US Chargé d'Affaires Andrew Haviland visited the AVSI-supported school Sohouo, in the northern region of Poro, Ivory Coast, on April 6, 2017. With 360 primary students, including 192 girls and 61 pre-school children, Sohouo is one of 613 schools targeted by the “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” which AVSI is implementing with funding from the McGovern-Dole FY 2015 program of US Department of Agriculture. The program’s main goal is to ensure balanced meals for 125,000 students while improving reading and writing skills for students in 613 rural public primary schools in seven priority regions of Ivory Coast (Cavally, Bafing, Bagoué, Poro, Tchologo, Bounkani land Gontougo). The program is led by the World Food Programme (WFP) as part of a consortium with AVSI and the Central Management of School Canteens (DCS).
The US Embassy in Ivory Coast organized the field-monitoring mission to the Northern school in Sohouo, following the first year of program activity. Andrew Havilland, who is responsible for oversight of all US Government activities in Ivory Coast, was accompanied by the Korhogo Regional Director of National Educationof Korhogo, the Inspection Office of Primary Education, and the Assistant Prefect of Sohouo.
“The program’s goal is not only to eliminate midday hunger and improve the nutritional status of children but also improve reading skills, in order to retain children in school for access to quality education for all girls and boys in Ivory Coast,” said Ms. Adeyinka Badejo, the WFP Country Representative in Ivory Coast.
Mr. Hailand was very touched by the enthusiastic reception as the village chief and leaders joyfully greeted the guests with Senoufo traditional dances and songs. He stressed that in order to improve the life of the population of Ivory Coast, action must begin with educational initiatives like the “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program.”
"We want to increase the enrollment rate for all children, especially for girls beyond primary education. To the extent that the US government supports Ivory Coast’s aspirations to translate its strong economic performance into a better life for its citizens, we must start with education,” said Haviland. “The McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program supports the goal of the US mission in Abidjan to increase economic opportunities by strengthening human resources that imply better outcomes at the primary school level.”
In his speech, the Diplomat thanked AVSI in particular for all the quality work already done to improve teaching reading and writing skills.
In her speech, Mrs. Karidia Koné Soukoule, Director of School Canteens of the Ministry of National Education, thanked the US Government and all the actors involved in the implementation of the program. Since the beginning of this program in November 2016, 125,000 children have been able to eat a hot lunch at noon. She stressed that feeding children in school has had a beneficial effect on student failure rates, which have decreased from 20% in 2011 to 7% in 2016 in Sohouo school.
On behalf of all the students who benefited from the project, Véronique Yeo Yelé, 6th grader thanked the American people for their generosity in helping children in Ivory Coast. In her speech, she imparted the traditional Fotamana welcome, a greeting given to all visitors to express their welcome in the local language, Senoufo.
"Thanks to this project, we eat well and we are healthy. In addition, the 1st and 2nd graders have benefited from the appropriate teaching tools and materials to learn how to read well,” said Véronique, who also thanked the WFP, AVSI and DCS for their efforts and work.
After the various speeches, Mr. Haviland symbolically handed over the dry rations of food to the parents of the girls in 6th grade. He then distributed and gave mobile libraries, didactic games, reading boards and other reading and learning materials to the directors of the eight surrounding schools (Fodonition, Koni, Bodonon, Tawara , Zemogokaha, Kotcherie, Karafigué and Sohouo).
The Chargé d'Affaires and the delegation then visited the 2nd grade class to observe how the teacher and students use AVSI's materials and teaching tools. Interested in the lesson, Mr. Haviland exchanged ideas with the teacher of the class before giving the students a gift of books as a sign of encouragement for this very worthwhile initiative and approach to the mobile libraries set up by AVSI. Before leaving the village, the Diplomat and the delegation saw the students having lunch in the canteen.
In the afternoon, a working session was held at the WFP office in Korhogo. WFP and AVSI staff presented the achievements of the activities, the impact, the challenges and the successes thus far in the implementation of the program. At the end of the working session, Mr. Haviland said that he appreciated the level of implementation and expressed his availability to mobilize funds from other donors to meet unmet needs, including support for agricultural groups, which provides and makes possible school feedings.
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