ESL Eco Blog


An active and committed retired person, Daniel Robert has allowed us to discover Mali through his experiences as a voluntary teacher overseas and has raised our awareness of the lack of equipment and furniture in the schools of this country. He will accompany our project until its conclusion.

Since 1991, Daniel Roberta has been working as part of the pedagogical cooperation programme, which has been put in place by Swiss organisations in Africa. Firstly, in Senegal, then in numerous towns in Mali, it provides its teaching to African trainers. 120 to 150 interns take the courses every year and then transmit their knowledge to children in primary schools.

We are now going to discover the city where our material will be dispatched shortly.

Timbuktu, in Mali, a mystical city at the gateway to the desert…Timbuktu, where a large number of children do not go to school or have large gaps in their schooling. In Timbuktu, like throughout Mali, 70% of the population is not literate.

And yet – Timbuktu has a past rich in knowledge!

Founded at the beginning of the first millennium, Timbuktu became a reputed religious centre in the 18th century. On discovering its riches in 1928, the travelling writer René Caillé contributed with others to shaping its myth.

Avez-vous déjà visité Tombouctou,

Tombouctou la ville mystérieuse ?

Cité célèbre du savoir,

Sœur de Djenné,

Depuis Koroyomé, Kabara

Jusqu’aux bancs de sable,

Battants du Sahara,

Repoussant le fleuve Niger

Vers la cité des Askias.

Tombouctou !

At the beginning of the 16th century, the city of Timbuktu had more than 100,000 inhabitants, of which 25,000 were students, all schooled since the age of 7 years in one of the 180 Koranic schools of the city. Timbuktu therefore had one of the highest literacy rates in the world at this time.

Today, the real treasure of Timbuktu is made up of a set of almost one hundred thousand manuscripts, which are in the possession of the large families of the city. They are mainly written in Arabic or in Fulani, by scholars originating from the former Mali empire and contain didactic competency notably in the areas of astronomy, music, botanics…If already more than 18,000 have been collected by the only centre for documentation, Ahmed Baba, one estimates that there could be up to 300,000 manuscripts in existence throughout the Tuareg region.


Timbuktu is today listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

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