Zurück zur Schule in Côte d’Ivoire

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Schüler von Groupe Scolaire Quartier Lysée in Man, im Westen von Côte d’Ivoire.

Während Kinder in Deutschland den Sommerferien entgegenfiebern, hat für Mädchen und Jungen an der Elfenbeinküste wieder die Schule begonnen – endlich! Wegen der blutigen Unruhen in dem westafrikanischen Land konnten viele Kinder monatelang nicht zum Unterricht gehen, weil ihre Schule zerstört wurde oder als Unterkunft für Flüchtlinge genutzt wird. Unsere Kollegin Lisa Deters hat in einem kleinen Dorf in der Nähe von Abidjan Kinder getroffen, die dank Save the Children endlich wieder zur Schule gehen können.

“C’est magnifique”or “this is magnificent,” is the phrase that rings through my head as I walk out of a classroom filled with about forty excited children discovering their new Save the Children backpacks filled with school materials. Some are adjusting the straps and modelling their new bag; some are unpacking the contents, carefully inspecting and laying out each school item – pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, eraser, ruler set, notebooks, etc. – on the table, while others are reorganizing the contents and repacking.

The children’s delight over new school materials reminds me of the first week of a school year using freshly sharpened pencils to write in blank notebooks. For these Ivorian children, most of whom have been out of school for months during the recent conflict sparked by disputed elections, the school year has recently restarted as classes have resumed – and so today the classroom holds a similar feeling with students eager and ready to learn and start anew.

It has been a rewarding morning spent at a school in a village outside of Abidjan – the main city and economic capital of the Ivory Coast. Together with two of my Save the Children colleagues, we’ve been distributing these school kits to all 387 students at the school who have been directly or indirectly affected by the crisis in the Ivory Coast. To date Save the Children has distributed close to 9,000 school kits to children affected by the recent conflict. The provision of educational supplies is an immediate and effective way through which Save the Children responds to help enable all children to return to school.

The educators at the school were pleased and assisted in passing out the materials. They stressed to us that the backpacks would encourage and enable families coping with strained household incomes, unable to purchase schoolbooks and other materials, to prioritize keeping their children in school.

The recent conflict has had a major impact on children’s access to education in the Ivory Coast. While many schools have now re-opened, even now – over a month since President Ouattara’s inauguration – schools in some parts of the country remain closed, and thousands of children continue to miss out on their education. In many areas in the South and West, schools that have re-opened are over-capacity, so children that have been displaced by the conflict are not always able to register in the schools in their new areas. Often they don’t have the documents they need to be able to register – even when children had them originally, birth certificates for example were not one of the things parents grabbed from their homes when fleeing the violence in their neighbourhoods. Another challenge is getting the teachers back into schools, as many have not yet returned since fleeing their homes.

It is so important that the children continue their education; if it is disrupted for too long, often they do not return. For that reason, having the necessary funds and personnel available quickly makes a huge difference – sufficient funds allow us to purchase school kits, set up temporary learning spaces for children who aren’t able to register into a formal school yet, have personnel in place to coordinate with the Ministry of Education and teachers, identify schools in need of rehabilitation and other materials, travel to the villages, distribute the kits and further follow up with teacher identification and training, sanitation messaging and other support.

Outside in the courtyard of the school, before we leave, I notice a group of girls sitting together. I walk closer and realize they are reading their Save the Children notebooks which include a child-friendly version of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) printed on the back, specific for the Ivorian context:

All children of the world, girls and boys, whatever their origin or their parents, they have the same rights.

I have the right to life.
I have the right to a name and nationality.
I have the right to health care.
If I am disabled, I have the same rights as all other children.
I have the right to an education that helps me to develop my abilities.
I have the right to speak on issues that concern me.
I have the right to play and rest.
I have the right to be protected against all ill-treatment.
I have the right to protection in the event of armed conflict.
I have the right to protection from any kind of exploitation.

My colleagues now standing next to me smile and say, “C’est magnifique.”

For Save the Children, education is an essential response in every emergency. The Ivory Coast is but one country affected by an emergency that we’re supporting through education. We have therefore invested new funds to further build the scale and scope of education in emergencies programming through an Education in Emergencies Breakthrough Project. This aims to rapidly support country programmes in times of crisis by making available both additional funding and high-quality deployable personnel.

Save the Children’s resolve and dedication to invest in emergency education is pretty magnificent as well.

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