October 26, 2021

It takes a village (and more) to work together and learn how to read

Looking forward to 5 more years of work, AVSI and partners celebrated the success of “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” funded by USDA/McGovern-Dole Program and led by WFP

By Marie L’Hermine
AVSI-USA Partnerships and Business Development Officer, supporting the Integrated Feeding and Literacy Program in Ivory Coast

The auditorium was filled with excitement.  AVSI staff and partners from the World Food Program (WFP), National Canteen Department (DCS), and the Ministry of Education (MENA) gathered to celebrate the ending of a successful 5-year project. Between 2016 and 2021, the Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program gave 125,000 children access to healthy food and distributed reading materials and books to schools in Ivory Coast.

"I am thankful to all of you partners for this beautiful project,” said Maritou Koné, who has been recently appointed as the Minister of Education. “Over the last 5 years, you have put in a lot of hard work to ensure children are fed, have access to books, and learn how to read. Your work is important and needed, and I want to personally thank every single one of you."

With her kind and praising words, Maritou Koné began a two-day workshop on the project’s results, weaknesses, and lessons learned. Funded by USDA/McGovern-Dole Program and implemented by WFP and AVSI, the Integrated Feeding and Literacy Program worked in 613 schools in seven regions of Ivory Coast. In 2020, WFP and AVSI worked tirelessly to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic would not negatively affect the children’s access to hot meals and education by distributing food and offering lessons through the radio when schools closed.

The workshop was also the perfect setting to celebrate yet another achievement. USDA/McGovern-Dole Program will continue to fund the project for the next 5 years, allowing WFP and AVSI to support 613 schools with a set of additional activities.

"We will continue training teachers and guarantee they have access to support and continuous training, working with the MENA. New books and materials will be distributed. We will also install some latrines and waterholes in schools in need," explains Elly Bahati, AVSI Ivory Coast Education Project Manager.

During the workshop, AVSI presented the motorcycles later distributed in the villages. A total of 50 motorcycles were gifted to 25 schools to facilitate transportation to the teacher trainings by both teachers and educational advisers. 24 additional motorcycles were awarded as prizes for the Best Teacher Contest in the schools. As most teachers are not local to the regional schools where they work, these motorcycles also allow them to reach the schools faster and easily. 

Attending the workshop in Abidjan gave me the opportunity to be with people I have been working with for the last 5 years and realize that it really does “take a village,” to carry out the numerous activities included in this project.

In the next phase, AVSI is eager to take up the challenge and accompany all members of the education system – from parents and teachers to educational advisers and the MENA – to strengthen and improve the Ivorian Education system. 

"If food is the nutrition of the body, being able to read is the nutrition of the soul and a fundamental need of all,” says Lorenzo Manzoni, AVSI Ivory Coast Country Representative.

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