It is 10 a.m. in the blue school in Bagasola, and the heat is unbearable. Students are taking a break between classes, some sitting on the window ledge chatting, others getting ready to fetch water from the well before the next lesson begins. Maïmouna Konate is the head of the education project JRS has in Bagasola, Lake Chad region.
Maïmouna began her journey in the service of displaced people in her country, Côte d’Ivoire. “I was working for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that provided support to refugees from Liberia and returnees. From this experience, I decided to commit myself morally and professionally to defending the rights of refugees.”
More than 6,000 children attend the school in Bagasola every day, including refugees and children from the local community. The context in which Maïmouna lives and works is not easy; one of the greatest challenges is ensuring access to education. Among the barriers of accessing education is the constant movement of populations: “when people feel the presence of armed groups, they move, and then when the situation calms down, they try to return to their village of origin, which means they are constantly on the move.”
To worsen the situation, frequent floods, which destroy the homes, crops, and property of the affected people, have a direct impact on the education system. Many schools are destroyed, and water wells and latrines are flooded. These phenomena hinder access to education for many children, exposing them to the risk of being recruited by armed groups in the area, or being subjected to forced marriages and early pregnancies.
JRS provides services to enable access to quality education for children in the Dar Es Salaam refugee camp and in several schools in four villages, Darmain, Baboul, Ngouboua, and Tchoukoutalia. “For promoting peace, we work mainly in the field of education,” says Maïmouna.
Despite the challenges, she has hope and firmly believes that education builds social cohesion and can improve people’s quality of life.