Teaching children, supporting parents in Ivory coast
Teaching children, supporting parents –
Bayer Foundation rehabilitates primary school in Ivory coast
The Bayer Foundation donated EUR 200,000 to rehabilitate a primary school in the village of Nzikpli Sessekro, a small community in the middle part of Ivory Coast. What exactly is the relationship between rehabilitating a school in West Africa and Bayer Foundation’s goal to support entrepreneurs who drive change in the area of health and nutrition across communities in Africa?
“We want to build a long-term relationship with the communities we work in. This relationship does not revolve around education, but takes into account health and nutritional aspects as well as the economic development of the community members,” explains Monika Lessl, Executive Director of the Bayer Foundation. “By giving parents the possibility to send their kids to school, they can concentrate on their entrepreneurial activities; allowing them to put healthy food on the table, pay their medical bills, stop worrying about their children’s development” she adds.
The Bayer Foundation started to build their relationship in the village of Nzikpli Sessekro by rehabilitating the community school. And after months of hard work by the community carpenters, masons, plumbers and painters, the village is ready to host the officials who take part in the opening ceremony of the new school.
Oliver Gierlichs, CEO of Bayer in West and Central Africa, and his team discovered the opportunity and initiated this project with Bayer Foundation. Following a first stay in this village in June 2019. Soon after that visit, the Bayer Foundation donated EUR 200,000 to completely transform the community school. As a result, instead of four classrooms, the school now counts 12 primary classrooms, all equipped with chalkboards and school banks. The school also opened three new nursery classes. In addition to the rehabilitation of the four old classrooms and construction of the eight new classrooms, the Bayer Foundation financed a multimedia room, a school canteen, toilet facilities, an outdoor playing area, teacher’s accommodation and a fence around the facilities, keeping the town goats and chickens at bay.
Bron Bertin Bouassi, a high-level magistrate in Sisokko, can’t hide his emotions when asked what this school project means for him: “I was the first student in this village when the school opened its doors in 1967. Education gave me everything. Thanks to my education I was able to get my diplomas, my internships, my travels. Thanks to my education, I am now a magistrate, something I could not have expected to happen,”Mr. Bouassi explains, while watching the carpenters finalizing the last school banks.
“The Bayer Foundation gave this village a present. The school will give these children what it gave me, and even more, thanks to all these new facilities. Teachers now even have their own houses, so that we can recruit the best staff from far,” he adds.
The fifty something Christine Adioumani Clouis, mother of ten and grandmother to many more children, was not as lucky as Mr. Bouassi. Although she and her extended family have always lived right next to the school, she never became a student. “My father decided not to bring me,” she says, while she inspects the maize that she hung out to dry in her open-air kitchen. “That has always hurt me. As a kid, I always waited outside the building for my friends who did go to school.”
“I am relieved that all my grandchildren now go to school. I love the new school. The most important new feature for me is the accommodation for teachers. Before, the teachers often did not show up, because they had to travel from far. Now they can stay in the houses that were built for them,” she adds.
The second pillar to build out a long-term relationship in the community is by supporting the parents of the children, mostly smallholder farmers who work long hours on their plantations around the village.
Oliver Gierlichs, CEO of Bayer in West and Central Africa: “We envision a long-term relationship with the community that not only revolves around education, but also takes into account health aspects and the economic development of the community members. This is why this project also supports smallholder farmers in this community who are organized into a cooperative. Through this project, we will link them to external buyers, so that farmers can get access to new markets.”
N’guessan Téklé, farmer and president of the cooperative, explains the difficulties of being a smallholder farmer in West Africa, during a visit on his small motor bike to his plantation, where he grows cocoa, cashew and yam. “The farmers in this village were not organized,” he explains, while showing a cocoa nut that is still unripe to be plucked. “When a buyer came into town, he would negotiate prices with farmers individually, which gave us little bargaining power. One year ago, we decided to organize ourselves into a cooperative. When we are united, we can use our collective force and negotiate better prices,” he adds.
The Bayer Foundation supports farmers to introduce new crop varieties and finding buyers. “Diversification of our income is highly needed, especially since Covid-19 had a big impact on our village and our economic activities. We were already in contact with a potential buyer who committed to buy the 120 tons of cashew nuts we produced. But due to the pandemic, the international buyer went bankrupt and we had to sell the produce for a much lower price to the government,” Mr. Téklé tells.
Health for All
Thirdly, the Bayer Foundation introduced health-related activities in the village through the health clinic. This clinic, located at a stone throw away from the school and right next to the village’s town square, is always a bustling place. Today, one day before the openings ceremony of the school, a mother brought her four-year old daughter who shows signs of fever. Mr. Jacques Yao Koukon, nurse at the Nzikpli Sessekro health center offers his verdict after taking a blood sample: “It’s malaria.”
After carefully treating and seeing his patient out, Mr. Koukon explains the importance of this health center for the villagers. “Before it existed, villagers had to travel far to get diagnosed.”
According to Mr. Koukon, education and health should always go together. The rehabilitation of the school offers opportunities for a closer cooperation between the school and the health center. “For example, we would like to introduce hygiene education to young girls, because it will help them to continue to go to school. With insufficient menstrual solutions, many girls miss a week of school each month or they drop out for good,” he adds.
The Bayer Foundation has introduced the Cup Foundation, an organization that empowers underprivileged girls worldwide by providing them with sustainable menstrual cups and comprehensive education on sexuality and reproductive rights.
“The advantage of the cup is that it is much cheaper than buying hygiene pads.
In addition, we will provide menstrual hygiene education to girls through the school and health center facilities” Mr. Koukon explains.
Hunger for None
Lastly, behind the main classrooms, next to the play court and newly installed water pump, the Bayer Foundation added a vegetable nursery and a chicken hen house with 500 chicks. « Half of the chicks are held to serve as food for the school canteen. The other half will be sold to make sure that income is generated to guarantee the financial sustainability of the school, » explains Adioumani Clouis-Anderson, poultry farming specialist, adding: “Thanks to this hen, we can already start teaching kids on how to keep chicks.”
Monika Lessl, Executive Director of the Bayer Foundation: “Our Purpose at Bayer Foundation is to catalyze science and social innovation for a world with Health for All and Hunger for None. This is a pilot project that brings these two themes together. When successful, we can hopefully scale it to other surrounding villages, with support from the local and national authorities.”
Saturday, August 29. It’s the day that the villagers have long anticipated. The town square rapidly fills with children, dancers and musicians, parents, officials and other invitees. They all came here today to celebrate the opening of the new school and to listen to the speakers, among which are the Mayor of Didievi and State Secretary for Technical Education and Vocational Training, Mr. Brice Kouassi and the German Ambassador to Ivory Coast, Ingo Herbert: “This initiative will for sure inspire other companies present in Ivory Coast to engage in new initiatives. As ambassador, I will promise to always have my offices open and to facilitate these kinds of initiatives between German companies and Ivory Coast,” he says, adding: “I have a message for the children present today. I hope that you will really make use of this beautiful school by learning; by opening yourself towards the world through the multimedia center, and by becoming agents of change for your region and your country.”
Photo Credit: Christien van den Brink