In Ivory Coast, the “early leave” demanded by the pupils sows chaos as the holidays approach.

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At the Pascal college in the commune of Koumassi, in Abidjan.

Megaphone in hand, Nour Bakayoko galvanizes the students gathered in the playground of the Pascal college in the commune of Koumassi, in Abidjan. “Those who come to dislodge you, they are afraid of succeeding, while you, you are not afraid! “, shouts the psychologist of the Organization of Parents of Pupils and Students of Côte d’Ivoire from the first floor of the establishment. There is no question that the clashes that have affected dozens of Ivorian establishments in the run-up to the Christmas holidays will repeat here.

It has almost become a tradition: every year, after the end of term exams, the students feel they deserve to go on vacation. However, the calculation of marks forces them to stay an additional one to two weeks. What they refuse, going so far as to cause significant human and material damage. This year, a minor was stabbed to death in the town of Issia and a young girl was injured in Korhogo, in the west and north of the country. The next day, students vandalized law enforcement vehicles in central Taabo town.

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This so-called “early leave” phenomenon dates back to the end of the 1990s, when, pushed by student unions, secondary school students in Abidjan caused unrest and demanded that they choose their date of departure on vacation. But the degree of violence of the demonstrations and their dissemination outside the economic capital have struck Ivorian public opinion for several years. In December 2019, three students were killed in clashes in the towns of Anyama, Dimbokro and Daloa.

Blades and clubs

As the weekend approaches, tension has eased slightly across the country. At the end of the Council of Ministers, Wednesday evening, December 8, the government spokesman was delighted that the crisis now only concerns 9 Ivorian departments against 27 at the start of the week.

In the commune of Vavoua, however, the public high school is still closed and the teachers are on strike. Monday and Tuesday, students and unidentified individuals, armed with knives and clubs, burned the administrative building where the staff of the establishment had taken refuge. Several people, including the principal, were injured. “The teachers are not paid to take stones over their heads, protested Bonaventure Kalou, former international footballer, now mayor of the municipality of western Ivory Coast. As long as the students and teachers are not safe, the prefect and the principal will not reopen the school. “

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Faced with these outbursts of anger, the authorities are struggling to find adequate responses. The government spokesperson announced that administrative sanctions, including temporary or permanent exclusions would be imposed on “Troublemakers”. And for the most serious cases, “It could follow legal sanctions”. But the same measures were announced in 2019, without deterring the students.

“We are not going to beat up our children after all”

On Ivorian social networks, many are calling for more firmness with regard to these young people who challenge the authority of the school and the State. “The students believe they are masters of everything and no longer fear anything, observes an Abidjan professor on condition of anonymity. But they are not above the law, they must be punished. “

On the side of the Ministry of Education, we refuse to respond with a purely security approach. “Are we not going to beat up our children after all because social networks are calling for it?” “, chokes Xavier Effoué, the director of communication of the ministerial cabinet, believing that, to curb the movement, “We must involve the entire educational community and beyond”.

Appointed last April, Minister Mariatou Koné raised many expectations when she took office. By diagnosing an Ivorian school in great difficulty and announcing some strong measures, such as the fight against cheating in competitions and the continuous evaluation of students and teachers, this researcher wanted to shake up an institution and a system that many Ivorians believe they are adrift.

A “sick” school

In November, as part of her “zero early leave” campaign, she toured schools across the country. Awareness-raising caravans and national artists also toured Ivorian colleges and high schools to convince students to respect the set timetable. Without success. Today, the Minister recalls that the issue of “early leave” is on the agenda of the general estates of the school that she launched last July and whose long-awaited conclusions will be known in April 2022.

“The Ivorian school is sick, the evil is deep and cannot be absorbed in a single awareness campaign”, believes Théodore Gnagna Zadi, president of a trade union center. According to this informed observer, a bit nostalgic, the gradual disappearance over the last thirty years of boarding schools, canteens, and scholarships for the most deprived explains the current excesses. “These devices were the strength of the Ivorian school, and it was respected by the students for that, he said. Today, in the towns of the interior of the country, it happens that the young people of the villages rent together small houses, live together and cook to survive. They are not framed. “

The various observers also point to a broken down social elevator and the absence of parental authority. More broadly, Mr. Gnagna Zadi sees in the recent eruptions of violence among young people, the sign of a “Ivorian society in crisis of values”, made worse by the decade of conflict the country has known. He, too, is impatiently awaiting the conclusions of the Estates General.

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In Ivory Coast, the “early leave” demanded by the pupils sows chaos as the holidays approach.