|With some students in Yamoussoukro|
Technically the political capital of the country, the landscape of the city brings to mind some dusty highway in Arizona. Large, expansive boulevards cross the city, but there is very minimal traffic compared to the economic capital Abidjan. The founding father of the country, Houphouet-Boigny had big aspirations for his home village: he built a giant presidential estate complete with lakes filled with Caymans (who eat people!) and the most impressive feat, a basilica that is larger than Saint Peter’s in Rome (In fact, it is the largest Christian building in the world!) But, unfortunately for him, the city hasn’t taken on its role as the political capital and remains sparsely populated.
The second largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, Bouaké gets its claim to fame by being the former capital of the rebel held north from 2002-2009. This becomes very evident as one arrives from Yamoussoukro, as you pass a giant UN base just before arriving in the city (“little Pakistan” greets you just off to your left before the city). Bouaké suffered substantially during the conflict, with little to no infrastructural assistance from the capital, rebel lootings occurring frequently, and access to food being difficult for the population. From what I could see, however, Bouaké seemed to be making a comeback. Motorcycle taxis zoomed around town and there have been substantial government efforts to re-open the university.
In Ya’kro, we visited three establishments: a primary school/preschool, a middle school, and the teacher training college (CAFOP). In Bouaké, we visited several classes at a middle school.
The most refreshing and promising was the primary school levels. The teachers used creative teaching methods to introduce the EDHC topics (preschool – the colors of the Ivoirian flag; primary school – the importance of keeping your social space clean), such as group work, interaction between students and teachers, several different types of props, etc. In my experience thus far, this tends to be the case: since the primary level teachers are all trained to teach several different subjects, incorporating EDHC (previously ECM) into their curriculum is a piece of cake. Furthermore, it would appear that considering the age levels they work with, these teachers also have no restraints in using creative techniques to teach the content.
The teachers we finally did see still called EDHC, ECM despite the change since 2009. The walls of the classrooms were covered in graffiti. In the class where I administered some surveys (9th graders), there were 19 year old students. Since middle school is not free, there is no age limit for students; instead, all students are obligated to complete the 9th grade, at any age. It was definitely a change from the schools in Ya’kro and those in Abidjan as well.
In short, I think it is really important to for me, and moreover for the DPFC, to get outside of the main cities to see about the other schools. The Inspector was very upset with the fact that there were students at the school who had never received EDHC classes and had a good talking to to the principal of the school. Hopefully, things will get changed, but who really knows.
On the way to Yamoussoukro, we rode in a nice truck with A/C that belonged to the primary school inspector of Yamoussoukro (his family lives in Abidjan, so he often is there for the weekends). But as we were driving, the car started overheating and then just all together stopped working. We were out in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road, nothing but silence and stars and tall grasses around us. Luckily, a car passing by stopped and offered to pull us, yes with a rope, to the next village where there was another inspector that could help us out. Welcome to Africa :-)
For food, we were often treated (since I was, after all, with the general inspector) by the local delegation, so we ate very well. Since we crammed so much into each day, we were literally running around from 7am until 11pm, which was both exhilarating (things had been rather slow previously) and exhausting (considering everything was also conducted in French). Probably one of the highlights was when we arrived in Bouaké and the city was empty because everyone was watching the CAN (Africa cup) game against Togo.
I really had a nice time and look forward to other trips further north and to the east bientôt!