Mobile school offers hope to nomadic children in Chad

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TOUKRA, Chad, September 12 (Reuters) – In a makeshift outdoor classroom, dozens of children sat huddled together on a mat and watched their teacher chalk out simple sums on a board black – a rare educational opportunity for their nomadic community in Chad.

About 7% of the population of around 16 million people in this central African country are nomads, who move hundreds of kilometers south each year with their herds when seasonal rains make the central regions semi- green arid with fresh pastures.

This way of life is secular but incompatible with Chad’s formal education system. According to the Copenhagen-based International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, less than 1% of nomadic boys and “virtually no” nomadic girls were enrolled in school in 2018.

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Teacher Leonard Gamaigue was inspired to create a mobile school when he saw children playing in a nomadic camp in Toukra, outside the Chadian capital N’Djamena, during normal school hours in 2019 .

“When we started, we had practically nothing, not even a piece of chalk”, recalls the 28-year-old young man, after a lesson at the end of August during which the children had carefully noted the answers in notebooks placed on their knees.

Almost three years later, her school – which follows the community on its moves every two months or so – has 69 students of various ages and basic supplies thanks to donations.

“They had never been to school before, none of them…today they can already write their names correctly, speak French, do calculations,” Gamaigue said proudly.

The teacher also received a nomadic education, learning to conserve water more carefully, to live on a diet rich in milk, and to get used to packing and moving the school.

When their lesson was over, the children picked up the blackboard and placed it carefully under a tree to protect it from the rain that had previously flooded parts of their camp.

Severe seasonal flooding is among the many challenges facing Chad, one of the world’s poorest countries, where one in five children die before their fifth birthday, according to the World Bank.

“We are delighted with the creation of this modest school for… our children, who are progressing despite our difficult living conditions,” said Ousmane Brahim, school parent and head of the camp.

“We nomads did not know the importance of school, but today we are beginning to understand its importance for us and for our country.”

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Written by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Catherine Evans

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