The landlocked West African country of Mali is one of the poorest in the world.
According to the BBC, Mali experienced rapid economic growth after the 1990s, coupled with a flourishing democracy and relative social stability.
For several decades after independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship until democratic elections in 1992.
Although swathes of Mali are barren, the country is self-sufficient in food thanks to the fertile Niger river basin in the south and east.
Mali was regarded as a model of African democracy until the military seized power in March 2012 and the north fell under al-Qaeda control. Presidential polls in August 2013 were part of a designated return to civilian rule, the BBC reports.
Mali is among the 25 poorest countries in the world. It is highly dependant on gold mining and agricultural exports such as cotton. A chronic foreign trade deficit makes it nonetheless heavily dependent on foreign aid and remittances from Malians working abroad.
Many children drop out of school due to poverty. The education programme Speed School is an intensive, free education that aims to get these children back to school. Read more about the programme here.