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Unique school in the heart of Mali’s capital accessible by boat only

Located in the heart of the capital city, this island school educates 218 children living on the shores and islands of the Niger River   -  
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With her bag slung over her shoulder and an orange sweater tied tightly around her waist, 10-year-old Rokia Koumaré heads for the banks of the Niger River in Bamako, Mali.

Every morning, at around 7:00 am, she and dozens of her classmates take to their school on Dialogun Island, a small pirogue with a straw roof.

Located in the Malian capital, this island school educates 218 children from the banks and islands of the River Niger. It was granted public school status in June 2022.

It was built to guarantee a place of study for young people not attending school," explains Marie Garnier, the school's coordinator. According to UNICEF, over two million Malian children do not attend school.

Rokia settles on the long benches of the boat. Some of the pupils are having breakfast, while others are playing checkerboard or talking on the phone. The engine starts up and the pirogue pulls out onto the calm waters of the River Niger.

"I'm not afraid of crossing the river by pirogue, as I'm already used to it," says Rokia.

Lack of means

The pirogue touches down. Adults unload the water cans, then the children disembark. They head for their school.

In the morning, pupils form a circle in the center of which the national flag is slowly hoisted by two young girls. Then they sing the national anthem, hand on heart.

Classes begin. Mastan begins to write the date in chalk on the blackboard. Behind her, other girls look on, sitting at their desks on wooden benches.

A few classrooms, protected by small walls or in tents, are set up in the middle of a wooded area. Some classes are also held outdoors, to the sound of insects. Desks are placed on the sand.

"I'm in charge of the management and two classes, which means there's a teacher problem. There are also problems with tables. Sometimes, we're obliged to carry out outdoor activities so that everyone has a space to work," explains Broulaye Konaté, the school principal.

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