According to the inclusive education teacher training module (2013 and revised in 2019), inclusive education values diversity as an essential part of the teaching and learning process and aims to ensure that all children enjoy the same rights and opportunities to education, combat the marginalization of individuals and promote acceptance of difference. Inclusive education
"is a process that aims to ensure access, participation and success for all learners. It implies a restructuring of all components of the education system in order to achieve a successful and quality education that benefits all. It is based on equal rights and equal opportunities, and on reducing exclusion at all levels of formal education, non-formal education, and vocational training. It is founded on a differentiated approach that takes into account the diverse needs of all learners, especially those from vulnerable groups, including persons living with disabilities. It is accompanied by reasonable modifications to equitably meet accessibility needs. It is the responsibility of the State."
The module states that those with special educational needs should have access to mainstream schools, whether or not they have a disability or disabilities.
Special education is provided by the Institut national des aveugles du Mali [National Institute for Blind Persons of Mali – INAM], the regional institutes for young blind persons, the schools for people with hearing impairments and the medico-psychoeducational centres of the Association malienne de lutte contre les déficiences mentales chez l’enfant [Malian Association for Children with Learning Disabilities – AMALDEME]. Children with disabilities attend separate and then mainstream classes in schools in the Bamako district and in the Koulikoro and Ségou regions. In the Sikasso, Timbuktu and Gao regions and in Bamako district, 85 mainstream schools cater for vulnerable groups – children with disabilities, internally displaced children and returnees – in the same classes as other learners.
The Constitution states that "the right to attend school shall be exercised without discrimination on the basis of sex, social origin, race or religion." The law prohibits the exclusion of any person or group from accessing any type or level of education and "the limitation of the education of any person or group to a lower level" (article 9). The Interim Education and Vocational Training Sector Recovery Programme (2015–2016) aims to promote inclusive education at all levels in order to improve access to formal and non-formal education while ensuring equity. An education framework act taking into account inclusive education is also pending. In addition, an inclusive education policy has been under development since 2018.
According to the Ten-Year Education and Vocational Training Development Programme, Second Generation (PRODEC 2 in French), "the vision of the departments in charge of education and vocational training is that, by 2028, Mali will have a successful and inclusive education system that trains patriotic, responsible, productive and creative citizens who contribute to the socioeconomic development of their country" (p. 40). Programme 3 of PRODEC 2 focuses on "promoting equitable and inclusive access to quality education for all" (p. 65). This programme will promote inclusive education at all levels for the next decade in order to achieve a clear improvement in access to formal and non-formal education while ensuring equity.
The country ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2017. The order of June 2002 on the Child Protection Code states that a child with a disability has the right to "a level of education and training that will strengthen his or her self-care and facilitate his or her participation in social life" (article 16). With this in mind, the Malian Government has adopted several policies and strategies, including the National Social Protection Policy, the National Solidarity Policy, the National Humanitarian Action Policy and the Strategy for the Economic Promotion of Persons with Disabilities. In parallel to this, Act No. 2018-027 on the rights of people living with disabilities was passed in June 2018. The National Special Education Policy (2011) is also under review.
There are various projects (mostly led by non-governmental organizations (NGOs)) that aim to include persons with disabilities in the education system. For example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sightsavers' Inclusive Education for Visually Impaired Primary School Children in Mali programme will be implemented in Bamako, Ségou, Koulikoro and Gao. The project aims to increase the number of children with a visual impairment in mainstream primary schools and to introduce an early reading assessment system for these learners. This project will provide training on teaching reading to blind children for 110 primary school teachers, 10 teachers and 14 educational advisers.
Created in 1994, the Association malienne des femmes handicapées [Malian Association for Women with Disabilities – AMFH], enables these women to discuss and empowers them by offering technical training so that they can learn a trade.
Handicap International has also been implementing several pilot inclusive education projects for almost a decade. The Projet de scolarisation des enfants sourds et enfants aveugles dans les écoles ordinaires de la commune de Sikasso [Project for the Enrolment of Deaf and Blind Children in Mainstream Schools in the Municipality of Sikasso – PAOSSEE] uses travelling teachers to enrol and retain in mainstream schools 53 deaf and blind children in Sikasso. The Inclusive Education in the Sahel project targets 36,524 students, including 450 children with disabilities in the district of Bamako and the regions of Sikasso and Timbuktu. The Safe School project targets 30,000 students, including 250 children with disabilities in Timbuktu and Gao. The Access to Education for All Children in Mali project (PACETEM) is providing training to 16 NGO representatives, 228 pedagogical advisers from the country's 20 education academies and 68 representatives from 15 national directorates of the Ministry of National Education and the National Directorate of Social Development. In addition to pilot actions targeting schools, Handicap International advocates for children with disabilities to be taken into account in the education system and the economic, social and cultural development programmes of the communes. The organization also provides the Ministry of National Education with technical support for promoting inclusive education.
Mali has a national policy on girls' education (2010). This policy aims to eliminate gender disparities at all levels of education and to ensure that girls have equitable and unrestricted access with the same chances to succeed. It aims to support girls from poor families, reduce girls' enrolment fees by half, implement a sponsorship and tutoring system and introduce incentives in rural areas.
The objective of the Interim Education and Vocational Training Sector Recovery Programme (2015–2016) was to promote gender in the education system. Emphasis was placed on financial assistance for poor households and on taking into account and effectively applying gender and violence issues during the in-service training of teachers and school administrators. The programme planned to train 200 outreach workers and distribute 2,000 school kits per year to girls of poor parents. In addition, it aimed to prepare 1,500 girls per year for the diplôme d’étude fondamental [diploma of basic studies examination – DEF] and 1,800 girls for the entrance examinations for teacher training institutes.
Moreover, the Ministry of National Education has created the Fonds d’appui à l’autonomisation de la femme et à l’épanouissement de l’enfant [Women's Empowerment and Child Development Support Fund – FAFE] which, in 2015, funded around 96 projects and reached 3,840 women and 6,161 children in difficult circumstances. In 2016, the fund financed 270 projects and reached 10,800 women. Committees have also been set up in schools to promote girls' education. Finally, the Project for the Economic Empowerment of Women in the Shea Butter Subsector in Mali has been targeting more than 50,000 rural women since 2016.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The Constitution states that French is the official language of expression. However, the law also sets out the procedures for promoting and formalizing national languages. The bilingual programme in Mali provides a framework for learning to read and write in the mother tongue.
Local authorities adapt school organization in these areas. For example, in village schools, the school year begins after the harvests in November and lasts until May. Classes are for two to three hours a day, six days a week, to allow the children time to work in the fields. The 2011 Education For All (EFA) report argues that this practice has made it possible to increase the number of girls enrolled in school.
The Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the SDGs (2018) identifies certain measures that have been put in place, including the introduction of school canteens to increase school attendance in these settings.
Nomadic and refugee students
Nomadic schools have been created in the northern regions. School teachers follow these populations as they move from place to place. Education for development centres and functional literacy centres target the inclusion of other vulnerable groups and aim to increase their school attendance. Handicap International's inclusive education project, NORAD, assists with the schooling of 200 refugee and displaced children and the inclusiveness of 33 mainstream schools and six special schools. The organization’s Inclusive Education in the Sahel and Safe School projects are helping to provide schooling for 350 internally displaced, returnee and repatriated children and to develop emergency preparedness and response plans for 30,000 students in 51 schools in the Gao and Timbuktu regions.
At the institutional level, the Ministry of National Education has a National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education (DNEPS), which has a special education division and an inclusive education division.
The National Directorate of Basic Education undertakes pedagogical monitoring and the national examination and competitive examination centre organizes inclusive school and competitive examinations. Moreover, the school planning unit is responsible for collecting statistical data.
The National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education has a national special education policy that is being revised to take inclusive education into account. Until the revision process is finalized, inclusive education is generally left to private sector, civil society organizations and NGO initiatives. The main NGOs working on inclusive education are Handicap International and Sightsavers. Actions are supported by organizations of/for persons with disabilities composed mainly of the Malian Union of the Blind (UMAV), the Malian Association of Deaf Persons (AMASOURDS), AMALDEME and the umbrella organization of organizations of/for persons with disabilities at the national level, FEMAPH. In parallel to this, the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All (CSACEFA) helps advocate for inclusive education. The various inclusive education projects developed by NGOs are carried out at the local level by communes in accordance with the decentralized management of education.
Finally, the Ministry of National Education collaborates to some extent with other ministries on certain projects. For example, the Gender Policy required collaboration between the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research; the Ministry of Employment, Youth and Civic Construction; the Ministry of the Promotion of Women, the Family and Children; the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene; and the Ministry of the Economy and Finance.
There is a training module on accessibility to education for persons with disabilities (2010) (link not available). Moreover, via correspondence No. 395 of 6 March 2012, the National Director of Urban Development and Housing invited regional directors to take all necessary measures for the application of the General Standards for Physical Accessibility of Public Buildings to Persons with Disabilities as defined by the Building Code of 31 December 2003. In 26 mainstream and special schools that had already been built before these provisions, physical accessibility improvements were made to 103 classrooms, 11 water points and seven latrines thanks to the Handicap International intervention.
In 2017, the Ministry of National Education presented a report on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in primary schools. In summary, it states that 51 per cent of schools in Mali have a functional and improved water point and that fewer than 16 per cent of schools (approximately 1,360 schools with 254,000 students) have access to improved, separate, functional, accessible and adequate latrines with accessibility option. In addition, 93 per cent of schools do not run educational or guidance sessions to raise students’ awareness about managing menstrual hygiene. To date, there is no monitoring system or national database to measure the extent to which WASH targets have been achieved.
The current basic-education curriculum does not formally take into account the specific needs of children with disabilities. Nevertheless, the provisions of the PRODEC 2 and the review of the national special education policy will provide appropriate responses.
The curriculum and textbooks used in schools take the issue of gender into consideration by "eliminating stereotypes and valuing the image of women."
An inclusive pedagogical toolkit tailored to children with disabilities was validated in December 2019 by a working group under the leadership of the National Directorate of Pedagogy to facilitate the learning of children with disabilities in both inclusive and special classes.
In-service teacher training is left to private sector and international organization initiatives. For example, the Support Project for Capacity Building of Teacher Training Institutes and Girls’ Education in Mali, supported by the Government of Japan, provides training for teachers on gender issues and disciplinary didactics. The Malian Union of the Blind has trained 38 principals and teachers on inclusive education. Finally, the USAID and Sightsavers project provides training for teachers on specific modules (inclusion, teaching techniques, child protection).
Inclusive education is included in the initial teacher training curriculum at teacher training institutes. The inclusive education teacher training module developed in 2013 was revised and validated in 2019. A trainer's guide has also been developed.
For in-service training, a group of national trainers exists within the National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education. Each of the 20 academies also has a group of trainers on inclusive education. Teacher training sessions are conducted by mixed teams.
Advocacy is under way to ensure that this issue is taken into account in teacher-learning communities. Moreover, the National Directorate of Mainstream Education and the National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education have trained 258 pedagogical advisers from the country's 20 education academies to train teachers on inclusive education.
Training for sign language and Braille is provided by specialized facilities. The Ministry of National Education does not yet have any specialists. For special schools, teachers are recruited and made available to the National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education.
A pilot scheme for travelling teachers is being developed by Handicap International. This scheme assigns teachers to special schools to support children with disabilities and their teachers. However, the Ministry of National Education does not include the position of a travelling teacher in its list of job descriptions.
Finally, the Sightsavers project will provide training for 76 teachers and principals, 10 travelling teachers and 14 staff from the Ministry of National Education on strategies for the teaching children with visual impairments how to read.
The country does not have a national monitoring report on education. However, the Ministry of National Education (2015–2016) notes some indicators of inclusive education in the Interim Education and Vocational Training Sector Recovery Programme (2015–2016), such as the number of additional learners with disabilities accommodated in mainstream schools and the number of additional girls enrolled in primary schools.
A consultation framework has also been implemented by the National Directorate of Preschool and Special Education. It is a framework for discussing, monitoring and coordinating inclusive education activities in Mali.