Project Sparks Excitement Among Displaced Children in Burkina Faso

In response to Burkina Faso’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, which has been intensified by armed conflicts since 2016, the team embarked on a development project with the goal of making a positive impact on the lives of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The armed conflict has has affected various regions of the country, causing immense suffering for both civilians and security forces. The consequences of this crisis have been particularly devastating for the affected population: over a million people have been forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge in makeshift camps set up by the government in safer areas. Amidst this turmoil, the education sector has suffered a severe blow. Extremist groups have deliberately targeted schoolteachers, causing fear and disruption in the education system. As a result, more than 6000 schools have been forced to close their doors, robbing children of their right to learn and thrive in a stable learning environment.

In light of these challenges, the project sought to use the captivating wonders of astronomy as a catalyst for positive change. We specifically targeted two sites hosting internally displaced communities, both within reach of the capital city, Ouagadougou. The project was structured into two phases, each designed to address the needs of the affected children:

  • The first phase involved conducting in-depth preliminary surveys in each of the two sites. A team of dedicated professionals interviewed the children, aiming to gain insights into their social and psychological well-being amidst the hardships, and understand their view on the importance of school.
  • The second phase involved leveraging the captivating aspect of astronomy, by designing interactive and engaging educational content tailored to the needs and interests of the children. The goal was not just to teach about the universe and its mysteries but also to ignite a passion for learning within each young mind. Moreover, accounting for the results gathered from the surveys and through a partnership with professionals, we offered the participants adequate psychological attention involving counselling.

Through our efforts, we aspired to not only highlight the importance of education but also provide hope in the hearts of these displaced children. Astronomy served as a bridge connecting them to a world of possibilities beyond the confines of their current situation and it has been possible to leverage it to promote education and mental health.


1. selection of IDP camps: Jan-April 2022
This included carrying out a preliminary study to identify the most appropriate camps for the activities, making contact with the sites’ leadership and requesting official authorisation from the government

2. initial visits to the IDP camps and interviews with children/families: April 2022
This first series of visits to the camps served as a way for the team to familiarise itself with the residents and get a sense of the approximate number of potential participants

3. development of workshops materials: Jan – June 2022
This consisted of developing, refining and adapting materials that would be taught during the workshops.

4. second series of visits to the camps
During these visits, the team has – explained the idea of the workshop and gathered sentiments/inputs from the camp dwellers – selected volunteers – registered the participants of the workshops

5. team preparation & meetings: June – November 2022
Final preparations were done during this period, consisting of in-person and online meetings. These meetings included the project team and participants and provided a way to make final plans before the project implementation

6. pre-activity survey: 5 & 6 December
A team of 6 social scientists organised interviews with selected kids in the IDP camps, a way to get a sense of their psychosocial states and determine what level of psychological attention is needed.

7. project implementation & workshops: 16 – 21 December 2022
In each of the two camps, we held 3 days of activities with ALL registered children. The typical schedule was as follows: Day 1: the Moon Breakfast Session 1: distance to the Moon (~1h) Session 2: lunar day (~1h) Session 3: visualising the lunar phases (~2h) Lunch break Session 4: the model box of lunar phases (~2h) Session 5: the lunar eclipse (~1h) Day 2: the Sun and the solar eclipse Breakfast Session 1: the solar eclipse (~1h) Session 2: observing the sunspots (~4h) Lunch break Session 3: building and using a sundial (~3h) Day 3: the planets of the solar system Breakfast Session 1: distances and scales (~1h) Session 2: building a solar system model (~4h) Lunch break Session 3: observing the Sun – continued (~2h) Session 4: using a sundial – continued (~1h) Day 3: stargazing evening Use of three telescopes to observe stars in the night sky

8. post-project interviews: January 2023

9. project video: filming and video production (January – March 2023)


  • a built model of the solar system: this includes the Sun and the planets of the solar system, representing the orbits of the planets around the Sun
  • the “Moon in a box”: a representation of the Moon and the light from the Sun, demonstrating the lunar phases
  • paper sundials: a paper cutout of sundials built by the learners
  • the Earth-Sun system: a built model of the Sun illuminating the Earth to demonstrate the day and night phenomenon
  • a project summary video featuring testimonies and opinions of the beneficiaries


evaluation of the outcomes is purely based on the sentiment gathered among the targeted children, their parents and the leaders of the communities. Hard, concrete evidence to support the claims made here can only be obtained at the beginning of the next school year in September-October

  • Enthusiasm around learning: we have effectively sparked the children’s enthusiasm for learning among the majority of the participants. Although it is difficult, at the moment, to put an exact number to the fraction of participants that were genuinely motivated by the project to continue learning, we can confidently predict that a large fraction will seek to continue learning.
  • Stress alleviation: the children were particularly shy and little participating on the first days of the activities, but were progressively open and joyful during the later days and after the project
  • Awareness about the psychosocial state of the displaced children: because of the special emphasis we put on the importance of mental health in this particular context of violence, there has been a collective awareness about mental healthcare in the IDP camps. Partnering with a team of psychologists, we are still following up on the particular case of a 15-year-old young girl, with excellent grades, who exhibit signs of severe trauma.
  • Motivation for an MSc study: a social science student that we recruited to help out as a volunteer has decided, after the project, to choose an MSc thesis topic related to the education of young children in the IDP camps