Burkina Faso

Child returnees from Côte d’Ivoire go back to school in Burkina Faso

UNICEF Image: Burkina Faso Overcrowded Schools
© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2006/Daouda
Children in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso express gratitude to UNICEF for helping to provide them with a school.

By Jean-Jacques Nduita

BOBO DIOULASSO, Burkina Faso, 22 August 2006 – Ousmane Nyenyi, 14, has never gone to school. Like many of their neighbors from the Serfalao commune in Bobo Dioulasso, western Burkina Faso, he and his family had to flee from their adopted country, Côte d’Ivoire, when war broke out there four years ago.

Ousmane cannot speak French fluently, though he can understand it. He longs to speak the language just as other children his age or even younger would, but he has never been taught formally. Ousmane’s father has not been employed since leaving Côte d’Ivoire; he has finally settled down as a farmer but is still too poor to take good care of his family.

In Bobo Dioulasso, families like Ousmane’s cannot send their children to school for lack of money or just because there is no room in overcrowded state-owned schools. With support from UNICEF Canada, UNICEF has been building schools to help children who find themselves in a similar situation.

“I frankly hope that these new schools will finally help poor people like us go to school,” said Ousmane.

Overcrowded classrooms

Between 2002 and 2003, the number of children attending public schools in Bobo Dioulasso increased by over 9,000. The next year, that number increased by more than 15,000 due to the return of Burkinabes fleeing the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire.

The Burkina Faso Government now subsidizes fees paid by parents for all girls in their first year of public school. Provisions are being made to gradually expand this provision to cover subsequent grades.

UNICEF Image: Burkina Faso Overcrowded Schools
© UNICEF Burkina Faso/2006/Daouda
Many of the classrooms in Bobo Dioulasso are overcrowded due to the influx of returnees from Côte d’Ivoire.

Also, school supplies are free for all first-year schoolchildren in some 20 targeted provinces where literacy rates are very low. Funds are made available, as well, in 25 other provinces to help buy school supplies for students in their first year.

But due to overcrowded classrooms in public schools – especially in Bobo Dioulasso, Orodara and Hounde – not all children have a chance to enjoy these benefits. When there is no room in public schools, families have to choose between sending their children to private schools (where fees are often unaffordable) or keeping them at home in the hope that, one day, new schools will be built to meet the growing demand.

Eager to learn

Zourata Sondo, 7, is one of those who stays at home. Zourata lost her parents to the war in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002 and came back home to Burkina Faso to live with her aunt. She now lives with her grandmother, who can no longer work.

There is no space for Zourata in a public school, and none of her family members can pay school fees for her to attend a private school. She’s expects one of the newly constructed schools in the area to give her a chance to be educated.

Some 500 Burkinabe women returnees from Côte d’Ivoire, most of whom lost their husbands in the war, also have high hopes for the schooling of their children and their own education. The new schools will also serve as literacy and numeracy centers for women returnees.


 

 

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