But, in 2013, the administration informed him that he could not sit his final examination because he did not have a registered birth certificate. Exhausted by the daily trek and despairing over his situation, Ouattara decided to quit school and work in the fields to help his family. “It was my father who did not get my birth certificate, so I went to class 1 without papers... With our financial difficulties, I decided to stop school,” says Ouattara.
Ouattara’s dilemma is not unusual in Côte d’Ivoire, where despite the return of political stability and economic growth, the government is challenged in extending services to rural communities. Poverty and relative isolation make essential services, particularly education, almost inaccessible. In central and northern Côte d’Ivoire, going to school is no simple feat.
In 2013, Educate A Child (EAC) and Save the Children (STC) partnered to make a real change for children like Ouattara through the ‘Build a Future’ project. Working within a national framework, STC built a three-classroom school in Ouattara’s village and equipped it with school supplies and teaching materials. In addition, each of those students received school kits, containing books, pencils, and supplies.
However, from the beginning, STC understood that it was not enough to just build a school; it had to ensure that children would continue learning and growing to reach their full potential. It had to work with the parents of formerly out of school children to ensure that they, in turn, understood the value of education for their children’s future. The project organised community events bringing people together around education. Teachers were also trained, so they would be better positioned to teach and encourage children like Ouattara to stay in school.
Following the sensitisation campaign on the importance of education and maintaining girls in school, and the discussions with parents and teachers, new students were enrolled. This project also supported communities in obtaining birth certificates for their children. Through advocacy with administrative and legal authorities, 2,149 such cases, including Ouattara’s, were resolved.
Ouattara is a brilliant student, passing his class 6 examination with ying colours; he even received the best class 6 student award from the regional education directorate. Because of EAC’s support, 25,326 Ivoirian children are now attending approximately 130 newly constructed schools.