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Nestled in the temperate mountains of Guinea, West Africa, Mamou Alliance Academy had all the appearances of a haven away from home. Run by the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination from the 1920s to 1971, the school boarded over 200 children of missionaries working in the surrounding regions. Starting at age 6, the children lived there for nine months of every year. Defunct for decades, Mamou is remembered, in the words of one alumnus, as "the Auschwitz of missionary kid boarding schools."

In the late 1980s, the Colorado Springs-based C&MA began receiving reports of rampant abuse at Mamou: children slapped and punched, raped and fondled, and threatened with undoing their parents' mission if they told. In 1995, a committee of some 30 alumni approached the C&MA for an investigation and restitution. It responded by forming an independent commission of inquiry (ICI) the following year. After hearing 80 testimonies, the ICI released a report in April 1998 identifying nine offenders—four retired, three dead, and two no longer with the C&MA. It found the denomination negligent in monitoring Mamou and training teachers. Contributing editor John W. Kennedy extensively covered the story for Christianity Today in 1995 and 1998.

Since the report, the C&MA has drastically changed its educational system. Starting in 2000, parents are not required to send children to boarding schools, and today 75 percent of MKS live with their parents year-round. Those who board remotely are mostly teenagers and attend schools certified by the Association of Christian Schools International. The C&MA board of directors drafted policies and procedures should accusations arise. "We've tried to really change so that the sins of our past ...

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A Badly Broken Boarding School
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In the Magazine

May 2010

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