DAKAR (AlertNet) - Children in Ivory Coast say they need education to help rebuild their country in the wake of post-electoral violence that forced hundreds of thousands of children to flee their homes, aid group Save the Children said on Thursday.
“I want to return to school, to see my friends again,” said Robert, a 16-year-old boy interviewed by the international charity. “I want Ivorians to understand each other, and work together for social cohesion.”
Fighting between forces backing President Alassane Ouattara, who won a November presidential poll, and troops loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to cede power, disrupted education for up to one million children.
The unrest, in which over 3,000 people died, has eased since the capture of Gbagbo in April. But the United Nations says more than 300,000 people are still displaced inside Ivory Coast while another 200,000 are refugees in six West African countries - the majority of them women and children.
Most of these children are unable to go to school.
“I need to go to school here, but I don’t have a way to attend. It’s expensive. I want to attend school regularly and then find a job,” said Cesar, a 15-year-old living near Abidjan, the country’s commercial hub. “I want peace in my neighbourhood like there was before,” he told Save the Children.
On the international Day of the African Child, the agency said education in the aftermath of conflict offers a sense of normality and hope. It provides children with crucial survival skills and the capacity to be productive citizens, thereby reducing the risk of countries spiralling into poverty and conflict.
“Education is a key component of the rebuilding process and is essential in providing children with the tools they need to ensure a secure future for themselves,” said Guy Cave, head of Save the Children in Ivory Coast.
The agency has provided over 5,000 school kits containing learning materials that children could not bring with them when fleeing their homes in the West African nation.
Save the Children has appealed for $30 million to set up temporary learning spaces for children still living in camps for the displaced. It also plans to identify and train teachers in areas of Ivory Coast and Liberia where there is a shortage.
The Day of the African Child is celebrated every year on June 16 to commemorate the thousands of schoolchildren in Soweto, South Africa, who took to the streets in 1976 to demand their right to education.