By Bɛɛkunko, a program of L’œuvre Malienne d’Aide à l’Enfance du Sahel (OMAES)

About the SIRA Project

The USAID Mali SIRA Project is a project to support capacity building in reading and writing in the early school years in the Bamanankan [1]language, in the regions of Koulikoro, Sikasso, Segou and the District of Bamako. The objective is to improve reading and writing skills in Bamanankan, for children in the first and second grades of public, community, single-classroom and madrasa[2] schools in these regions.

A community library at work in Yeelenkɛnɛ, Mali

The SIRA project is funded by USAID/Mali SIRA and implemented by the Education Development Center (EDC), in partnership with l’Œuvre Malienne d’Aide à l’Enfance du Sahel (OMAES), Save the Children International, l’Institut pour l’Education Populaire (IEP – Institute for Popular Education), STS International and CRC-SOGEMA, in close collaboration with the Ministry of National Education (Mali).

There are three expected intermediate results (IR), which are related to the three focus areas of the project, notably:

  • IR 1: Teaching/learning of reading and writing in the early school years is improved: Pedagogic aspect
  • IR 2: The monitoring and evaluation (M and E) systems supporting the teaching of reading and writing in the early school years is improved: Institutional aspect
  • IR 3: The support of parents, communities and the private sector writing/reading in the early school years improves (1st and 2nd grade): Community participation aspect

Community Participation

OMAES is in charge of the Community Participation aspect (design and development of contents and tools, capacity building for partner NGOs, general supervision and coordination of the implementation).

Specific objectives of this aspect:

  • Sensitize and ensure that parents better understand reading in early school years;
  • Improve the capacity of parents to implement strategies in support of learning how to read in the early school years;
  • Improve the capacity of parents to implement strategies aimed at supporting the teaching of reading in the early school years.

Main activities of the Community Participation aspect of the USAID/Mali SIRA project include:

AREA 1: Capacity building for CRPC, ADC, FC, VC OCB stakeholders and Parents

Activity 1: Training on campaign strategies and the implementation of the activities of this area.

Activity 2: Training on the Bɛɛkunko evaluation methodology

Activity 3: Training in Yeelenkɛnɛ (Community library)

Activity 4: Training of parents on Mansa Cɛsirijala (the family-school booklet)

Activity 5: Training of grassroots organisations on Mansa Cɛsirijala and VAD.

AREA 2: Involvement and empowerment of communities

Activity 1: Social negotiations and community mapping;

Activity 2: Mobilisation and service of community facilitators;

Activity 3: Mobilisation and service of community volunteers.


Reading and writing session game with parents in Kakian coura, Mali

AREA 3: Support for reading/writing and performance evaluation of the school and of pupils in 1st and 2nd Grades in Reading

Activity 1: Identification and census of 1st and 2nd grade pupils and their parents.

Activity 2: Reading/writing game

Activity 3: Mansa Cɛsirijala (Family-School booklet)

Activity 4: Space for Parent-Teacher contact

Activity 5: Performance evaluation of the school (Report card, improvement plan)

Activity 6: Implementation of the Bɛɛkunko programme

Activity 7: Setting up and commissioning of 42 Yeelenkɛnɛ/community libraries

AREA 4: Communication campaign for a change in social behaviour (CCCS)

Activity 1: Broadcast of radio spots

Activity 2: Production of sensitization sketches (audio and video)

Activity 3: Community meetings/assemblies

Activity 4: Organisation/animation of community fora

Activity 5: Organisation/animation programs for large audiences

Activity 6: Organisation of caravans

Activity 7: Organisation/animation roundtable discussions

Activity 8: Campaign material

Activity 9: Meetings and exchanges with traditional communicators and/or others to discuss the reading strategy.

Bɛɛkunko Evaluation

The Bɛɛkunko evaluation is a main activity of the community participation component of the project, and is carried out annually in all the schools covered by the project. Thus in 2017, OMAES carried out a Bɛɛkunko assessment of 1st grade children in 320 village neighbourhoods, in the areas covered by the SIRA project in Koulikoro, Sikasso and Ségou regions.

In order to achieve this, the following steps were followed:

  • Adaptation of the tests of the Bɛɛkunko approach to the specificities of the project, which only works with level 1 children (1st and 2nd grades) and is interested only in reading/writing in Bamanankan[3];
  • The development of data collection tools, namely the evaluation booklet and the instruction manual;
  • Training of trainers on Bɛɛkunko evaluation methodology;
  • The training of community volunteers/facilitators on the Bɛɛkunko methodology, who are responsible for the collection of investigator data;
  • Implementation of household assessment, instant feedback, community feedback of gross results;
  • Data capture, processing, analysis and interpretation;
  • Preparation and dissemination of the evaluation report.

Thus, the 2017 evaluation covered 320 villages/districts divided between 41 municipalities, and 25 areas of the 3 intervention regions of the project. It involved 5,536 households with 11,993 children, 5,284 girls aged 5 to 9 (44%).

The evaluation’s main conclusions are as follows:

 Children aged 5 to 9 years surveyed:

  • Of the 11 993 children aged 5 to 9 years in the households surveyed, 8,794 children or 73% are in school; 2,998 not in school (25%) and 108 out-of-school (about 1%).
  • The majority of school children attend public schools (73%) and an equally considerable number are in community schools (22%). Private schools, on the other hand, receive only 1% of school children.

 Children aged 5 to 9 years assessed:

A total of 7,306 children in the early grades, including 3,139 girls (43%) were assessed in reading in the Bamanankan language. All were subjected to the five (05) test items namely:

(i) Names/Sounds of the letters; (ii) Syllables; (iii) Words; (iv) Simple sentences; (v) Oral comprehension of the text.

 Level of competence in relation to the various items of the evaluation:

(proportion of children successful in the various items)

  • Item (i): Sounds or names of letters of the Bamanankan alphabet: Together: 61% Boys (B): 59% Girls (G): 64%
  • Item (ii): Syllables: Together: 29% B: 29%, G: 30%.
  • Item (iii): Words: Together: 14%   B: 14%, G: 14%.
  • Item (iv): Simple sentences: Together: 9%  B: 8%,   G: 9%.
  • Item (v): Oral comprehension of the text: Together: 33%   B: 33%; G: 32%


[1] The Bambara (Bamana) language, Bamanankan, is a lingua franca and national language of Mali

[2] A school or institute for Islamic studies