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Côte d'Ivoire

Non-formal education for Ivorian children in farming communities

© UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire/2006/Westerbeek
A non-formal education system in this agricultural community in Côte d’Ivoire is giving children the chance to attend classes and still help with farming chores.

By Sacha Westerbeek and Thomas Nybo

KONOVOHOGHO, Côte d’Ivoire, 2 January 2007 – Parents in the village of Konovohogho, Côte d’Ivoire face a tough decision when their children reach school age: Do they send them to class or to work in the fields? 

Nearly 1 million children in this war-ravaged country do not attend school – a situation that contributes to a literacy rate of just over 50 per cent. 

Three years ago, the local non-governmental organization ARK, with help from UNICEF, began offering parents an alternative. Instead of choosing between school or work, children were given the chance to attend class in between raising crops or tending livestock.  

From field to classroom

Two of the most promising students are brothers Waodjanga and Kadokan Silue, ages 12 and 8, respectively. They belong to a family of 10 children, all of whom help out in the fields.

The boys spend an hour working outdoors in the morning and several more in the late afternoon. In the intervening hours, they attend classes.

© UNICEF Côte d’Ivoire/2006/Westerbeek
Classes are arranged around farming schedules, with more time for schooling during the slow season.

During busier periods of the year – like the times when Waodjanga and Kadokan must walk for days to feed their animals – they go to class less frequently. But during the slow season, they’re able to dedicate themselves to nearly full-time study. 

“I will be able to share the knowledge I gain in school with my family,” says Waodjanga. “I can teach those who have not been able to go to school. It will also help me get a job.” 

Education as a right

Children from several nearby villages attend informal classes here, bringing the total class size to 63 students. UNICEF provides books and school supplies, as well as teacher training. Many of the children begin their education here but later transfer to formal schools after they learn basic literacy skills. 

ARK staff member Kassoum Coulibaly N’Djanbile says the benefits of education can be seen everywhere in the village. 

“Education really changes the daily life here,” he says. “The advantage of having an education system in the village is that the children learn to read and to write in order to communicate – not only to speak and to have skills, but to read their letters and take care of their small affairs like money and counting.” 

The non-formal schooling programme in Konovohogho reflects UNICEF’s belief that quality education is a basic human right. Protecting that right often requires innovative thinking that works with – not against – local traditions and cultures. 




18 December 2006 :
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on a new approach to raising literacy rates in Côte d’Ivoire.
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