Carrefour Cavally droite is a community located 24km from Grabo in Côte d’Ivoire, which is normally difficult to access, but recently became the focus of attention in the local department of Tabou. A formal school, registered within the national education system, was built here by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), with the support of Mars Wrigley and Olam Cocoa. It consists of three classrooms, a headmaster’s office and a block of three toilets, along with a handwashing facility built with a rainwater storage area above the block. The children were both happy and impatient to inaugurate their school, EPP Déohako, which we visited on 16 March at Carrefour Cavally droite.

Kramo Moaye Christ Salomon, a 9-year-old student, is one of the children happy to have a beautiful new school: “I find my school beautiful because of the paint and the new benches,” he explained in admiration.

This is also the case for Essi Affoua Donatienne, a 12-year-old student. Unlike Salomon who lives in the village, Donatienne lives with her parents 1km from the school in Attakro. Every morning, with the help of her mother, she gets ready and takes her lunch to school. She too is very happy with her school: “If the teacher tells me to come to the new school, I will go there without hesitation,” she said.

Like Donatienne, many children living in the villages around Carrefour Cavally droite attend the community’s school. With the construction of the new school, Carrefour Cavally droite has become the community par excellence for education for parents who were unable to send their children to Gnato where the formal school is located 12 km away. “One of the most beautiful schools we have inspected”, Koffi Ettien, Inspector of Public Primary Education, said during the official handing over of the keys of the school on March 17.

From a makeshift Community Education Centre to a formal school

The history of the public primary school of Carrefour Cavally droite is captivating, undergoing an evolution that makes the community proud today.

“We had classrooms made of banco [a local sand-based building material]. I was the treasurer of the parents’ fund to pay for voluntary teaching. It was a community school. Later on, we wanted to build a school. The nearest formal school is located in Gnato, 12km from here,” said Koffi Ya, president of the Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC) since 2018. He is also a cocoa farmer and responsible for the lead farmers at the SOCAG cooperative. “It was not easy for a parent to send his or her child to Gnato if they had no one to stay with there during the week,” he added. It was for this reason that the community built a makeshift school out of banco to enable the majority of children to attend school in the village.
“Out of 100 children, 30 went to Gnato. If there was no makeshift school, the other children would have stayed here without being educated,” he concluded.

For Mr. Kramo Boka Ernest, former director of the Community Education Centre (CEC), father of Kramo Moaye Christ Salomon, and a volunteer teacher, the task has not been easy for either the parents or the teachers. “I came here in 2010. The buildings were made of mud with a tarpaulin on top. The roof was crumbling every day. It was in 2015 that the parents built this 3-classroom building with plastered clay. Each teacher had two classes. There were three of us,” he explained, adding that he is now happy to see the new school fully equipped to teach children in the community. “It was in 2020 that ICI, after discussions with the parents, decided to build a school. The foundation of the school was made. When I came back from my holidays, the building was there. I was happy, because even with 50 pupils, there is still room to move around in the classroom. This was not possible in the old school.”

According to Kramo Boka Ernest, the improved teaching conditions are an advantage for the children, who will no longer have to endure the heat and rain, the poor lighting and the aging furniture. As Koffi Kouamé Innocent, the students’ representative, said at the inauguration of the school, “We will now work in a pleasant, spacious and clean environment. We promise to keep the space clean, to learn our lessons, so that you will be proud of us.”

His words echo those of Kramo Boka Ernest: “I am now comfortable to work. The rooms are airy, and it is not hot inside. I am happy…. It should be noted that we had the largest number of students this year. From an average of 90 students in previous years, we have increased to 139. This is because parents from the surrounding villages have sent their children here and it is certain that next year, the number of students will double again,” he said.

Present at the official handing over of the keys of the school were Gueu Ven Jean Noel, Sub-Prefect of Grabo, Sefon Inza representing Olam Cocoa, Mr. N’Guessan Simon, Group Administrator of the SOCAG cooperative, Koffi Ettien, Inspector of Public Primary Education and the head of Gnato village, Tanou Saboua Yves.

On this occasion, the Olam Cocoa representative stressed the importance of its involvement in the reduction of child labour in cocoa farming in the supply chain: “Ensuring access to education is critical for tackling the issue of child labour in cocoa. We are committed to working with our customers and suppliers to put children first in Côte d’Ivoire,” he said.