After a year of participating in activities at the Child Friendly Space (CAE) in Biakou, under the supervision of specialised facilitators, brothers, Eric and Dominique Kambou, have started attending the Biakou Public Primary School 3 in class CP1. The brothers did not go to kindergarten, but their attendance at the CAE led to their integration into the CP1 class this year. The brothers have made a positive impression on their teachers and peers, confirming that the facilitators’ decision to integrate them directly into the formal school system was a good one.
This year, Eric and Dominique were among the top 10 in the CP1 class. Eric came 1st in his class, with an average of 7 out of 10, on the first language test, and Dominique 7th with an average of 6. "Their language level is good, and Eric writes particularly well," their teacher, Yao Akissi Marie Johanne, told us with pride. She has 55 pupils in her class and took up her post just a few months ago after a transfer. She explains that she became interested in the work the CAE does because of Eric and Dominique, who, in addition to being alert, "always sing CAE songs when asked to sing a song in the tests."
It didn’t take long for Eric and Dominique to become comfortable in the schooling environment, mostly due to the similarity between the CAE and the primary school. When asked how they feel about their schooling, they say they are happy. "I'm happy to come to school because I'm going to learn to read and write", said Eric, who later said that when he grows up he wants to buy a car, which is a sign of success and a good social position to him.
The CAE has made a notable contribution to children’s development in the community, and for many it has been a source of motivation to return to school after dropping out. This is the case of Gnézélé Déborah, a 14-year-old girl who had dropped out of the school she was attending in Abidjan. In Biakou, where she lives with her grandparents, she attended the CAE from its creation, learning a lot. So much so that she made her intentions to go back to school clear to her facilitators and grandparents. "At the CAE, the facilitators help us to go to school. My friends also explained to me how things are done at the school in Biakou", Déborah told us, and she is now enrolled in the third grade. Déborah has one goal, to go to school and learn. This, despite the fact that she has been teased by some students at school because of her age. "When I go to school and some people make fun of me, I don't care. All I care about is going to school and learning," she said.
The Prinicpal of her school, Mr Konan Koffi Emile, who is also her teacher, assured us of Déborah’s willingness to learn despite the difficulties, "Déborah is a diligent student. She had not been to school for three years, but I can see that she is willing to learn. She just needs guidance," he said. ICI also provided Déborah with a school kit including books, in addition to financial support to buy her school uniform. For Mr Konan, the CAE has had a positive impact on the children of Biakou. "I was impressed by the children during the World Children’s Day commemoration. They were lively. They did some very good reading and I was proud of them," he said.
The CAE is a learning space that allows children in cocoa communities to express themselves through art and different games, while developing their skills in the community. It has been installed as a pilot project in Côte d'Ivoire in three communities (Biakou, Téady and Belle Ville) as an innovative way to tackle child labour.