The statistics are alarming, and they only begin to suggest the suffering behind the numbers. Recent surveys suggest that anywhere from 7% to 10% of the population of Burkina Faso have a disability. This means that at least 1.1 million adults and children have a disability of some sort. In one of the world’s poorest nations, life for the majority of the population is harsh and challenging. Those with a disability, incapable of competing in many aspects of the labor market, and shunned in a still heavily traditional society which regards the disabled with dismay, are at an even greater disadvantage than the rest of the population. Little government support is available. Many disabled are among the poorest of the poor. And since even public schools require a variety of fees for admittance, the children of the impoverished disabled, and disabled children themselves, are even less likely than the general population to be able to attend school. Recent surveys suggest that 66% of those with disabilities have never attended school; that 76.8% of disabled adults are unemployed; and that 44% of the disabled feel profoundly excluded in Burkinabe society. A World Bank study estimated that the literacy rate among the disabled may be as low as 2%.

Over and over again members of the disabled population in Burkina Faso, in discussions with ABLF, stressed their desire to acquire the necessary training to be self-supporting. Many disabled parents, and parents with disabled children, stressed their desire to secure education and assistance for their children. In response to these profound problems the ABLF School Program was created. Working in cooperation with agents of the Education Ministry ABLF staff in Burkina Faso seek out and interview candidates for the program. Because the situation is especially difficult in rural areas, the program has focused on villages in five underdeveloped provinces. Priority is given to disabled children or the children of disabled parents judged likeliest to respond successfully to the challenges of formal education. Support personnel work with the children and their caregivers to make sure that they are ready for school. Any school fees are paid by ABLF. School clothes are provided. Disabled children needing assistance to travel to school are given a tricycle or bicycle. All school materials are provided. At the same time the health of candidates for the program are evaluated, and health issues (everything from oral health to eyesight) are addressed and resolved. A detailed report on each child is prepared, and regularly reviewed and updated. During the school year ABLF representatives visit each school to maintain track of each child’s progress and to deal with any problems. At the same time any new issues involving a family likely to disrupt a child’s schooling are evaluated. Regular reports on each child are filed with the ABLF office in Ouagadougou.

Some children, because of difficult family situations, the pressure to earn money, or a disinclination to pursue formal education, are placed in apprenticeships funded by ABLF, so that they can learn a skill from a local craftsmen. Their progress is also monitored throughout the year.

The efficiency and success of the program is demonstrated, in part, by the fact that a majority of the children in the program advance to the next grade each year. Many have remained in the program until graduating from secondary school.

Because prevailing negative attitudes about the disabled are still widespread in Burkina Faso, and can be seen to be impeding the struggle of the disabled for rights and for employment, ABLF decided to expand their outreach to teachers in village schools in which we sponsor children, and to invite local and regional officials to the events. Our seminars document the challenges the disabled face, and stress the ambitions and strengths of the disabled, documenting the benefits they can bring to society.

Since its inception in 2005 the ABLF School Program has sponsored an average of 460 children in primary and secondary school each school year. Last school year, the program placed 505 children into school, 455 of which attended primary school and secondary schools and 20 go to high school. In addition, 30 children were placed in apprenticeships. During the 2017/2018 school year we will expand the program further. 

Please help us expand our program to reach more children. Every dollar we receive goes to the program. And every dollar counts. To learn more, please contact us. Or go to our “donate” button to contribute to a successful, grass-roots effort to change lives and open up a new world of possibilities to a population long excluded from the benefits of education and the possibility of true self-sufficiency.