A new school building encourages children to learn and inspires their parents to seek an education for themselves.
In 2007, Mohamed Ahmed Nohy became the sole teacher and principal of a small but growing school in rural Mauritania. World Vision Canada, working in partnership with local government and the parent committee, provided a new elementary school building in his community, located about 580 kilometres from the capital city of Nouakchott. Mohamed teaches grade 3 and 4 lessons to the more than 80 students who attend.
When the school first opened in 2003, the children studied in a small building made of mud and sticks that held about 40 students. Sitting on the dirt floor caused the children to cough. There wasn’t enough space to sit and work comfortably. The teachers struggled to move amongst the seated children and give them the individual attention they needed.
Today the children sit at tables in a proper classroom and Mohamed has a large blackboard and plenty of wall space for posting visual aids. The new school provides a safe place for children to learn and encourages them to pursue an education. “It really attracted children to go to school,” says Mohamed. “Even those who have not applied for school now want to be enrolled.”
The new school has also encouraged parents to send their children to school. They have asked for more classrooms to be made available and World Vision is constructing a second building for the elementary school.
When Mohamed began teaching at the elementary school he attended a World Vision workshop to educate teachers about child rights and provide ways for sharing this information with students and their parents. “They have the responsibility to prepare them for the future by giving them all the rights,” he says of the parents’ duties to their children.
“We are aware of the importance of education for our children,” says Alassan Samba, a member of the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA). Alassan is a subsistence farmer who has never been to school himself. His parents chose not to send him. “They did not encourage us in our childhood to go to school. That’s why we are discouraged now and want to learn,” he says.
Alassan changed his perspective on education when he noticed his older children falling into the same pattern he saw in his own life. His four youngest children are students at the elementary school. However, his other eight children did not go to school. The four younger ones teach them
the things they learn at school. “If I had known the value of an education, I would have sent them to school,” Alassan says.
The elementary school can only accommodate two grades at a time during the week, so children who are not in grades 3 or 4 stay home or attend school in nearby villages. But travelling a few kilometres to school is difficult without an adult. The school year starts in October, which is the beginning of the harvest season, so it is hard for parents to accompany their children to school.
In collaboration with Alassan and other members of the PTA, Mohamed realized something needed to be done to educate the younger children.
To help them and their parents, Mohamed now teaches a grade 1 class on his own time on Friday and Saturday mornings. After the harvest in January, he plans to teach the adults in the afternoons during the weekends. “I do this as a volunteer to help them prepare,” says Mohamed, “and also as a government worker to help the children of my country go to school.”