John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Low School Attendance Marks Slow Recovery for Ivory Coast

by John Campbell
November 3, 2011

Damage to a school building located near the military camp of Akouedo is seen following fire from U.N. and French military aircraft in Abidjan April 10, 2011. (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters)

In the aftermath of more than a decade of civil war, it is easy to forget that the country was once the most developed in West Africa, and that Abidjan was the metropole of the region. The United States built a huge embassy during the glory days in anticipation that it would be a regional administrative service center for all of West Africa. Completed in July 2005, much of the compound remains underused. Since Alassane Ouattara’s victory over Laurent Gbagbo with substantial French and UN help, Ivory Coast is largely off the world’s radar screen.

The school year opened last week. The low attendance levels are a marker of the profound damage that civil wars and population dislocation have caused the Ivorian people. In western parts of the country, most schools are still closed in part because children who fled to Liberia have not yet returned, according to the respected non-governmental organization (NGO) Save the Children. Attendance is also low in Abidjan: in some locations, only 10 percent of students are in class. Anecdotes abound of the non-return of children who fled the city during the fighting.

UNICEF spokespeople observe that the pervasive poverty now characteristic of the country also plays a role in low school attendance. While education in Ivory Coast is free, parents still must pay for school uniforms and meet administrative requirements, such as providing birth certificates. UNICEF is also providing training to teachers to help them identify signs of juvenile trauma.

The quality of education also appears to have declined. According the director of primary and secondary schools  in the ministry of education, the pass rate for secondary school admission examinations was 57 percent, compared with the normal 70 percent. The pass rate for the prestigious Baccalauréat dropped to 21 percent from 34 percent.

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Hank Cohen

    While we all feel good about the triumph of democracy in the Côte d’Ivoire presidential election, we should not forget that the nine-year civil war was totally externally driven, was totally unnecessary, and was designed solely to bring Alassane Ouattara to power. The poverty and dislocation described in the article indicates to me that the entire process was not worth it. It was actually a tragedy that the democratic election will not remedy in the near future.

  • Posted by Maduka

    Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria are glaring examples of a typically African problem – the failure of fake states.

    These states have no reason for existence, other than that some white men decreed them into existence at Berlin (1884 – 85).

    This is the most important issue in Sub-Saharan Africa today – not democracy or even economic development or poverty. Some political borders will need to be redrawn and the internal political arrangements will need to be renegotiated.

    We haven’t heard the last from these countries.

    And it doesn’t help that neither the AU, the UN nor the UN Security Council (dominated by the same ex-Colonial powers that created these problems in the first place), seems to be willing to confront these issues head first.

    Our fear is that our future will be bloody.

  • Posted by Maduka


    You hit the nail on the head.

    Democracy isn’t that important. The most important challenges facing Africa are the question of Statehood / Identity and economic development.

    By pushing for democracy, the West has chosen the path of least resistance/intellectually lazy option. Elections in Nigeria, Congo and Ivory Coast don’t do a lot of good if the internal political architecture of these fake states is not renegotiated.

    There is no point pushing for a system in which the man who wins 51% of the vote wins everything and the man with 49% gains nothing. There is nothing African about such a system.

    There is also no point maintaining the fiction that an increasingly fundamentalist Islamic population can happily coexist with an increasingly evangelical Christian population (example – Nigeria). Current thinking assumes that several millions need to die (e.g. 2.5 million in Sudan), before borders are redrawn.

    That has to change.

    Economic development will only take place once the political situation stabilises.

    Since democracy in Africa neither leads to political stability or economic development, the current democratic era will be brief.

    Mark my words.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required