages around Koro, to promote sending kids to school. The projector is the key as we project videos to teach the villagers about the benefit of schooling their kids.
Bible reading and prayers are well appreciated both by parents and students. We are thinking of changing the Bible version we are using now because of many questions the students ask as they read through. There is a simpler version, easier for beginners to understand, like the Good News version.
Please know that you all are real life saving support to us and that knowing that we have your support strengthens us for the challenges we face.
Thank you and God bless you!
Greetings from Koro!
It is Tabaski season so everything had to pause; even the negotiation of peace in northern Mali did not make an exception. The Tabaski season impacts every aspect of life. School starting was postponed one week. One thing is most important - get your lamb for the Tabaski !!! Bamako streets were jammed by sheep. The means don’t matter: buy, borrow, win a lottery or in the extreme case, even steal; all that seems to matter is to get the lamb. One lamb to honor the family’s devotion to the Muslim religion, for the family to look like the others the whole year. In some families, the skin of the animal is kept and used as a prayer mat. Tradition is to imitate Abraham in offering a sacrifice to God.
(You may read more about Tabaski here. It is the biggest festival every year in Mali. The date changes depending on the lunar calendar: )
Tabaski info link
School is starting very slowly due to the fact that people are coming from Tabaski feast and you hear the refrain “There is no more money to face other expenses after Tabaski” when they are asked to buy uniforms or pay tuition.
We have started this school year with 78 students including 28 newcomers so far and we are hoping for more as people see the new changes and improvements we plan to make.
My second week in Koro is ending. So many things still need to be done when I look at my “Made in U.S.A to do list”- a list that I had made during my six week stay while thinking of the work I want to get done here in very short term; however I thank God for the little I was able to do by His grace.
My first activities have been to finish repairing the benches; remaking the 3 grass walled classes that we will use for first, second and third grades; test, interview and hire some new teachers; and time tables for the teachers and students; parents and teachers meeting; exploring possibility of buying adjacent land to the land we have etc…
We had the first teachers meeting which allowed us to debate openly some changes including: extra student care to help the challenged students, the uniform requirement from 1st of November; teacher uniforms and the Grace Student Day preparation. The increase in salary was well appreciated. In return of the praise we gave to the teachers for good work during the past year, the teachers on return openly congratulated the administration for faithfully paying them.
The idea of text books for all students was not believed but welcomed with a laugh as Sara did when hearing prophesy on the birth of a child at her age; to say it short this is believed “unbelievable!!!!!!” This doubt is easily understandable because none of us, present at the meeting have had textbooks in all subjects as a student.
Please thank God for the students He has untrusted us for this School Year and pray that we have a good and successful school year.
Pray for wisdom and knowledge for the teachers to share with the students.
Thank you for reading this!!
God bless you!!!