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Côte d'Ivoire

UNICEF helps displaced children in Côte d’Ivoire continue their education despite the violence

© UNICEF Video
Pamela, 12, and Arouna, 15, walk to their new primary school in Tiébissou, Lacs Region, Côte d’Ivoire. They first started the school year in their home village of Yaakro, but were forced to flee violence.

By Gisèle Langue Menye

TIÉBISSOU, Côte d’Ivoire, 17 March 2011 – Pamela, 12, and Arouna, 15, feel lucky. With help from UNICEF, they have recently enrolled in Tiébissou I Primary School in the Lacs Region, having been displaced from their own village and school a couple of months ago.

They first started the school year in Yaakro, their home village 2 km away. But following the disputed Ivoirian presidential election last November, it became a violent battleground between armed troops of competing supporters.

Emergency response

Pamela and Arouna are part of nearly 2,000 people who fled from the village to Tiébissou, a small, peaceful town located in the middle of a forest. Once there, UNICEF and Save the Children set about ensuring the displaced children could continue their education, as part of a wider programme to get children back to school in central Côte d’Ivoire.

An estimated 800,000 school children across the country have been unable to resume their studies since last November, with many schools still closed.

“Our continuing advocacy efforts are directed towards key decision makers at national and regional levels, for having all children back to school,” said UNICEF Health Officer in Bouake zonal office Dr. Léonard Kouadio.

© UNICEF Video
Pamela and Arouna, attend class at Tiébissou I Primary School, Lacs Region, Côte d’Ivoire. Nearly 800,000 school children across the country have been unable to resume their studies since last November's disputed presidential election.

In Tiébissou, demand is so high that efforts to enrol all the displaced children are taking place in waves at 10 targeted schools. Priority for enrolment has been given to pupils who are studying for their First School Leaving Certificate exam this year.

New start 

“The high demand for pupils in need of education was dispatched amongst 10 schools. So far, only 96 out of 296 children have been enrolled,” said Primary School Education Inspector M. Brou Brou. “We are still carrying on our advocacy efforts for the 200 children still left out of school.”

Pamela and Arouna were part of the first cohort to enrol. They received a UNICEF school bag containing notebooks, pens, pencils, an eraser and pencil sharpener. Teachers are given kits of educational supplies to help them teach. Each of the 10 targeted schools who take displaced children also receives a recreational kit.

Pamela, her mother and elder sister are living with her aunt, Mariette, a food seller who is now striving to care for her extended family members. Although Pamela’s schooling was disrupted for three weeks, she is working hard to catch up with her classmates during this crucial exam year.

“My teacher and my new friends, Mariam and Sarah, are very supportive,” she said. “Even though I miss my school in Yaakro, I feel safe here, there are no military troops.”

© UNICEF Video
UNICEF is providing educational supplies to teachers and students to help ensure children continue their education in Côte d’Ivoire.

The displaced children have successfully integrated into the school and get along well with their new classmates. One issue, however, is how to feed more schoolchildren than originally intended at lunchtimes.

Food supplies needed

“An urgent problem to be solved is access to the school canteen,” said Tiébissou I Primary School Director Yao Kouakou. “As they were not registered at the beginning of the school year, we are expecting World Food Programme to support with food. I hope a rapid response will be found soon.”

A child’s right to go to school is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For Pamela and Arouna, the future looks bright once again and they are working hard to make their dreams come true.

Pamela want to work for UNICEF – “I like to be helpful to other people,” she said, while Arouna has his sights set on becoming a professional cyclist.

“When I was a child, a cyclist race went through our village and I said to myself that I would like to be like the racing champion,” he said.

But for the hundreds of thousands of other children who have not yet resumed schooling, their right to an education, at least for this year, is seriously jeopardized.



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