Fight against Child Labor: Ten elementary schools will be built in cocoa-producing areas

The First Lady, Mrs. Dominique Ouattara presided over the signing ceremony of the tripartite agreement between the National Oversight Committee of Actions to Combat Trafficking, Exploitation and Child Labor (CNS), the American chocolate manufacturer Hershey and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) Foundation, on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

The ceremony took place at the Office of the First Lady in Cocody and witnessed the presence of Mrs. Mariatou Koné, Minister of National Education and Literacy, Mr. Yves Brahima Koné, Director General of the Coffee-Cocoa Council, Mr. Charles R. Raup, President of Hershey and many other personalities and representatives of public and private partners involved in the fight against child labor.

The signing of this agreement focuses on strengthening access to free, quality basic education for children living in cocoa production areas. Education is Indeed an effective and a sustainable way to fight  child labor in cocoa farming and a key factor in reducing poverty. Within this framework, the stakeholders in this agreement aim to build school infrastructures in rural cocoa-producing communities. According to the agreement, the Hershey company is committed to financing 1.5 million US dollars for school infrastructure, i.e. 891 million CFA francs. This project will be implemented by the ICI Foundation. Thus, within this framework, the ICI Foundation will proceed to the construction of school infrastructures in ten (10) cocoa-producing communities in Côte d’Ivoire. Specifically, it will consist of 10 elementary school, i.e. 60 primary classrooms, 10 principal’s offices with one office per school, 60 school latrines with 2 blocks of 3 latrines per school, 10 school canteens with one canteen per school, 10 drinking water wells equipped with pumps, 1. 500 table-benches with 150 table-benches per school and 25 table-benches per class, 70 chairs and 70 tables for teachers with 7 chairs and 7 tables per school, 10 sets of kitchen utensils and 6,000 pieces of cutlery with 600 pieces per school. The CNS, for its part, will facilitate the implication of government bodies, especialy the Ministry of National Education and Literacy, and its regional departments, in the implementation of the project.

The First Lady, Mrs. Dominique Ouattara, the driving force behind the strategy to fight against child labor in Côte d’Ivoire, was pleased with this initiative. Indeed, for the wife of the Head of State, education is, for several years now, at the heart of the strategy of the Ivorian government and its partners to adress child labor. According to Mrs. Dominique Ouattara, several surveys have revealed that cocoa-producing communities live in areas where basic social infrastructures are often far away. According to the First Lady, this situation exposes children to exploitation and labor, which results in some children not attending school or dropping out. Because she wants to solve this problem she has placed education at the center of her action. “. since 2012 until now I have explained to you, that it was important to build schools throughout the country and particularly in rural areas. Because I remain convinced that education is an effective and sustainable solution to remove children from the risk of labor and exploitation,” explained Mrs. Dominique Ouattara.

Fortunately, according to the First Lady, the government’s decision to make school compulsory for all children from 6 to 16 years old since 2015 has helped to keep children in the education system. The wife of the Head of State expressed the wish for a synergy of action of the actors involved in the fight in order to considerably increase access to education, particularly in rural communities through the construction of schools. Dominique Ouattara welcomed the commitment of public and private partners in the fight against this scourge. According to her, it has significantly increased the schooling rate of children in cocoa production areas. However, despite these progress, challenges remain. “(…) It is important to continue to act together  in a coherent manner on the root causes of child labor. (…) Because  together we can  significantly contribute to reducing child labor for the well-being of our children,” pleaded Ms. Dominique Ouattara.

Mrs. Mariatou Koné, Minister of National Education and Literacy, praised the commitment and leadership of Mrs. Dominique Ouattara, President of the CNS, in the fight against child labor, but also in improving access to quality education for children.  For the head of national education, the signing of this tripartite agreement marks an important step in the fight against child labor. It aims to strengthen the education system in the country. Indeed, according to Mrs. Mariatou Koné, all these achievements will contribute to increase access to education in cocoa producing areas.

Mr. Charles Raup, President of the Hershey Company, was pleased with the commitment of his company in the financing of these school complexes in order to bring a quality education to children living in cocoa production areas. He also revealed that this commitment of the American chocolate and confectionery company Hershey is in line with the vision of Mr. Milton Hershey who for over a century had invested in the creation of a boarding school bearing his name.

Mrs. Yao Patricia Sylvie, Executive Secretary of the CNS, presented the key elements of this partnership agreement between the CNS, the Hershey Company and the ICI Foundation, which aims to promote access to education for cocoa-producing communities.

The ceremony ended with a cocktail offered by the First Lady.