Breaking the Cycle of Illiteracy in Burkina Faso
Like most parents, Sawadogo Adama wants the best for his children. He wants them to have a better life and more opportunities than he had growing up. As a child, he wasn’t able to attend school because it was too far from his village, and now as an adult, he cannot read or write. But fortunately, things are changing in Samboaga, his village in Burkina Faso, West Africa, thanks to the help from buildOn and our partner In a Perfect World, and the hard work of his community.
Burkina Faso is the 7th economically poorest country in the world, and 64 percent of its population is illiterate. In 2014, buildOn broke ground on its first school in the country, and has since built 53 more. For Sawadogo Adama, the new school in his village means a new future for his children. “They will learn more than us and they will become better than their parents,” he says. “This is what we hope.”
Burkina Faso is the 7th economically poorest country in the world, and 64 percent of its population is illiterate. In 2014, buildOn broke ground on its first school in the country, and has since built 53 more.
Before buildOn, the children in the village attended school in a temporary shelter which made learning, and teaching, extremely difficult. “It was so small that I could not stand well inside … the parents had put a lot of energy to build the temporary shelter, but the teaching conditions were difficult inside,” says Oueda Boukary, one of the school’s teachers. “We were extremely happy when buildOn agreed to build a school here.”
Above: Sawadogo Pascal, a nine-year-old student, writes on the board at his new school. Although Burkina Faso has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, the new school in Samboaga village means that the cycle of illiteracy has been broken for current and future generations.
Sawadogo Pascal, nine, is grateful for his new school, loves reading and hopes to use his education to become a nurse one day. In the old school, he says, “It was very hot inside and the straw was sharp and used to hurt us when we would touch it … The current school is much better with enough space for all the students to learn.”
“The current school is much better with enough space for all the students to learn.”
While the difficulties of a temporary school shelter are behind them, Oueda knows that many of his students still struggle at home. “Poverty is one of the main challenges in the community,” he says. “Some parents struggle just to get their children school materials, but they know it is important that they have these and learn.”
Above: Oueda Boukary, a teacher in Samboaga village, says that a new school means a much better learning environment for his students.
Sawadogo Pascal’s father, Sawadogo Simon Siyen, has a total of 10 children from ages two through 25. He is a farmer and livestock breeder and was denied an education growing up because the school was too far from his village. As an adult, he’s learned to read and write in Mooré, the local language, but he is hopeful that the new school can give his children much more than he had. “It can change the course of their life. They learn important things for their future,” he says. “… It helps us understand the world around us. It also helps to remember our history because we can put things into books.”
“… a school is a very important gift for all the community.”
Because community members must work alongside buildOn volunteers to construct their school, they take pride and ownership in it which helps the school to survive and grow. “… a school is a very important gift for all the community,” says Sawadogo Adama. “We hope that our children will recognize this honor and work hard … Education is the light because when you are not educated, you’re in the dark.”
Since he was a child, Samboaga’s teacher, Oueda Boukary always knew he wanted to become a teacher and help people. He is hopeful that the new school will help his students become good citizens and find good jobs one day. If he could meet the U.S.-based supporters who helped build the school, he says, “I don’t have the words to thank them. Their support has changed my work and life.”
Below: Rihannata, a 12-year-old student at the new school in Samboaga, wants to be a teacher when she grows up and says that it is a lot easier to learn in the new school because it is much cooler inside.