Barkissou: “With knowledge comes the power to dream”

In February, as we began building a school in Taga Village, Burkina Faso, buildOn staff and students were also building relationships with local community members. Education and sustainable development are intrinsically tied, and people who demonstrate that education is truly of value to their communities will play a pivotal role in reversing the trend of illiteracy that is stunting Burkina Faso’s growth.

One young woman, Barkissou, was brave enough to share her story. We briefly introduced you to her back in March and believe her experience is worth remembering this Back to School season.


Education was never an option for Barkissou.

“My father wouldn’t allow me to go to school. Just when a school was being built in my own village a man came and brought me here to be married… I wanted to become a teacher.”

At the time of the ground break of the first buildOn school in Burkina Faso, Barkissou was eight months pregnant with her third child. She estimates that she is about 18-years-old, though she cannot read the papers that state her age. Though pregnant, she contributed what she could on the worksite, knowing that having a primary school for her children to attend would give them more power over their futures.

The demands of her family and constraints of society, compounded with the lack of schools in her village, severely diminished Barkissou’s power to control her own life.  These familial expectations in a place with already limited opportunities result in many girls marrying early. And, as is true in Barkissou’s case, they are expected to begin bearing children almost immediately, limiting their potential and making it increasingly difficult to complete or even begin schooling.


Because she cannot read Barkissou has even fewer opportunities for employment in the village’s already challenging economic climate. She is financially dependent on her husband, who also has another wife, and reliant on him to make decisions. She sometimes worries about her health and feels constrained although she craves independence.

UNICEF estimates that only one-third of people in Burkina Faso are literate, meaning there are over 11 million people who are not able to read. In rural areas, like where Barkissou lives, the literacy rate is expected to be far lower, especially for girls.

“There are some children who are dreaming to become doctors, some children are dreaming to become policemen, some children are dreaming to become something else, and through the school they can be able to realize that dream,” she said.

She believes that she is “ignorant,” but plans to prioritize education for her children so that they can become exposed to many new things and expand their knowledge about the world.

“I don’t want my child to be like me. I wanted to know languages and be able to travel. Because of the language barrier I have to stay here. If you are traveling, your eyes will be opened,” she said.

Burkina Faso is ranked as the fifth economically poorest country in the world and its literacy rate is the lowest. Global illiteracy drives extreme poverty and undermines democracy. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40% of its adults able to read and write, proving that knowledge truly is power.

“Knowledge is on the pages of books, and with knowledge comes the power to dream… Through education my children can realize their dreams.”