As I eagerly wait for twitter updates and Reuter's reports on the constantly shifting and perpetually confusing situations here in Mali, my thoughts become a blur about what is the root of the problem here and what is really going to be done about it.
Amidst all the craziness that has been the last week and a half of life in Mali, there have been a few constants. One, of course, is Abdoulaye. He has kept me calm on days when I have felt crazy and I honestly do not know how many times we have gone over our own contingency plans should I leave Mali earlier than planned. His patience amazes me and I am thankful for him everyday.
Another constant is my most wonderfully beautiful group of friends. From calls to texts to emails and long sessions where we try and talk out what is actually going on around us, it would be impossible to go through this without you.
The last constant is education. Broad, general, all-encompassing. For one, I work for an education project and work, at least being present in the office, has gone on (except for the first few days i.e. March 22nd/23rd). Another kind of education is the formal one in which I am participating at a distance through SIT. Papers and presentations continue to be due and meetings with other students continue to take place via Skype and emails. Life cannot be on hold forever. As I think of all the issues that Mali faces, and even the ones that I do, one thing is clear– the importance of a continued and an improved education.
Two of my friends, Manzo and Bakary, are proficient English speakers. Manzo works for World Vision in Koro (he was actually evacuated to Burkina Faso today...) and Bakary is an English and German student in Bamako who I met at Abdoulaye's computer center. Manzo recently completed an application for the 2013 Fulbright Francophone/Lusophone Junior Staff Development Program (FLJSD). He is hoping to pursue a Master's degree in international development in the U.S. Here's a blurb on the FLJSD program from the US Embassy in Mali website:
"funds two years of higher education in the United States, leading to a Master’s degree. It differs from the FJSD program (described above) in that it requires a TOEFL score of 480-540 and includes intensive English language training prior to the academic program. For preliminary application purposes, candidates may submit ALIGU scores in lieu of TOEFL.* Upon completion of the English language training program, the candidates will then sit for the GRE in the United States and must attain required scores."
Bakary was recently selected – one of four Malians! - to participate in a Study of the United States Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders forum focused on Social Entrepreneurship to take place this summer. Get in touch with your local American embassy if you know a student you think would qualify for this scholarship (details found in link). The process starts in the fall so you can get a head start now and find out more information.
The forum will explore the following topics:
This institute provides participants with an overview of how to employ business techniques and entrepreneurial skills to address social issues. The institute reviews the development, history, challenges and successes of social enterprises and community leaders in the United States and around the world. Students examine topics such as microfinance; organizational development and management; grant writing; innovation; emerging markets and risk analysis; strategic business planning; corporate social responsibility; and women and minorities in entrepreneurship.
I am hopeful that Mali will see the beginning of a resolution to all of the instability it currently faces – and soon. I am also confident that the answers to Mali's problems, and subsequent - sustainable - solutions, will come from Malians who are implicated and invested in the decision-making process. People like Manzo and Bakary are inspirations to me and show me the true value of education. Come on, Mali!
PS - these videos really are great! I was able to download them - can't wait to see/hear more.