|Thousands of children could take their exams although the new school year has been delayed.|
NEW YORK, 9 February 2005 - Thousands of children in Côte d’Ivoire may finally get the chance to take their exams following orders from the country’s prime minister Saydou Diarra. An ongoing civil conflict in the country has severely disrupted education, forcing schools to close and causing many teachers in the north to flee the region.
In the western district of Man, some 15,500 students are waiting for exams to validate the last academic year. Throughout the north it is thought that around 72,000 children have not been able to take their exams.
The government’s move to schedule exams follows a letter from UNICEF’s Executive Director Carol Bellamy and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland. The letter to President Laurent Gbagbo urged him to intervene on behalf of the students, and emphasized the importance of education as a tool for tolerance and reconciliation and the role of schools as places of protection.
“This is a major breakthrough,” says UNICEF’s Africa Desk Chief, Aboubacar Saibou. “But now we need to see it put into action.”
UNICEF has been advocating for schools to reopen and for children to be given their right to education since the civil conflict started in 2002. The country remains split with the former rebels or New Forces controlling the north where the current school year has still not officially started. Violence escalated in November last year, causing further deterioration in services.
However, many communities, supported by UNICEF, are assuming responsibility for reopening schools and are registering students. UNICEF has already distributed school kits to 15 such schools in the Man district and is assessing how many others now need support.