On 4 March, the International Cocoa Initiative, Ecom and the ECACOM and CAPO farming cooperatives jointly inaugurated two schools in cocoa-producing communities in Côte d’Ivoire. One is located in Quartier Soleil, 77 km from Soubré and 33 km from Méagui, while the other is in Sérigbangan (84 km from Méagui).

“We didn’t like the old school. It was ugly and hot. When it rained, we didn’t go to school, because the rain made us wet,” that’s how Yao Amoin Aude Flora Yasmine and her twin brother, Yao Kouamé Prince d’Avila, both 6 years old and in CP1 class, expressed their feelings about their old school, located at the entrance of the village, in the Soleil district. Attending this makeshift school was nonetheless an opportunity for these twins whose father is a cocoa farmer. The less fortunate had to travel 14 km each day, sometimes with or without their parents, to Kakadjekro, a neighbouring village with a formal school.

“We accompanied the children every day. There is a river to cross. When the water rose, we had to go and help the children. My son [the twins’ older brother] almost died. He fell into the water. It was his friends who saved him,” recounted the twins’ father, Yao Koffi Abdramane, still moved by the incident. Faced with these risks, Abdramane preferred to keep his youngest child in the old school. Somanda Kasséré, father of Somanda Walilou, a 12-year-old pupil in CM1, confirmed the situation: “The children used to go to school in the camp, often in the rain. They woke up at 5am to get ready to go,” he said. The mothers, for their part, informed us that they were constantly worried. Often the children didn’t eat breakfast and were late for school. Worse, they had to cross the makeshift bridge because of the river.”

The involvement of the Community Child Protection Committee and the village chief

Aware of the dangers that the children had to face on a daily basis, the village chief of the Soleil district, the late Yobouet Akpoué Laurent, became personally involved in setting up a Community Child Protection Committee (CPE) and implementing a Community Action Plan (CAP). Ago Ange Innocent and Zongo Mady, secretary and member of the CPE, stated that it was necessary to convince parents to enrol their children in school and to get the community involved in the construction of the school. These are actions they are proud of and see as a tribute to the village chief who died last year.

“My brother wanted the school to be inaugurated, but the controls on the work delayed the inauguration and now he is no longer with us. The inauguration could not take place in his presence, but we know that he is happy, and we are proud,” said Adou N’Guessan Norbert, the representative of the late chief.

The impact of the new school on the community

The construction of the school by ICI in Quartier Soleil, with the support of ECOM, is a great relief for both parents and children alike. It will allow many children to attend school in their community and mean others no longer have to travel 14 km a day to Kakadjekro.

“Before, we used to wake up at 5am. This is no longer the case. Now, with the school nearby, they wake up at 6am and have breakfast before going to school. We are no longer worried,” said Kouassi Amoin Salimata, the mother of the twins, who is very happy with the new school. Somanda Kasséré shares her joy: “ICI, ECOM and ECACOM have given us a beautiful school. Some of us did not believe in it. Now the school is here and we don’t know what to say to thank them.”

Unlike Quartier Soleil, Sérigbangan is already registered as a formal school. It too benefited from a room with three classrooms and an office for the director.

The populations of the two communities, Quartier Soleil and Sérigbangan, received the keys to the schools in the presence of the Sub-Prefect, Mr. Koné Abou Bakary, the representative of ECOM, Mr. N’Guettia Kouassi, and the Minister of Education. N’Guettia Kouassi Aristide, the representative of the Ecacom cooperative, Miss Kouamé Aya Hélène, the representative of the CAPO cooperative, Mr. Bamogo Moumouni, Mr. Yobouet Kouassi Alphonse, Inspector of Public Primary Education and the Nawa regional delegate of the Cocoa and Coffee Council, Mr. Fadiga Dèye.