Back to School in Ivory Coast
“C’est magnifique” [this is magnificent], is the phrase that rings through my head as I walk out of a classroom filled with about forty excited children discovering their new Save the Children backpacks filled with school materials. Some are adjusting the straps and modelling their new bag; some are unpacking the contents, carefully inspecting and laying out each school item — pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, eraser, ruler set, notebooks, etc – on the table.
The children’s delight over new school materials reminds me of the first week of a school year using freshly sharpened pencils to write in blank notebooks. As the school year in Ivory Coast has recently restarted after a three to four month school closure due to the post-election crisis, the classroom holds a similar feeling with students eager and ready to learn and start anew.
It has been a rewarding morning spent at a school in a village outside of Abidjan, the largest city in Ivory Coast, alongside two of my Save the Children colleagues to distribute these school kits to all 387 students at the school who have been directly or indirectly affected by the crisis. The provision of educational supplies is an immediate and effective way in which Save the Children responds to help enable all children to return to school.
The educators at the school were pleased and emphasised that the backpacks would encourage and enable families coping with strained household incomes and unable to purchase schoolbooks, to prioritize keeping their children in school.
It’s so important that the children continue their education; if it is disrupted for too long, often they do not return. For that reason, having the necessary funds and personnel available quickly makes a huge difference – sufficient funds allow us to purchase school kits, have personnel in place to coordinate with the Ministry of Education and teachers, identify schools in need, travel to the villages, distribute the kits and further follow up with teacher training, sanitation messaging or other support all makes a huge difference.
Outside in the courtyard of the school, before we leave, I notice a group of girls sitting together. I walk closer and realize they are reading their Save the Children notebooks which include a child-friendly version of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989) printed on the back, specific for the Ivorian context:
All children of the world, girls and boys, whatever their origin or their parents, they have the same rights.
I have the right to life.
I have the right to a name and nationality.
I have the right to health care.
If I am disabled, I have the same rights as all other children.
I have the right to an education that helps me to develop my abilities.
I have the right to speak on issues that concern me.
I have the right to play and rest.
I have the right to be protected against all ill-treatment.
I have the right to protection in the event of armed conflict.
I have the right to protection from any kind of exploitation.
My colleagues now standing next to me smile and say, “C’est magnifique.”
For Save the Children UK education is an essential response in every emergency. Ivory Coast is only one of many country programmes that we’re supporting. We’re further building the scale and scope of education in emergencies programming by rapidly supporting country programmes in times of crisis by making available both additional funding and high-quality deployable personnel.
Save the Children UK’s resolve and dedication to invest in emergency education is pretty magnificent as well.