Thousands of Ivorian children have dropped out of school because of pillaging and destruction of school buildings, a majority of which are located in economic capital Abidjan. In a still distraught socioeconomic context, ACTED launched an appeal for the rehabilitation of school infrastructure, to help children get back to school.
Out of the 224 attacks on schools during the post-election crisis in Cote d’Ivoire early 2011, more than half occurred in Abidjan. Schools were not spared from the consequences of the struggles, and suffered pillaging and destruction from stray bullets, shelling and arson. In the hotspots of the crisis, some schools were even occupied by armed forces, equipment was damaged and classrooms were ransacked. The crisis caused many schools throughout the country to close for months.
UNICEF led a school by school evaluation of the damage in the whole country in 2011, as well as on the rates of returning pupils. The studies show that certain regions are still hardly hit by a strong dropout rate, particularly in the western portion of the country and in Abidjan, where the fighting reached peaks of violence. In those areas, considerable damage was inflicted by armed forces and pillaging, which greatly struck the schools and prevented children from resuming their education on the school year opening on 24 October. Thousands of children are today still missing from school months after the crisis.
Poverty as a cause and consequence of dropping out Beyond material damage, the main cause of the high dropout rate, mainly in Abidjan, is a lack of financial resources. According to a recent ACTED study conducted in the economic capital, and specifically in hardly hit neighborhoods Yopougon, Abobo and Attecoube, more than two thirds of households stated they couldn’t cover their family’s basic needs for the next six months. The socioeconomic context is indeed still deeply disturbed. Inhabitants have lost their jobs and businesses, the many victims of looting are difficultly restocking food and basic household items, and families can no longer afford schooling fees.
Public primary schools are free in Cote d’Ivoire, but education still has a cost for families. Families have to pay for supplies, books, administrative documents and identity pictures which are necessary for enrolment. The recently made compulsory school uniform also represents a cost.
Though highly vulnerable in such a precarious situation, families are worried that their children are massively dropping out of school. They are aware of the importance of access to primary schooling, and are mobilized to help their children get back to school as soon as possible; but many cannot afford it.
ACTED strives to make holistic propositions to address these families’ plight: schools need to be rehabilitated and equipped for some. But poor families will also need specific financial support to help them cover school-related costs for their children. Months after the crisis which shocked a whole country, resuming normal life also means resuming schooling for thousands of children that are waiting to go back to school.