Harsh treatment in Ivory Coast schools, expelling ‘losers’ to improve grades

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Young Ivorians return to school this week with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads: those with average grades below 8.5 out of 10 will be expelled at the end of the year.

The measure is old and brought back by the authorities in the hope of raising the general standard of education in the West African country, prohibiting any student with an unacceptable grade from continuing their studies.

In the working-class district of Adjamé, in the heart of the commercial capital Abidjan, the rule is talked about in the small stalls selling school supplies, where second-hand textbooks are also exchanged.

“What are we going to do with the students who are going to be excluded? It’s too drastic! exclaims Mariam Eid, mother of three.

“We’re going to turn them into bandits. We want the teaching to be up to the task, but one step at a time,” she adds, while ensuring that a worn math book does not run out of pages. before buying it.

But at Pierre Amondji College in Adjame – where the motto “Who seeks perfection obtains excellence” is displayed in capital letters on the courtyard walls – the measure is generally welcomed by pupils.

– ‘Redouble efforts’ –

“I find it positive,” says Djenebou, who is taking the baccalaureate at the end of the year.

Some students feared the move would lead to teachers being blackmailed for good grades

Some students feared the move would lead to teachers being blackmailed for good grades

“It will inspire us to redouble our efforts and work harder.”

“It’s a good measure. The goal is to improve our knowledge so we move forward with solid training,” adds his classmate Seydou.

But Seydou also hopes the regulations won’t encourage fraud, including the blackmailing of students by some teachers in exchange for good exam grades.

“Some teachers are difficult… The grades are very low and to move on to the next class, you have to negotiate with them”, explains the young student.

The Minister of National Education, Mariatou Koné, who is entering the second term of her mandate, defends a regulation which is far from being unanimously welcomed.

“It’s a measure that has existed since the 1970s and that we are restoring to encourage students to work and fight against mediocrity,” she said.

“Students will not be excluded from the school system. There are bridges between technical education and vocational training”, adds Koné, anxious “to reassure parents”.

Officially, public schools are free, but the price of uniforms, schoolbags and supplies can quickly eat into budgets

The minister says that students who do not get the grades will not follow the standard curriculum, but they will be able to learn a trade or different skills.

“We must leave no one behind. The State must redirect these students to training in other professions”, insists Claude Kadio Aka, president of the Organization of Parents of Pupils and Students of Côte d’Ivoire. (Opeeci).

“All our children are useful for the development of the country,” says Aka.

– ‘Measurement of averages’ –

Minister Koné stresses that the objective of the reform is “to raise the level” of Ivorian schools and to give all their value to diplomas.

Over the past two years, the baccalaureate pass rate has hovered around 30%, compared to 45% in previous years.

“Our children are in advanced classes and do not even know how to write an elementary sentence”, protests Christelle Okingni, who has four children in school and welcomes the initiative.

But the “measuring of averages” will not be enough to improve a school system that is sorely lacking in resources.

It is not uncommon in Côte d’Ivoire to find classes of 60 or even 80 students.

“Students stand up regularly to denounce the lack of classrooms and desks”, points out a French teacher from an establishment in Bouaké, the second largest city in the country, who prefers to remain anonymous.

It is not uncommon in Côte d’Ivoire to find classes of 60 or even 80 students, while the lack of teachers sometimes shortens the school year by several weeks.

“Last year, we had a math and physics teacher only after the first term, it’s not good for us students,” laments Aya, a schoolgirl in a college in Bouaké.

The question of tuition fees arises more than ever at a time when global inflation is not sparing low-income households in Côte d’Ivoire.

Officially, Ivorian public schools are free, but the price of uniforms, schoolbags and supplies can quickly strain the family budget, not to mention the illegal registration fees sometimes requested by certain establishments.

Last week, the government announced a free distribution of six million textbooks and 5.3 million school supply kits, as well as the provision of 167,000 tables

***AFP**

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