International Literacy Day // September 8, 2022

The Power of Reading: AVSI Provides Ivorian Children with the Opportunity to Dream

Ivory Coast

Marie L'Hermine

Marie L'Hermine

Partnership and Business Development Officer at AVSI-USA

Bumpy dirt roads are the only access to most remote schools in the north of Ivory Coast; visitors are an uncommon sighting, and books are even more of a luxury.  Imagine the joyful surprise of the following scene: amidst the opaque colors of a small rural Ivorian village, appears a stranger on a noisy motorcycle with a bright, beautiful box: full of colorful new books of all shapes and sizes. Curiosity awakens, joy and discovery invigorate the receiving schools– sparking a new chapter for these eager students.  

Today is INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY, which serves as a reminder of the importance of reading for all around the world.

As Kofi Atta Annan states: Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.” 

UN data reveals that more than 393 million children have failed to gain the basic literacy skills at age 10; and in the case of Ivory Coast, the reading rates have always been low, with the reality that one third of children who start in 1st grade will drop out before finishing primary school. In response, AVSI has been working to improve literacy skills in 613 schools of Ivory Coast through the USDA/McGovern-Dole Program. Led by the World Food Program from 2016 to 2021, 150,000 students were able to receive quality school meals.  

With a special focus on girls’ education, the project has incentivized 10,000 girls with food rations from 4th to 5th grade, to encourage their school attendance and participation in class.

The program received praises from the Ministry of Education and Alphabetization (MENA) in Ivory Coast, key collaborators in the success of the ongoing endeavor.  AVSI delivered 1,839 mobile libraries, 129,964 textbooks and reading tools; organized catch-up courses for use in- and after-school; and trained and supported 3,678 teachers. Under the trees outside, teachers have been able to hold reading animations, bringing to life new adventures and stories. Children have become excited to learn and read again.

AVSI and partners are thrilled to announce that the program has been renewed for a second phase, an additional 5 years: Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program Phase II, a truly transformative initiative for these young learners!

AVSI will reinforce literacy skills through targeted activities and teacher training in close collaboration with the MENA. AVSI will carry out water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities through rehabilitating water points, restoring latrines and ensuring safe water in targeted schools of the Cavally Region, Bafing Region, Bagoue, Poro, and Tcholongo Region, and Bounkani and Gontougo Region.

We share with you the stories of Sonia and Rachida, two best friends whose lives were transformed by the Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program, a project that through books opens up a world of big dreams, way beyond their small villages.

Sonia and Rachida, 12 and 15 years old, now attend CE2 (4th Grade). Without their determination, a huge desire to learn, and a little luck, they have been able to attend school. The girls have this life changing opportunity because they live in Méreï, one of the 613 villages targeted by the " Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program " implemented by AVSI in Ivory Coast.  Their story reflects the impact of AVSI on girl’s education and Ivorian children’s access to books and other key learning materials.

Interested in learning more about MCgovern-Dole and AVSI's work?

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