One of the most striking things when we arrive at the Sabarikro Primary School, located in Ousmanekro (Man), is the well-kept feel of the place and the attractive flowers and shrubs planted by the school’s director, Mr. Asso Djougba Euloge. The scene is made even more charming by the freshly painted school, consisting of three classrooms, a director’s office and a block of two latrines accompanied by a hand washing device. This new school was made possible thanks to the support of Mars Wrigley and Olam Cocoa, in partnership with the Yeyasso cooperative, implemented by the International Cocoa Initiative.
The children we spoke to were just as enthusiastic as the parents; Traoré Adama, a primary school student, told us what he appreciates most about this new school: “The school is pretty, I like the building, I like the benches and the pictures. Everything is nice and clean.” He then told us that he came back from a neighbouring country this year to attend school and to stay with his parents in Ousmanekro: “I came because they built a school here. I like to study,” he said. According to Adama, studying is “a good thing” that will help build “tomorrow’s executives”.
The children and parents that we met on May 19, during the inauguration of these school facilities, are visibly happy with their new situation. As the head of ICI’s Regional Office in Duékoué, Mr. Doua Nicolas, said, “The school is the future. The future of your children, the community and the country,” adding that this is why “we decided to come and hand over the keys to you, thanks to the Olam Cocoa -Yeyasso cooperative partnership.”
The representative of the Yeyasso cooperative, Mr. Yéo Moussa, indicated during his intervention that “the construction of a school requires many investments. It allows children to succeed and means they will not be used as labour on the cocoa farms. To avoid overcrowded classes, a school must also be able to welcome more children,” he said, before adding that “this school is the symbol of the dynamism of Sabarikro”. For this reason, he said, “200 school kits will be offered by the cooperative.”
For the sub-prefect of Yapleu, N’dri Kouadio Clément, the construction of a school is a welcome relief to all: “By building this school, you are helping to avoid both psychological and physical suffering. It means children will not have to travel kilometers to school as their elders have done.” This assertion was supported by Mr. Kouakou Kra, from the Regional Directorate of National Education and Literacy (DRENA) of the Tonpki region, who reminded participants to the ceremony that “school is compulsory, hence the provision of infrastructure”. He also indicated that “school does not discriminate between children, it is a socializing space” in so far as it helps children to learn to live in society. Continuing, he urged parents to give an official identity to children by declaring them, because, he said, “Out of 11,000 students 7424 do not have birth certificates. A situation that he considered unacceptable, as these children have no official identity and are therefore not officially recognized by the local administration and can therefore not access certain services such as secondary level education.
During his speech, Mr. N’dri, representative of Olam Cocoa, recalled the reasons for the company’s commitment to the community: “It is because you delivered responsible cocoa to the cooperative and participated in the actions carried out by ICI that you benefited from this school. Send your children to school. From school, some of them can become excellent producers; make good use of it” he said.
On behalf of all the students of the community, Traoré Adama, the children’s representative said he was happy: “We are happy. Thanks to your generosity, to your love for us children, you have built a brand new building that makes us want to go to school. Thank you for this act,” he said before expressing a wish, that of having drinking water for parents and students. Watch the highlights of the ceremony in this short video.
With its members, ICI supports cocoa-growing communities like Ousmanekro improve access to quality education facilities as part of its efforts to tackle child labour. Evidence suggests that communities with better quality education have a lower prevalence of child labour. That’s why constructing or renovating infrastructure, such as school buildings, canteens, and accommodation for teachers, providing school kits and birth certificates is so important. All of these activities can play a key role in increasing school enrolment and keeping children in school. Learn more about the important of education in the fight against child labour here.