The AI project pushing local languages to replace French in Mali’s schools

Article by Annie Risemberg and Damilare Dosunmu: “For the past six months,Alou Dembele, a27-year-oldengineer and teacher, has spent his afternoons reading storybooks with children in the courtyard of a community school in Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The books are written in Bambara — Mali’s most widely spoken language — and include colorful pictures and stories based on local culture. Dembele has over 100 Bambara books to pick from — an unimaginable educational resource just a year ago.

From 1960 to 2023, French was Mali’s official language. But in June last year, the military government replaced it in favor of 13 local languages, creating a desperate need for new educational materials.

Artificial intelligence came to the rescue: RobotsMali, a government-backed initiative, used tools like ChatGPT, Google Translate, and free-to-use image-maker Playgroundto create a pool of 107 books in Bambara in less than a year. Volunteer teachers, like Dembele, distribute them through after-school classes. Within a year, the books have reached over 300 elementary school kids, according to RobotsMali’s co-founder, Michael Leventhal. They are not only helping bridge the gap created after French was dropped but could also be effective in helping children learn better, experts told Rest of World…(More)”.

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