Mali : A joint programme of science and health education

1. Main issues addressed

Infectious and parasitic diseases cause 13 millions of deaths each year. More than 50% of human infectious diseases affect children, especially in developing countries and regions where both hygiene and prevention policies are poor. Respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are the main plagues. Pneumonia, diarrheal diseases and malaria alone are responsible for one third of all deaths among under-5 children in 2012.


Progresses in sanitation and access to drinking water facilities have allowed reducing the propagation of many diseases, but they are not sufficient to secure a better health in the longer term.

Hygiene and vaccination are also of great importance for the improvement of health and especially for the prevention of infectious diseases. For instance, washing hands properly contributes to reduce the incidence of diarrheal diseases but also of pneumonia, scabies and other skin diseases, ocular diseases, etc.


2. The key role of school education


Teaching has a key role to play to prevent diseases through a better perception and understanding of risks. It also contributes to change behaviours. Setting up school programmes on health and hygiene issues allows to reach children more widely than through other ways. It also opens the possibility for children to circulate their knowledge to their families, especially their mothers.


Of course, teachers are crucial for the effectiveness of such programmes, but they need to develop their knowledge and skills, especially at primary level to be able to pass on through health messages in the official curriculum which is often quite full. In such a context, the science programme, especially biology but also physics, is particularly well adapted for developing teaching contents related to health.




3. A joint programme of science and health education

This project assumes that teachers need to develop key scientific notions as well as methods to convey them to children in order to contribute to both science and health education. For this purpose, professional development of teachers is the main activity, which supposes to mobilise teachers’ educators as well as scientists and to develop resources for teachers themselves as well as for the class.


This pilot project is adapted to the local context of the town of Bamako, especially to the local epidemiological situation.

It targets the teachers and children of primary education (from 6 to 12).


Considering the key role of hygiene and vaccination in health prevention, the project focusses on basic science subjects and notions that are relevant to both issues and that are part of the official programmes. These notions will relate to three big areas: the air, the water and the human body.


4. The initiators of the project

The Fondation La main à la pâte has developed a great expertise in the field of science education at primary level, in France and abroad, especially through the promotion of the inquiry approach that empowers children with key competencies beyond the sole acquisition of theoretical knowledge.

The Fondation Mérieux, and its network Gabriel, are experts in the research about infectious diseases and have strong connections with the local context thanks to the presence of a laboratory member of the network in Bamako.





5. Brief description of the project


  • To contribute to science and health education among pupils
  • To raise awareness among the communities about health issues through children


Specific objective:

To improve school teaching (content, methods) regarding health and hygiene issues related to natural sciences.



7 schools in the town of Bamako with appreciatively 20 teachers/ classes targeted.

Around 1000 pupils.




Main activities:


  • Production of pedagogical and scientific resources on infectious diseases in relation with air and water and the body;
  • Organisation of training sessions for teachers’ educators > 2-session training programme per year on inquiry approach, use of resources produced, etc.
  • Organisation of professional development and support activities for teachers > sessions training programme (inquiry approach, use of resources produced) + scientific and educational support (laboratory and class visits, others) + networking
  • Organisation of pedagogical activities for the communities in relation with class activities developed by children (exhibition, open schools, etc.)
  • Local advocacy and awareness raising on health education / Broadcasting of local radio programmes.




For more information:



  • 4 years (end august 2019)


6. The partners who support the project:

- Fondation Christophe et Rodolphe Mérieux

- Gabriel Network  from the Fondation Mérieux

- DREIC (Délégation aux relations européennes et internationales et à la coopération)  - Ministry of education / Ministry of higher education and research)


7. Contacts


Fondation La main à la pâte /

  • Anne Lejeune: Deputy coordinator for international relations

anne.lejeune 'at'