Alongside mothers and children
Letter to Friends around the World # 86

In 1997 Mamadou G, a young man from a poor area, was put in charge of a small initiative running a government infant nutrition programme. The women were used to malnutrition, to needing vaccinations, and to frequent illnesses, particularly diarrhoea and malaria which is a big problem in this part of Dakar which is frequently flooded.

At the end of the programme in 2002, there was no more funding, so no more salaries, no premises. What were they to do? Definitely not abandon these women and children. In his youth Mamadou had been able to study thanks to a charity and said ‘I need to do the same for others that was done for me’. The garage of his home served as premises and he covered the costs by taking an agricultural job.

His educational work, which was assisted by a facilitator from the initial programme, became more concrete through the creation of Keur Fatou Kaba (the Fatou Kaba School). He accepted children who hadn’t been officially registered with the state, but he also helped the mothers to obtain the papers which were indispensable to get enrolled in school. They were encouraged to register them before the age of 6 months, which was much cheaper than appearing later in front of the tribunal.

Thanks to his work during the holidays, and through small loans, Mamadou built a new classroom each year and in 2007 created an organisation called ANAVI (To be born and to live) to support the school whose needs were urgent.

This is what Catherine G from AGIRabcd discovered in 2011 during the World Social Forum in Dakar. The priority need was teacher training: ‘It’s more important for the school than having a roof’. AGIRabcd worked not ‘for’ but ‘with’ ANAVI, supporting the involvement of a retired teacher and trainers. About 15 people now form the teaching team, including Mamadou’s wife who cooks for the pupils.

The work with the women hasn’t stopped. ANAVI organises evening classes and is hoping to build a multi-purpose hall as a welcome centre, and to improve literacy for young girls in order, through education, to fight against poverty and child begging. ‘We want to restore the young people rejected by the system’.

Mamadou lives in this neighbourhood and this is where he started his elementary school. Neighbours bring help, in particular at times of difficulty. ‘What has allowed us to arrive at this point and welcome over 300 children is trust’.