Tobly Bangolo1 is a cocoa farming community located 15 km from Duékoué. At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, a group of students who had graduated from bridging classes (classes organized to help children who have been out of school, catch up with their peers) entered the formal school system. To support them on their journey, the children received a school kit composed of a bag, a journal, a box of chalk, a set of notebooks, notebook protectors, a compass, a slate, pens and a pack of crayons. 

This activity was organized as part of the TRECC program (Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities), with support from Nestlé, in partnership with Ministry of National Education and Literacy of Côte d’Ivoire.

Kaboré Aïssa, a 13-year-old girl accompanied by her older brother, a cocoa farmer, tells us her story. A student enrolled in the bridging classes in 2020, she is now enrolled in the formal school at Epp Tobly Bangolo1. She explains she had always wanted to go to school, like her sister's friend who used to visit their house: "Before, my older sister had a friend who went to school. She often came to see my sister in her school uniform, and I liked that.”

Due to lack of financial resources, Aïssa, like her older sister, did not go to school. Then, one day, an opportunity was offered to her to enrol in a bridging class. Bridging classes are designed to help children who have not had the chance to attend school, or who have dropped out for a period of time, catch up with their peers and re-enter the formal education system. Since 2016, ICI, in collaboration with TRECC and Nestlé, has initiated bridging classes as part of child labour remediation actions in cocoa producing communities. "I was at home, we were told to come to school (Editor's note: bridging class). At school, we were taught to read, write and count. I like reading and writing," she said. Her brother Kaboré Wazi, a coffee and cocoa farmer, who never attended school himself, supports this statement. "She was at home. She accompanied her mother to the field and one day, we heard about school. I am happy because I did not go to school. Today, my little sister can read and write. When we give her paper (Editor’s note: administrative documents or letters), she reads what is written," he told us.

The Teaching at the Right Level approach, which was pioneered by the Indian NGO Pratham, was adopted within the bridging classes to improve learning outcomes in reading and mathematics. The approach organizes children into groups depending on their learning levels rather than their age and is designed to help children develop basic reading and math skills.

Parents' satisfaction

In Kouadiokro 2, a cocoa-growing community located 16 km from Duékoué, parents told us about the benefits of the bridging classes for children from 9 - 15 years old considered to have fallen behind their peers. "Here at Kouadiokro 2, the bridging classes went well. I sometimes came to the school to see what they were doing," said Konan Koffi Mathieu, a cocoa farmer and father of one of the children enrolled, visibly happy to see his daughter also receive a school kit. This is because of the reduction in costs for his daughter's schooling: "Everything I had to pay was instead paid for by ICI and TRECC. There are notebooks, the follow-up book and many other things in the bag," he said.

Mathieu, accompanied by his wife, explained the reasons why his daughter did not go to formal school. "I had an accident with my hand in the field. The young man I was with accidentally cut my hand, so I couldn't work anymore. My wife had to send our daughter to her mother, and she then went to the field with her," he confided. "Given the lack of means at her grandmother's, I brought her back to us in Kouadiokro 2. That is when we were told about the bridging classes that were about to start. An ICI agent told us that school is compulsory for children from 6 to 16 years old. That's how we signed up for it,” he continued. And today, he has no regrets, he says he is proud of his daughter OulaÏ Tiphaine who has become less shy, who "can read and write".

This feeling of pride and recognition is shared by many parents who wish to see their children benefit from a good education. This is the case of Koné N'tchingin Moïse, a cocoa farmer we met in Kouadiokro 2: "I often came to see what the teacher was teaching them, and I liked what I saw. I was very happy to see my son studying at home. He is the last child in the family and he was the only one not to be educated because of lack of money.  The fact that I didn't go to school hurt me, so I don't want my son to be like me.” He said he was happy to see his son no longer going to the field with his wife.

During the 2020/2021 school year, 429 children benefited from this approach in 16 bridging classes organized in 15 of the communities where Nestlé implements a Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System. Of the 429 children, 419 children obtained the necessary level required to enter the formal school system and were placed by the Ministry of National Education and Literacy of Côte d’Ivoire into formal classes according to their performance.

The TRECC program was officially launched in Côte d’Ivoire in 2016 by the Jacobs Foundation. The programbrought together a range of diverse stakeholders including the government, the cocoa and chocolate industry, civil-society organizations, social enterprises, academic partners and philanthropic foundations, to improve  the living conditions of children and young people through quality education. ICI is a technical partner of the TRECC programme and has contributed to its implementation, together with several of its members. More information on the program can be found in the recently-published TRECC report.

Read more about how access to good quality schools can help tackle child labour in cocoa growing communities.