LIBERIA-COTE D'IVOIRE: Refugee children taught wrong curriculum

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ivorian children in a Liberia refugee camp have been deprived of an education based on their home country curriculum in a school that opened there over three years ago.

“This is really paining our hearts,” said Aisha Berete, mother of five of the 387 children attending the Saclepea Refugee Primary School in eastern Nimba County. “[The children] are losing their Ivorian identity and how will they fit in to the Ivorian school system once we return home?”

“I am afraid that our children will be considered strangers in their homeland,” she told IRIN.

The children, who fled the war in French-speaking Côte d’Ivoire, are learning a Liberian curriculum with mostly Liberian textbooks in English, the official language in the country.

The policy of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is for refugee children to receive schooling based on their home country curriculum. But UNHCR officials in Liberia say they have been unable to obtain the necessary materials from the Ivorian Education Ministry, mainly because of “civil disturbances” and “bureaucracy”.

“The ideal is that we offer the curriculum of the country of origin,” UNHCR external relations officer Oscar Nkulu told IRIN. “Nevertheless the country of asylum and the country of origin have to [cooperate on this].”

“[The proper curriculum] is something we can get only from the Education Ministry,” he said.

In a written statement to IRIN, UNHCR said it had made efforts to obtain the curriculum and textbooks but that "it was difficult to access the ministry". The statement also said the Ministry of Education was concerned that the school had not been accredited.

Officials with the Ivorian Education Ministry were not available for comment.

UNHCR said it recently received the curriculum through its partner non-governmental organisation, Caritas, and that the material would be sent to the Saclepea sub-office for use for the 2007-08 academic year.

Of the estimated 6,665 Ivorian refugees in Liberia, 1,139 are in the Saclepea camp, according to UNHCR. The rest live in local communities throughout the country.

UNHCR officials in Liberia told IRIN that some Ivorian textbooks are available to students at the Saclepea school and that students do receive some French-language instruction from teachers among the Ivorian refugee population.

UNHCR said that early on at the Saclepea camp refugee teachers worked to include lessons from Côte d’Ivoire. “Since it was not immediately possible to obtain the curriculum and textbooks from [Côte d’Ivoire] on account of the civil disturbances in the country of origin at the time, the refugee teachers organised themselves… In Saclepea particularly, the teachers managed to secure some textbooks from the country of origin.”

Source: IRIN