Reports by Wague in Mali Dec 2015/Jan 2016
As you know, Ko-Falen has been raising money to build a two-room tutoring center in the mango grove adjacent to our center. In the meanwhile, to be able to have classes taking place simultaneously, we created a temporary second space by building more benches and painting a chalkboard on the inside wall/fence of the grove. This way, we can take advantage of the balmy weather this season and keep up with the needs of our tutored students.
I interviewed the students at the end of the class. They noted that their public school classrooms are packed like a mouth full of teeth, and that the teacher does not have enough time for each of them. But because of Ko-Falen, they not only catch up with the classroom program, but they are among the best in their schools.
Letter from High School student, Balamine:
It is good to see Baba Wague visiting us again. Here in Mali things could be better than the last few years, but by the will of good spirit, we are surviving. As some of you may have known, I was not meant to go to school at all. But thanks to the good will of Ko-Falen tutoring I worked hard with our French teacher Modibo that helped me transfer to public school at 6th grade. Now I am in 2nd year in high school. My family and I owe everything to the Ko-Falen tutoring program.
Now that you all have helped me halfway up the stairs, there is no turning back. I am still in need of your blessing to reach college.
My gratitude to the Kofalen board and donors who continue to change lives. This is all I wanted to say.
How can anyone forget the little girl name Oumou Coulibaly, called “Tanti”? Like many little girls in Mali, without help from Ko-Falen, Tanti’s chance of going to school would have been marginal. But she is among the lucky ones to be known by Ko-Falen. Last year when I asked the shy little Tanti how she was doing in her 3rd grade class, she responded proudly, “Fine, I am the best.”
This year, I came across Tanti at the Ko-Falen tutoring center. “Tanti!” I called to her, “How is school?”
“Fine,” she responded, glancing up at my face, then quickly staring at her feet shyly.
“How is your 4th grade class?” I questioned.
“I am still with the top best,” she shyly responded with a smile on her face.
Tanti is 8 years old and in 4th grade. Her public school teacher, Mr. Sidibe, confirmed that Tanti is doing very well. Mr. Sidibe added, “Ko-Falen’s tutoring center has been doing something that exists nowhere else in Mali–and perhaps nowhere else in the entire Africa! It is beyond words.”
Report from Modibo Diakite, Ko-Falen Head Tutor:
“This tutoring program is an angel, a life saver for us, the teachers, and the children and their parents,” remarks Modibo Diakite, Head Tutor. “Kofalen’s success comes from a great deal of energy and increasing teamwork between Americans and Malians. One can see the sky without lying on one’s back. Because of our tireless teamwork, Ko-Falen remains big in the minds of our students. They are all doing well because we teachers are consistent, as well as the Portland team and the donors–Thank you!”
This year, Ko-Falen has provided 30 new books for our French Reading/Writing classes of 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students. In the photo they show a great deal of joy. An elder says, “Clothing shelters the body from the outside world, but encouragement and stability shelter knowledge in the mind of man.”
Thank you for bringing a sense of stability to these families and their children.
Report of the Parents and Teachers Meeting with Ko-Falen, December 2015.
On the 15th of December, a few days before winter break, our 3 Teachers at the Ko-Falen Tutoring Center sent the students home with notes to their parents for a meeting on Saturday December 26th. I could tell that the news had spread quickly, as parents randomly greeted me in the street and marketplace, then confirmed they will be at the meeting. And students began bringing daily the result of their exams to proudly prove that they are doing well.
Modibo Diakite, Head Tutor:
“I will start the meeting with a different speech this year. We have much good news. See over here behind me on the table, I am pleased to let you know that we have been rewarded with a perfect and needy gift in this holiday season. The 30 books you see here are gifts from Portland’s Kofalen board and donors (followed by claps). These books are not for anyone in particular, but for the whole tutoring program. While in the tutoring center or during classes, we are all welcome to use them, but no one can take them home. We must take good care of these books to last longer and it will make our donors proud. Hear how hard these people work so you students can learn here; they leave their earnest jobs on the side and spend days convincing others to recognize Kofalen and become donors so all of you can learn. Here in Mali, many will worry to do that because it means no food for the family, so you can somewhat imagine how hard it must be for them also.”
“The second good news is, we are in the process of building two additional rooms to accommodate our tutoring. This is a great responsibility to the Americans, and to us. This whole thing is about the well-being of children and our small community–we are truly blessed.”
“Parents, you ask someone to help put a load on your head with your own two hands positioned to bear half of the weight. People are helping us from very far away, this means it is a trust-based relationship. I am a Fulani and I do not like shame. So join me to do the best job so the day we have an American visitor, we can rejoice together.”
A Praise Song for the Ko-Falen Board and Donors:
The meeting that took place on December 26, 2015 with the parents and teachers of Ko-Falen’s Tutoring Program was opened with a praise song to Americans and Ko-Falen by Dali, the oral historian whose child attends our program:
“Wague, to you and your fellow Americans, I say, “Aw ni wula jan. You and the long evening (a nostalgic moment in time).”
This greeting is to those who start their days with good deeds that continue from morning to dusk;
Those who do not like their sweat from hard work to be recognized, as they see kindness as their life’s duty.
So I say “Diakite” to all the Americans—Those Diakites’ children and grandchildren of nobles full of grace, kindness and tolerance.
Those of Diakite’s ancestors that had the power to capture and punish their known enemies but spared them instead, to keep your dignity–to keep a human record clean.
I sing this to you Ko-Falen because you deserve to know this–for the mind that does not remember a good deed of the past will not be concerned with new deeds.
We appreciate what the Americans have done for us and our children to a point that we are now ‘American’ all over our body.
I say Wague, you and your American friends, keep on being proud;
For man only gets a portion of his dignity from his birth place,
Yet his way of seeing and acting completes his dignity beyond a reasonable doubt–
You and mankind, I say, “You and the long evening.”
Your concerns are the people’s concerns; be worry-free, for nothing can go wrong—nothing.
For you are owner of the people, yet left enough room for me–oral historian–to practice my trade.
Leadership is about the wish of the people:
Letting the blacksmith, traders, farmers–even ordinary men–do their work in peace.
For a leader without anyone following is just taking a walk;
A crowned, seated king without his people is only sheltering from the sun.
I say, “You and the long evening” –
I say, “You and the long evening” from here in Bamako, Mali to America across the vast Atlantic into Portland, Oregon–
I say “long evening” to you on behalf of the entire Mali–land of the great Simbon diviners, the braves, the kings, land of the trans-Saharan trade–
The father land of the Soninke, the Mandinka, the Amanan.
Mali, land of cheerfulness and hospitality for thousands of years,
Our founding fathers said, “If you respect the rules and regulations of this land, you are the citizen of Mali.”
I say “long evening” to Ko-Falen; you fit all these rules and regulations.
You are the king of hope, therefore I say, “You and the long evening.”
Long evening to you from the parents of students,
I say “long evening” from the students, from the masons, from the blacksmiths, from the mango grove– even from the wandering donkeys, cows of Boulkassoumbougou.
Greetings to our three teachers here at Ko-Falen Tutoring Center; they deserve a big thanks.
I witness today that Ko-Falen’s tree of friendship has grown more branches with many new young faces.
They are all hopeless, parentless or extremely poor.
This is a rate to measure our level of success at Ko-Falen tutoring–
Yet next to the majestic full moon, shines a bright star.
Yes God is indeed our hope, but yet we still need your talent–
Thanks for your work.
As for you Wague, reminding a noble of his good past dignifies him and strengthens his heart,
So I say “long evening” to you also–
Long evening to you, son and grandson of the four ancestral lines of the Fulani family–
Long evening to you, son of nomadic people, son of your mother Penda and son of Mali.
It is because of your courage and goodwill that started our relationship with Americans.
It’s been well over 20 years now since you first started introducing us to your fellow American friends.
While alive, your mother Penda had taken each one of them as her own sons and daughters.
She was even the subject to give some their Malian names.
Those were the good old times where we would celebrate naming ceremonies daily under the mango tree in your compound.
If a tree could speak, that mango tree would have a lot to say.
From those days when we personally held hands with Americans, dancing to the music of balafon and drums, to this better moment of our lives now-a-day,
You and American friends are steadfast in your promise to us.
Long evening is to your commitment, your honesty and your world citizenship–son of all women.
An honest and kind man is what we see as a friend of God.
When man gives you a gift, it can be taken away, but the gift from God is for always.
May your friendship with all of us last.
Tell Ronna that we all say long evening to her. A child gets her first name from her father and mother, but it is her good deeds that earns her true last name.
Tell all our American friends that they deserve the four original last names of the Fulani root–Diallo, Diakite, Sidibe and Sangare!”
The praise song ends with families clapping and shouting “We are all Diakites.”
Dali the oral historian summarized, “These Americans changed our view on colonization; we will be where they are and die for their cause. We thank them for their generosity”
Baba Wague Diakite