Right To Play in Mali

Right To Play has been working in Mali since 2002 to improve the quality of education, protect children, and strengthen the culture of peace amongst children and youth. In 2006, we began training teachers on how to use sport and play to help children build life and skills and healthy habits. Through our formal partnerships with the five National Directorates of Education and teaching academies and pedagogical animation centres, we aim to to increase school enrollment, retention, and learning outcomes for children.

Our response to the crisis created by Mali's ongoing socio-political conflict established Right To Play as a credible actor in child protection, and demonstrated that play-based approaches are a relevant response to the psychosocial needs of crisis-affected children. We used learnings from this experience to launch the Jam Suka program, a child protection initiative funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to reduces instances of child labour, begging, and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriage.

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The challenges faced by children in Mali

Mali has one of the youngest populations in Sub-Saharan Africa: 47% of the Malian population is under 15 years-old. While the Government of Mali is committed to providing quality services and opportunities for Malian children and youth, it is severely constrained by lack of resources, recurring natural disasters, and a conflict in the north that has been ongoing since 2012.

Approximately one million Malian children are out of school. Children who are in school come up against challenges of access and quality. Learning outcomes are significantly impacted by the shortage of qualified teachers, as well as by poor-quality infrastructure and the limited availability of teaching and learning materials.

  • Two-thirds of children in grade 2 cannot read.
  • Less than 50% of children complete primary education.
  • 25% of children aged 5 to 14 are involved in some form of work.
  • 377,000 children in Mali are affected by the ongoing crisis and in need of protection services.
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Improving access to quality learning opportunities


Right To Play collaborates with other NGOs with complementary areas of expertise and geographic reach to support the Government of Mali to increase access to quality education for vulnerable children and improve learning outcomes, particularly in literacy. We train teachers working in schools and alternative education settings in how to use child-centered, active learning approaches, and in how to create positive, inclusive, and gender-responsive learning environments. Teachers receive ongoing support from pedagogical advisors trained by Right To Play in coaching and mentoring..

To promote early reading, we and our partners have developed materials for children in grades 1 to 4 that are in line with the requirements of the national curriculum. We also establish after-school reading clubs that help early learners develop reading skills and provide homework support and supplementary reading activities. In 2019, close to 65,000 children participated in 185 reading clubs.

In the District of Bamako, we have led a massive effort to mobilize communities to identify out-of-school children and provide them with the means to enroll and stay in school. We have provided school supplies, assisted children to register and obtain their birth certificates where necessary, and supported them through intensive remedial courses that help them enter or re-enter school at an age-appropriate grade.


“This child-based game approach…. is a good pedagogical choice for Mali because it puts the child at the heart of his learning. We learn by playing.” — Education official


Strengthening child protection systems

Working in collaboration with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and Family and a network of local civil society organizations, Right To Play is strengthening government and community structures that prevent and respond to serious violations of children’s rights. We have provided key protection actors at local and national levels with equipment and training, enhanced coordination mechanisms, and reactivated child protection committees and trained their members on gender equality, child protection, and resource mobilization.

Improving the access of vulnerable children to basic social services such as health, education, and psychosocial support is an important element of our work in Mali. We and our partners have helped villages to establish special learning centers that facilitate the withdrawal of thousands of children from artisanal mining sites and other situations of vulnerability.

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Empowering children as change agents

Right To Play uses play-based activities to help children develop leadership skills, encourage their active participation in school and community, and empower them to protect themselves and their peers. With community leaders and teachers, we have established 200 children’s clubs that promote children's leadership in community sensitization efforts that encourage parents and caregivers to send children to school rather than to work, and seek to eliminate harmful practices such as female genital mutilation. We work closely with the National Children’s Parliament and engage representatives of the Children’s Parliament in decision-making regarding the Jam Suka program.

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Right To Play gratefully acknowledges the support of all of its financial and technical partners. Support for our programs in Mali comes from the Government of Canada, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NORAD, Latter-day Saint Charities, and supporters like you.