Abidjan, 11 May 2011 – Over month after official reopening of schools in the Center, North and West (CNO) regions of Côte d’Ivoire, a survey report released today by UNICEF and Save the Children shows that 85% of schoolchildren in these areas are back inside the classroom. The report also highlights 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 83,000 registered children who have not returned yet and ensure that every child indeed goes back and finishes the school year.”
The report outlines several challenges for providing quality education to children. Over one month after reopening of schools was officially launched, a third of the teachers are still absent. 80% of the public schools evaluated in the CNO region don’t have enough wooden desks and chairs for their pupils and about 75% of schools don’t have latrines .
“Education is a right for 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 start going to school, many were unable to complete even their basic education. Hundreds of thousands of additional children were then forced out of school for several months, and we are only now starting to see a return to the classroom.” said Guy Cave, Country Director for Save the Children in Côte d’Ivoire.
Many families were forced to flee their home during the conflict and lost their means to an income, while other families hosted displaced people overstretching their resources” explained 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 to rely on them to work to provide income to the family, such as cultivating fields, carrying bricks, or helping in the markets. With the delay, the school year will overlap the harvest season.”
Education is essential to re-building countries in the aftermath of conflict, helping increase stability and thereby reducing the risks of countries spiralling 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 protects children from child labour, trafficking or sexual abuse.
Save the Children and UNICEF are co-leading the planning of the humanitarian response in the education sector in Côte d’Ivoire. Together 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 prepares the distribution of education supplies to the most vulnerable schools identified by the assessment. It is also a challenge for humanitarian agencies to identify host families, actors of a silent solidarity, to provide them with assistance.
Save the Children and UNICEF have also today launched an assessment of the reopening of schools in the South, through which the agencies will get a better picture of the state of schools in Abidjan and other regions in the South, including assessments of those schools that were destroyed as a result of the fighting.