ABIDJAN, 12 May 2011 – Over a month after schools officially reopened in the Center, North and West regions (CNO area) of Côte d’Ivoire, a report released by UNICEF and Save the Children shows that at least 85 per cent of children in these areas are back in the classroom. The report also highlights a critical lack of chairs, desks and latrines in the vast majority of schools in the region.
"It’s encouraging to see schoolchildren going back to class in the CNO area but our work does not stop here,” said Côte d’Ivoire’s Education Minister, Kandia Camara. “We must tackle the problem of 83,000 children who have not returned to school yet, and ensure that every child indeed goes back and finishes the school year.”
The report outlines several challenges to providing quality education to children: A third of teachers are still absent; 80 per cent of the public schools evaluated in the CNO region don’t have enough wooden desks and chairs for their pupils, and about 75 per cent of schools don’t have latrines.
“Many families were forced to flee their homes during the conflict and lost their means to earn an income, while other families hosted displaced people, overstretching their resources,” said Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF Designated Representative in Côte d’Ivoire.
“Parents are now faced with the difficult choice of sending their children to school or relying on them to work to provide income to the family -- cultivating fields, hauling bricks, or helping in the markets. With the delay, the school year will overlap the harvest season,” said Ludovic de Lys.
“Education is a right of all children and is essential to their development. One million children were already out of school before the crisis, and of those who had the chance to go to school, many were unable to complete even their basic education,” said Guy Cave, Country Director for Save the Children in Côte d’Ivoire. “Hundreds of thousands of additional children were then forced out of school for several months.”
Education is essential to re-building countries in the aftermath of conflict. It helps increase stability and thereby reduces the risk of countries spiraling into poverty and further conflict. In addition to providing a sense of normalcy and hope, crucial survival skills and the capacity to be productive citizens once the crisis is over, education helps protect children from child labour, trafficking or sexual abuse.
Save the Children and UNICEF are working together on the humanitarian response in Côte d’Ivoire’s education sector. In partnership with other education actors, the two agencies have launched a Back to School initiative that reaches out to communities across the country to encourage children and teachers to go back to school, and plans the distribution of education supplies to the most vulnerable schools. It is a major challenge for humanitarian agencies to identify host families and provide them with assistance.
Save the Children and UNICEF have also launched an assessment of the reopening of schools in the South of Côte d’Ivoire, including those schools that were destroyed during fighting.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For more information, contact:
Louis Vigneault, UNICEF Chief of Communication for Côte d’Ivoire
+225 0403 5044
Annie Bodmer-Roy, Save the Children Media and Communications Manager for Côte d’Ivoire
+225 0808 1470