Photo of students in North Kanem, Chad
MCC photo/Ben Weisbrod

Om Aboa, left, Gumuri Mahamat and Omi Haki are students in an MCC-supported school in North Kanem, Chad.

In North Kanem, a remote, camel-herding region of Chad where many families are illiterate, MCC is giving children such as Om Aboa, left, Gumuri Mahamat and Omi Haki new chances to learn.

Around the world, MCC works with local communities and schools to:

  • Identify the challenges that children face in gaining an education
  • Support programs to help students and their families overcome those challenges and gain an education.

Here’s how that works in North Kanem.

North Kanem is about a nine-hour drive from Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. Getting there means driving on roads but also through unpaved paths on routes that shift with the seasons.

 

Herding camels, goats, sheep and other animals has long been a way of life for people in this area. Many in the community are illiterate and speak only Dazaga, a local language, instead of French, which is the language used in government schools in Chad. As a result, schooling was viewed as irrelevant to rural life, especially for girls.

 

Mohamed Abakar Issa (in white shirt) is working to change that. Issa, born in this region, moved to Sudan and was able to attend school there, then go to universities in the United Kingdom. After becoming established as a law professor in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, he was determined to provide new opportunities for children in North Kanem and began an organization, Association for the Promotion of Education (APE), to establish this school.

 

In 2014, Issa and APE opened the first school in North Kanem to provide education in the Dazaga language, and MCC began supporting the school in 2015. Issa continues to travel from the capital to the school weekly, sleeping on the sand in the village, spending time with students and overseeing the school.

 

Elders such as Mahamat Saleh encouraged the community to embrace the effort. For years, because of the high illiteracy rate, people from this area face serious disadvantages, especially when traveling to cities. They are unable to perform simple tasks like signing their names. Without being able to read, it’s difficult to find job opportunities or new chances for education. Historically, people sought positions in the military or rebel groups. By providing greater access to education, this project helps youth find more options for employment.

 

It’s important for MCC to support projects that are carried out in partnership with the local community. In North Kanem, residents made 9,000 bricks by hand to build a three-room schoolhouse in 2013, and classes began in 2014. The school continues to build relationships with the community – including providing meals for the village on special days of celebration as well as special awards and gifts for top students.

 

In class, reading, writing and mathematics are taught in the Dazaga language, and students study French as well. With the school offering classes in the language students speak at home, the number of pupils, especially girls, continues to increase, with students such as Mai Mouna Mahamat, left, and Zara Mahamat eager to answer questions.

 

In 2014, when the school opened, it had 70 students, ages 5 to 15, in three kindergarten-level classes. So far, the school offers kindergarten through third grade, with plans to add a grade a year through fifth grade at least.

 

MCC funding supports school lunches and salaries for teachers such as Hamis (who uses only one name) shown working with students Adoum Egir, left, and Ousman Ankir.

 

(MCC photo/Jon Austin)MCC also funded the building of a new well, which will provide the school community with a clean, reliable source of water.

 

(MCC photo/Jon Austin)Idriss Wassai, 86, the village chief, says that residents have dug 12 wells since the community moved to this area when he was a young man. New wells are built as old ones collapse. “The wells that we dig need constant repair, sometimes twice a year, as the walls are reinforced only with tree branches,” he says.

“Thank you for all you are doing for us,” he says. “The work is excellent, and will give us renewed hope for the future of our people.”

 

(MCC photo/Jon Austin)

The new well is reinforced with concrete, helping it last longer and keeping the water cleaner. In addition, the MCC-supported project includes teaching principles of good hygiene to students and their families and building latrines and hand-washing stations.

 

The well is not the only new development. As residents of surrounding areas see the success of this school, they are asking that another school be established. MCC will continue to partner with APE to bring new chances for learning to more students like Abakar Al Hatchi, shown running to catch up with classmates.

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