The twinning is a great opportunity to improve the quality of education for both Welsh and Malian children.
Students have been able to develop a sense of global citizenship based on direct contact and interaction. School linking is increasingly being recognised as a way for staff and pupils alike to open their minds, question their preconceptions, and broaden their horizons.
Building educational links is not just about sending letters to pen friends, or replacing an open-air lesson with a purpose-built classroom. Hay2Timbuktu hopes to do more than simply resource schools in West Africa. We want to set up and sustain educational projects and meaningful partnerships between our schools, which will bear fruit for many generations.
With a continuing generous grant from the Waterloo Foundation we have funded bursaries for girls at two secondary schools in Timbuktu, Mahamane Fondogoumo and Yehia Alkaya. The grant covers 34 girls in years 8 and 9, the last two years of secondary school. It provides for school materials which parents would otherwise have to buy for the girls, extra support to encourage them to stay at school and to do well in their studies, and personal and social education on issues such as sexual health. Some girls have also been trained as peer educators to take health messages to their communities. As in previous years, the girls improved their performance at end of term exams in each term, and 31 of the 34 passed their end of year exams. It is good to hear that this initiative is strongly supported by the association of mothers at each school.
2017-18 will be the final year for this grant, which will cover the cohort going through to year 9. Hay2Timbuktu is investigating other sources of finance to renew the scholarship programme in future years.