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In Côte d’Ivoire Every Story Counts 9: In Elima, a New School Restores the Past

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The story of a country’s economic development is often told through the lens of new roads, factories, power lines, and ports. However, it can also be told through the voices of everyday heroes, individuals who have taken action to improve their lives and those around them. In this blog series, the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Ivoirien newspaper Fraternité Matin and blogger Edith Brou, tells the stories of those individuals who, with a boost from a Bank project, have set economic development in motion in their communities.
Surrounded by dozens of other children from the village of Elima, little Karidjatou Ouattara sits calmly in class, eyes riveted to the blackboard.  She cannot contain her excitement: "Before, we had to go far to school; now, we have our own school!"

However, the Elima school, the first official French school, created in August 1887 and located on the eastern coast of the Aby Lagoon, opposite the town of Adiaké, has for a long time been largely symbolic in Côte d’Ivoire. Gradually falling into ruin, the school was ultimately abandoned and removed from the school map.

The project to rebuild the school, which has educated generations of Ivoiriens, was finally made possible in 2016 through the World Bank Emergency Basic Education Support Project (PUAEB). This project finances school infrastructure, seeking to empower communities by providing them with the financial resources to build or refurbish classrooms. In Elima, volunteer teachers from across the region have thus joined the momentum of local engagement and agreed to lend a helping hand to the teaching staff.  

Construction of the new school has transformed the lives of local families. Until now, their children simply did not attend school or had to travel over 4 kilometers of trails by foot to attend school in the neighboring village, often requiring that parents or grandparents accompany them to the detriment of other pursuits. “Before, it was difficult for the children to go to school, especially during the rainy season. It’s a real relief for parents like me and also for teachers to know that the children and grandchildren will no longer have to bear this cross,” explains Assamala Adjoumanvoule, a mother who is reassured by the construction of the new school.

By reducing distances, local schools encourage families—particularly the most disadvantaged, who cannot afford the transportation costs—to educate their children. Moreover, the new school in Elima seems to have breathed new life into this small forest village, which had gradually fallen into disuse despite having been very dynamic at the close of the 19th century with the first coffee plantations. A veritable regional attraction, the village had its own electricity grid, a water tower, and a health clinic. Reconstruction of the Elima school has given a boost to the spirit of the village by creating a space for interaction and a meeting place where families can get together to develop joint projects. A village’s future cannot be ensured unless its children do not feel pressured to abandon it and migrate in search of a basic education.

The construction of local schools, within communities, therefore appears to be an effective tool to promote children’s schooling in the most disadvantaged regions. It also helps revitalize beneficiary villages by creating enhanced community spaces. However, this approach raises a number of issues:

  • Is this approach sustainable insofar as several adolescents will one day have to continue their studies or find a job?
  • If the goal is to encourage families to send their children to school, would it not be more effective to subsidize the cost of transportation for the poorest families so that their children may attend the county school?


Taleb Ould Sid’Ahmed

Senior Communications Officer, Côte d'Ivoire

Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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