|© UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire/2006|
|UNICEF and its partner organizations have coordinated security for 66 examination centres in Côte d’Ivoire's Northern Zone and helped to monitor exams.|
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 13 March 2006 – After a two-year wait, students in Côte d’Ivoire have at last been able to take their final examinations and complete their education.
More than 80,000 high school students affected by the disruption in the country’s Northern Zone are now taking their exams, which will conclude on 17 March. Although some schools have remained open, year-end exams were cancelled for the past two years because of ongoing political turmoil.
As many as 1 million children in the region have been denied their right to education since 2003, when civil and ethnic conflict forced many teachers and government workers to flee. Even where schools continued operating, communities lost confidence in classroom learning that was no longer officially validated by the standard exam process.
Students and teachers relieved
Twelfth-grader Abdoulaye Bakayoko was devastated by the delays. “The first year without our exams, the situation was catastrophic. It really plunged all my ambitions down the drain,” says Abdoulaye, who wanted to become a teacher. As friends outside the Northern Zone took their exams and moved on, he lagged behind. Without a high school degree, he could not attend university.
“I wanted to go elsewhere but I didn’t have the means,” adds Abdoulaye. “The next year when I found out that we wouldn’t have exams, I told myself that it was all over for me.”
|© UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire/2006|
|After a two-year wait, more than 80,000 high school students affected by civil disruptions in Côte d’Ivoire's Northern Zone are now taking their exams, which will conclude on 17 March.|
This year, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire decided to organize the national examinations and eliminate, once and for all, the state of educational limbo affecting tens of thousands of children like Abdoulaye.
The news was welcomed by students and teachers alike. Principal Yao Teki of the Lycée Domoraud, a school in the Northern Zone, describes his reaction: “The exams were a great relief for us all. We told ourselves, ‘They’re now thinking about us’. This is going to re-launch school activities in our zone.”
(Click here to read more statements from those directly affected by the resumption of final exams.)
Coordination a daunting task
UNICEF has applauded the government’s landmark initiative, which will help normalize children’s lives and stop the violation of their right to an education, as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Côte d'Ivoire ratified the Convention in 1991.
The government's further commitment to begin the redeployment of teaching personnel is a hopeful development for all children and families in Côte d'Ivoire – particularly those living in the regions hardest-hit by the civil crisis.
UNICEF took the lead in organizing the logistics for the final exams. Along with its partners, the organization helped secure 66 examination centres. All tests were transported under UN police escort to various Ministry of Education facilities.
Coordinating the effort was a daunting task: An estimated 20 per cent of teachers and administrative staff were not able to reach the centres in time for the first day of exams. More worrying was the low student turnout in some locations due to a lack of information about the exact test dates. This led to additional urgent efforts to inform the population via churches, mosques and traditional storytellers.
Right to educational access
Throughout the civil disruptions in Côte d’Ivoire, UNICEF continued to promote access to education through the organization of satellite schools and distribution of education kits for children and teachers. Psychosocial activities were also organized to help children affected by the crisis.
In 2005, UNICEF mobilized all UN agencies to work together for a back-to-school programme. As a result, 200 schools were re-equipped and 550,000 education kits distributed with special attention to girls, whose prospects for formal schooling are diminished because of gender discrimination. The programme also has coordinated social mobilization activities, encouraging radio and television stations to broadcast messages highlighting every child’s right to educational access.
As examinations got under way this month, UNICEF reiterated its commitment to restoring that right to all the children of Côte d'Ivoire.