The low level of school enrollment rates in Mali is the result of several interrelated factors. Different types of insecurity, irregular school functioning, the underappreciated value of education in the community, and the financial difficulties of many households all contribute to poor educational outcomes.
1. A first observation is the existence of a series of interconnected local conflicts and risks. Conflicts related to land and natural resources, intergroup conflicts, political rivalries, exogenous risks such as COVID-19 or attacks by armed groups are all prevalent in the regions of Mali that were part of this study. Some conflicts are considered more important than others according to the respondents, but most people agree that they have been exposed to all these threats at the same time. To these threats are added certain forms of insecurity that are linked to the life of the community (eg theft, burglary, vandalism) mainly in the Gao region. The Covid-19 pandemic is also a factor in the deterioration of living conditions in the areas surveyed. In general, levels of personal security are particularly low. Particular attention must be paid here to rural populations whose food security is dramatically affected by the various conflicts.
2. Conflict and other forms of personal violence within the community have a direct effect on the ability of schools to function. The low levels of school functioning in the study areas are mainly due to the existence of repeated conflicts and perceptions of threats felt by community members. Statistical analysis revealed the resilience factors that allow some schools to function despite these disruptive dynamics. They are structured around two dimensions: the experience of community safety and the value communities place on education. In other words, the functioning of the school is much more effective in communities where the feeling of security is high and where education is valued. In these communities, the experience of local security is characterized by low exposure to conflict, while citizens feel safe and have more confidence in security forces and public service delivery in general. Therefore, a secure environment is associated with access to state services, which help people feel protected.
The functioning of schools tends to stabilize in an environment where school education is valued and encouraged. It is characterized by parents who encourage their children to go to school and who consider education as an essential lever for social integration. In these circumstances, community mobilization allows young people to feel heard and to access forms of education outside of school. In short, a school located in a safe community that is better equipped to deliver educational outcomes, while providing a safe environment for young people, will be more likely to operate without interruption.
3. A key finding is that even when schools are functioning well, parents do not consistently send their children to school. The reasons for not attending school are multiple and complex. The explanatory factors may vary according to the sex of the child, his age or the socio-economic situation of the household. It is a set of cumulative and interconnected factors, leading to the child not attending school or dropping out of school.
The analysis aimed to identify the resources and determinants that encourage parents to send their children to school despite the adversities that may dissuade them from making this choice. The results showed that schooling strategies largely depend on parents’ relationship with education, with parents who value education being more likely to keep their children in school. This result is quite intuitive: the more parents value school education, the more they will tend to send their children to school. The idea that emerges from this finding is that the value of education is an asset that helps overcome factors that would otherwise be seen as barriers to school attendance. In other words, the study finds that conflict, as a threat to community life, is not a major deterrent to parents sending their children to school. Access to services and socio-economic status are also determining factors in the number of children attending school.
The relationship to education appears as a set of specific internalized values stabilized within the household, while the threats are more contextual and take place in the community environment. Thus, values (factors that define the strength of feelings within the household vis-à-vis education) and the capacity for action (socio-economic situation of the household) structure schooling decisions independently of external threats. These two determinants are the main explanatory levers for the level of schooling in the three regions surveyed.
4. Children’s lack of interest in school seems to be a driver of school dropout. Often, the teenager who is not interested in school manages to convince his parents of the need to stop attending school. The more the individual is sensitive to social interactions at school and satisfied with the school environment, the less likely the child is to consider dropping out. In other words, the more the attachment to the social dynamics of the school grows, the more the disinterest in the school becomes less important in explaining the decision to drop out. The adolescent’s attachment to sociability at school is defined as the extent to which the student feels close to classmates, maintains a positive relationship with school staff, and ultimately considers himself personally happy. to be in this environment. This indicator therefore combines three dimensions: the relationship with other students, the relationship with teachers and finally the level of individual satisfaction. The analysis shows that this level of attachment is mainly influenced by three determinants: inclusive governance at school, a school education that places personal development and skills-based learning at the heart of the school experience and finally an environment conducive to education within the community.
5. SCORE’s findings provide an overarching framework for programmatic action. These are interventions and actions aimed at improving the functioning of schools and the enrollment rate, conceived under the prism of the school-family-community relationship (RCE)2. This “ecosystemic” approach requires understanding the different interdependent environments in which children and adolescents evolve and evaluating the reciprocal influences. The results of the various statistical analyzes carried out as part of this project suggest that programmatic interventions guided by the SFC approach could be particularly relevant. The recommendations proposed here are systematically based on the observed results. Three main courses of action can be developed: a) interventions must be carried out to strengthen children’s attachment to school; b) familiarizing parents with the school to help them value education and c) finally fostering the community’s attachment to school education. Each of these main axes can then be broken down into a series of complementary and interdependent policy programs and actions.
Strengthening children’s attachment to school can be based on programmatic interventions focused on the practical dimension (security and logistical conditions within schools), on the pedagogical dimension (approach based on skills, comfort and educational interest) and on the civic dimension (strengthening the methods of student participation in the management of the school). The familiarization of parents with the school can pass through the channel of communication (awareness campaigns and other activities) and through the integration of parents into the “school world” (e.g. interventions by parents within schools, improvement of the inclusiveness of representation structures within the school, strategic partnerships between parents and the school, etc.). Since education is a human right that imposes a responsibility on the State party, financial support (duty-holders) (e.g. cash transfer agreements) should be used to support education. access to education for vulnerable households and thus limit the effects of socio-economic deprivation on school enrollment decisions. Finally, strengthening the community’s attachment to school education requires the promotion of a discourse valuing the school which could be supported by community leaders, for example through the development of concrete activities linking the school and the community (eg activities of local associations within the school or in collaboration with the institution, provision of spaces by the community to ensure the involvement of former teachers and out-of-school children).