Spotlight on RAC, Mali:
Awareness-Raising through Collaboration
Réseau d’Appui et de Conseil aux Initiatives des Artisans (RAC) (Support and Advice Network for Artisan Initiatives) is an NGO based in Mali that targets children working in the crafts sector. These children are apprentices: carpenters, mechanics, tailors, potters, and welders. RAC’s objective is to provide these working children with the chance to attend school. As a result, some of these working children are now enrolled in functional literacy classes, while others are taking special classes to integrate back into the public school system.

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January 2006. The situation of at-risk children at the work-site spurred RAC to collaborate with the Mali Blacksmith’s Association to conduct a massive education and awareness-raising campaign. RAC first made it clear to beneficiaries that education is a constitutional right to which all children are entitled. RAC then enrolled 261 children in a program called “Pédagogie Convergente” (Converging Pedagogy), where new students first learn to read and write in their native language. After time, French is progressively added to the teaching methodology. RAC established a flexible class-time calendar whereby the children had 2 to 3 hours of class each day. In this way, RAC proved to both the children’s bosses and their parents that children can simultaneously study and work. With the support of the Blacksmith’s Association, RAC also created a lobby group for the reduction of work hours and to advocate for the children’s education.

The success of the RAC project, combined with the enthusiasm of parent beneficiaries, facilitated RAC’s integration into the formal public school system: Kayes Plateau II, Légal Ségou, and Lafiabougou have all registered as RAC schools.

RAC recently granted a scholarship to the 13 children who were removed from labor. They were enrolled in the partner school and given an academic support kit for 2006 school year. During one of RAC’s visits, one of the parents said, “I support RAC’s approach. I have confidence in RAC, because it did what it had said, that is, coaching the youngest apprentices and enrolling them in formal school.”