by Marissa Sittler, Mali Rising Intern
Welcome to the village of N’Tentou, where Jackie Trujillo Middle School was opened in 2006. This school was Mali Rising Foundation’s very first school, so its construction was ground-breaking – both literally and figuratively.
Jackie was inspired to build the school after she met Yeah Samake and a friend of his, who were both from Mali and both devoted to the idea of building schools for their country. Jackie says she saw that Yeah “wanted to help his people,” and she believed in his ambition and desire.
When the school opened, Jackie visited Mali and N’Tentou for the celebration. A Malian official asked Jackie why she would want to come to Mali to help, when the U.S. has everything. Jackie replied, “It’s because we have everything. We [in the U.S.] have everything -- the infrastructure. Infrastructure comes from education.”
As Jackie noted, there are major differences between the U.S. and Mali: in Mali, there is no running water or electricity. People live without bathrooms and use buckets to shower. Despite this, the villagers are incredibly happy and nice and Jackie found that wherever she went Malians want to “feed, sing, and bless you.”
N’Tentou was founded around the year 1892. The village was named by the first inhabitants after they settled near a bushy tree called "Teniblén" in Bambara. Thus the name of the village was formed from Ten (Teniblén) and Tou (bush in Bambara). The village is quite remote, with the nearest big cities hundreds of kilometers away -- N’Tentou is 188 km from the capitol city Bamako and 235 km from Sikasso.
In the village of N’Tentou there are approximately 2,500 people, and almost every year new families move to the village so that their children can attend the school. N’Tentou continues to grow because of the success of Jackie Trujillo Middle School – the school is known for exceeding the national graduation rates so it attracts those interested in a quality education for their children.
Some children also travel from neighboring villages, such as Zambougou (no relation to the Mali Rising partner village of Zambougou), Niarako, and Magnambala, which are 3 km to 11 km away. Because of the school’s presence students from large towns such as Bougouni and Faragran also attend.
The villagers of N’Tentou grow millet, maize, and cotton. They also run small businesses and raise livestock. As with all Malian villages, N’Tentou is rich with culture. Some of their cultural events include an annual youth festival, a collective sacrifice for the village, and the didadi -- their traditional dance – which takes place during the festivities.
With donations from Jackie’s family, in 2017 Mali Rising renovated the school and built new latrines for the students. Despite good maintenance from the village, the school was ready for a facelift. At the same time, the school was renamed the Trujillo Family Middle School. When students return in October 2017 they will find bright classrooms free from a troubling bat infestation, new latrines, and a new principal’s office.
With the continued care and support of the village, we expect the refreshed Trujillo Family Middle School to continue to exceed academic expectations and change lives for the next decade!