On Sunday 20 June at 11 a.m., the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) officially opened, with a lot of emotion, the after-school tutoring room for the 25 young girls selected among the players of the Saturday and Sunday training sessions. On this occasion, the association’s board specially made the trip to Mali and it was Serge Betsen, Odile Prévot, the children, Boubacar Traoré a.k.a. “PC” and the supervisors who received our guests. Among the official authorities, Mr. Mossa Ag Attaher, Minister of Youth and Sports, in charge of Civic Education and Citizen Construction did us the honour of presiding over the ceremony, thus affirming his support for our actions.
The ceremony started at 11 a.m. at the AS REAL stadium in Bamako and it was Mory Touré, journalist and loyal supporter of SBA Mali who hosted the event as MC. The program of the day’s celebrations was organised as follows:
11 a.m.: arrival of children and guests
11.15-11.45 a.m.: children’s rugby matches
12 noon: speech by Serge Betsen
12.15 p.m.: speech by Odile Prevot
12.35 p.m.: speech by the Minister of Youth and Sports, in charge of Civic Education and Citizen Construction, Mr. Mossa Ag Attaher
12.45 p.m.: 3 exhibition matches of rugby sevens
12.45 p.m.: visit of the container by the 25 young girls and the guests
1 p.m.: buffet generously hosted by the restaurant LE LOFT in Bamako, then reunion with the players of the Hippos XV of Bamako.
During this event, Boubou Sangho, a young Malian entrepreneur, founder of Boubou Lait was introduced to our children. Impressed by his success, the board of the association had indeed offered him to become the mentor of the young people of SBA Mali, a mission which he kindly accepted.
The after-school tutoring classroom is now installed on the AS REAL stadium in Bamako with the authorisation of Mr. Sow, its president and Mr. Laurent, whom we’d like to thank warmly. And it is thanks to the hard work of our partner, the ATC Mali group founded and led by Jean-Guy Monneret that the container and its interior were manufactured, decorated and supplied. A few days before the inauguration, and once Serge Betsen, “PC” and the rugby coaches had cleared and cleaned-up the pitch, it was installed at the location indicated by Mr. Sow and Mr. Laurent. Desks, benches, shelves and blackboard were also kindly donated by Jean-Guy Monneret. The result is magnificent and we are very grateful to Jean-Guy for his donation and to his team. Thanks to them, our young girls will study in good conditions!
The after-school tutoring classes will start on Tuesday 6 July and so, 25 girls aged from 8 to 13, in great difficulty, will benefit from them. These will take place every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Madame Coulibaly Afoussatou, an experienced teacher and a volunteer, will assist the girls in order to provide them with the necessary keys to the continuation and success of their education. By supporting these girls, we indeed want to fight against school drop-out, forced marriage and teenage pregnancies which are rampant in Mali. The principle of equality between girls and boys is indeed at the heart of our principles. And our goal is to empower these girls.
During its stay in Mali, the association’s board made the children play rugby but above all spent precious time with them in order to talk at length, especially with the girls and their mothers, in a small group. The members of the board also met Dr Safiatou Samassa, a renowned young obstetrician gynaecologist at the University Hospital Centre of Bamako. Very sensitive to the situation of our children and to our mission, she agreed to volunteer to take care of our medical dispensary. From 6 August she will be present, every Saturday, at the centre to offer medical check-ups and care to the children of SBA Mali and also their parents. The health component of the SBA Mali is therefore in good hands!
The board also had the opportunity to meet government representatives and local stakeholders to present the association’s progress and projects for the coming year. We would like to thank Mr. Mossa Ag Attaher, Minister of Youth and Sports, in charge of Civic Education and Citizen Construction and Mr. Arouna Modibo Touré, former Minister of Youth and Sports. We also want to thank H.E Nimaga Mahamadou, Ambassador of Mali to the United States who helped us from Washington DC to prepare for this trip and to put us in contact with people who could support us.
A big thank you also to our partners, the ATC Mali group for the magnificent container, Mr. Sow from AS REAL in Bamako and Mr. Laurent for lending us the land, but also to Mory Touré, Boubou Sangho, Martine du Loft restaurant for the delicious buffet, to the journalists who came to meet us, to Nicolas Réméné for his photos and to all those present at the inauguration.
Last but not least, a huge thank you to “PC”, our local contact, who set everything up and takes care of our children on a daily basis. Without him, nothing would be possible. He is helped by two rugby coaches, Diarra Mandjou and Diallo Yaya, whom we also wish to thank for their dedication.
The beautiful photos in this article were taken by our official photographer, Nicolas Réméné, on this very special day and we thank him for it.
Translation : Katy Birge-Wilson