Benin’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, and one of its major crops, representing between 25% to 40% of total exports, is cotton. The country ranks as 12th cotton producer in the world, second in Africa after Mali.
In the Alibori region in the north of Benin, which we visited last December, the cotton-picking season was in full swing, and the road between Kandi and Cotonou was full of trucks packed up to twice their height in white cotton balls.
Why mention this in a blog about education?
Because, as is the case in many developing countries, families in Benin who live in areas that struggle with poverty often keep their children home to help them in the fields. Sometimes, parents bring to school a very young child (younger than preschool age) to take the place of an older brother or sister who is asked to help with watching cattle or picking cotton or other crops.
The Alibori province is one of the poorest in Benin, and thus it’s one of the priority areas where the government focused the GPE resources it received since 2008, along with 24 other deprived districts (the country has 77 districts).
In Benin, a flexible, accelerated course of learning is giving children a second chance at obtaining the formal education that they need to fulfil their dreams. Long-time UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ang lique Kidjo recently paid a visit to a participating centre and spoke with students about what they hope to achieve, with their education.
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