Côte d’Ivoire is one of West Africa’s economic powerhouses. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it was one of the world’s fastest growing economies, boosted by its position as a top supplier of cocoa and raw cashew nuts.
But persistent social inequalities and structural challenges have hindered the benefits of such economic success reaching the poorest, and put additional pressure on public services, including education.
Today, more than 1 in 5 primary school-aged children do not participate in the formal education system. Girls and children from poor rural households in particular lag far behind. What is more, almost 800 000 children are estimated to be engaged in hazardous work in cocoa production, such as the use of sharp tools or exposure to agrochemical products.
A coalition of business and philanthropic investors, led by the Jacobs Foundation, came together with the ministry of Education to help provide education for remote and rural communities and scale up evidence-based solutions around foundational learning.
GPE’s Multiplier provides an incentive and up to US$13 million of grant funding within this innovative partnership to get more marginalized children in school and learning, thus boosting close to US$39 million in total co-financing committed by the coalition of investors.
Laying the groundwork: building a coalition to advance quality education
In 2015, the Swiss-based Jacobs Foundation launched its largest ever country program in Côte d’Ivoire, Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities (TRECC), endowed with CHF50 million (approximately US$55 million) to contribute to systemic change through quality primary education and early childhood development.
Up to that point, some cocoa and chocolate producing companies had already been supporting projects to improve access to education in their sourcing communities, including support for out-of-school children to rejoin formal schooling, and investment in school infrastructure.
But there was scope for strategic and better alignment among all these actors and national education plans, and most importantly, appetite for collaboration.
TRECC’s proposal to pool together the know-how and finances from these private sector and philanthropic partners was well received. Twelve companies and two philanthropic foundations, UBS Optimus Foundation and Bernard van Leer Foundation, joined the TRECC program.
This started a shift in focus, from access to education to quality in learning: What was really happening inside the classroom? Were children learning? Were children optimally supported in their early years? Were they reaching the expected proficiency levels? If not, why so and at what risk?