Caravan to Class began as a dream to bring literacy to a desert village near Timbuktu, Mali. Inspired by involvement of our supporters and the success of our first project, we are driven to help improve education and reduce illiteracy in other villages in the Timbuktu area. We simply see both the country of Mali and the surrounding areas of Timbuktu as a compelling place to further our work. However, we do hope to soon be able to begin work, using the same approach as with our first project, in other forgotten villages both in Mali and other countries in Africa.
Mali is indeed a paradox. It is a poor country with low levels of literacy, life expectancy, and low per-capita income, but also a country rich with history, culture, and an amazing landscape. It is a stable democracy with a relatively free press and has the vast fertile Niger delta which brings Mali food independence. Most importantly, Mali is rich in spirit, vibrancy, and the kind-heartedness of Malians. Yet Mali is challenged in education. Perhaps this is because Mali is a country of villages more so than many countries in Africa. Nonetheless, the numbers don’t lie. Mali ranks at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index for Literacy (26.2%) This makes Mali a compelling case for the being the first country of focus for Caravan to Class.
Villages and The Tuareg People
The Tuareg people form the majority of the population in the villages around Timbuktu. Known as the “Blue Men of the Desert” due to the indigo turbans and robes they wear, the Tuareg are formerly nomadic people of North African Berber origin.
For two centuries, the Tuareg operated trans-saharan caravan trade connecting the Northern Mediterranean coast with Africa. In fact only 70 years ago or so, caravans through the Sahara desert numbered over 30,000. As more modern and quicker means of transportation (fast ships and trucks) came into being, the caravan trade dwindled. The devastating droughts of the early 1970s finished off much of the remaining caravans, killing off huge herds of cattle and goats, and transformed many Tuareg from a nomadic to sedentary life.
Rebellion against the Malian government by a small group of Tuareg brought about a strong military response and many Tuareg were forced into living as refugees, mostly in Mauritania. Since the early 1990s the Tuareg and the Malian government mostly settled their differences and many Tuareg moved into permanent villages, like Tedeini. However, many of these villages are still, today, without proper schools. Caravan to Class’s mission is to reverse this injustice for these deserving and interesting people and bring the dream of hope through education to their children.
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