Le Petit Baobab

Researchers have identified poverty reduction and economic opportunities for young men and women as key interventions to reduce violence and rehabilitate young criminals in Ivorian cities.

In Ivory Coast, a country that has experienced armed political conflict, violence is a major challenge for post-conflict urban governance. According to new research published in February 2016, violence among young people and land disputes, which have migrated from rural communities to urban poor neighborhoods, are the main vectors of violence and crime in Ivory Coast.

The research team at Universities Alassane Ouattara and Félix Houphouët Boigny, funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC), has discovered that recurrent conflicts and degradation of family and community ties mean that children – sometimes of just 10 years – are left to their own devices. Many of them then turn to gangs of young criminals, known as « microbes”.

As a result of recurrent conflicts, household poverty and poorly managed urbanism have contributed to the vulnerability of children, left to their own devices, at the margins of family, educational and community cells, and thus exposed to violence. Abobo, north of Abidjan, is one of the most populated communes in the country with about one million inhabitants in an area of 9,000 ha (90 km2), a density of 111 inhabitants per hectare. This commune has a very bad reputation in terms of lack of civility and quite high poverty. It is in this popular neighborhood that the phenomenon of “microbes”, gangs of children who violently attack passers-by, came into being after the post-electoral crisis of 2011. These idle young people, whose age vary between 10 and 25 years, multiply the aggressions in the districts of the municipality of Abobo, north of the Ivorian economic capital. With all these conflictive situation in mind, and thinking about growing civilized and educated new generations, sister Rosaria of the Italian based congregation “Suore della Sacra Famiglia” (Sisters of the Holy Family) founded the “Petit Baobab” kindergarten and elementary school in Abobo-Baoulé as early as in 1990.

The school logo “le Petit Baobab” pictures a baobab tree on the Ivory Coast national flag. Baobab is native to the African savannah where the climate is extremely dry and arid. It is a symbol of life and positivity in a landscape where little else can thrive. In Ivory Coast it symbolizes generosity, protection and growth. The Ivorian flag carries a message of hope: even a land struck by many sufferings, like the Ivory Coast, can support life and help to grow and bear its fruits.

The objectives and aims of the Petit Baobab School are the following:

  • Promoting a culture of peace
  • Promoting the development of personality
  • Teaching respect for differences
  • Greet and respect life

Compulsory school in Ivory Coast was implemented only on September 2015. All parents are now obliged to enrol their children as early as age six. However, catholic schools prevail as delivering a steadily daily education neutral of political implications, thus creating a great sense of community in these disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Nowadays, 300 children go to school during weekdays for a low yearly fee from Kindergarten up to 5th grade. The fee stands for teaching, learning materials and food, yet it doesn’t cover all costs. Sister Rosaria constantly contacts sponsors. Currently, the French Fidesco pays room and board for a teacher and the administrator of the school. The school is however inclusive and tries to accommodate all children: 30 local children are completely taken care by the school and do not pay any scholarship fees.

A school day at the Petit Baobab starts from 7:30 am and finishes at 4 pm, lunch and two snacks per day are provided. The school is recognized as following the national curriculum of the Ivory Coast, which is a great achievement and a huge motivation for the families to enrol their children. This is important in a country, where the poverty level is at 46% and the level of alphabetization only stands at 45% going down to 36% for girls.

Today we’ve seen the children at the school, who are learning to be intellectually independent and responsible for their life, now and for the future. YouTooday wishes to encourage all teachers and school staff to continue giving and enjoying, and creating this unbelievable thirst for learning together with a life-long sense of belonging.

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