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Yarani: an educational haven in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire

Clara Rupf

"In the future, I see myself becoming an independent woman in my life. To be able to help my family. I'd love to work in the biggest hotel in the world."

This inspiring declaration of intent came from a cookery student at Yarani – a skill-building institution – who agreed to an interview with Wonder. The warm sentiments she expresses towards the place are striking. They highlight just how much value Yarani has infused into Ivorian girls’ present and future lives.

Furthering the prospects of girls and women in Abodo

Yarani, situated in Abidjan’s northern Abobo district, is the only vocational training provider in Abobo, Abidjan’s most populous area. It was set up to equip women with professional know-how and thereby to empower them economically. With high numbers of internally displaced residents, few opportunities and extreme poverty, trafficking is rife.

Committed to improving women’s prospects, Yarani offers women and girls basic education, livelihood training and accredited vocational training, alongside mentoring and life skills, specialising in literacy courses and hospitality programmes. While some of Yarani’s courses (such as professional-level courses in Food Production or Patisserie) take 2 years, others can be completed in 6 weeks (as is the case with Housekeeping or Home Care).

Quality teaching for a quality education

"Yarani is a good school which helps young girls to pursue their lives…they push us to advance ourselves," affirms one student. Indeed, the institution is a reliable source of gaining qualifications; there are no other diploma level-schools in the area, and Yarani has both the equipment and commendable teaching that other establishments lack. Where other schools struggle with overcrowded classes and lack of resources, Yarani focusses on quality.

"The teachers supervise us better than in other schools," describes a fellow cookery student. "Here, the teacher approaches you and explains better…until you finally get it." The welcoming, pro-learning space that Yarani provides is one she appreciates: "When I’m at Yarani, I feel more comfortable than at home."

Another student volunteers her thoughts on the teaching methods at Yarani: "It's not just strictly the cookery training that you come to learn, it's also the additional things…like how to arrange things, or set the table properly." Her positive experience of Yarani has meant that she has abandoned her initial aspiration to become a border guard. Now, she says, "I'd like to work in a kitchen, I'd like to become a great chef. To build hotels everywhere and be known by everyone."

An education institute like no other

Yarani is a pioneer project – one of few like it so far. Yet its importance is clear in Abobo’s context, where socioeconomic troubles dominate people’s lives. Many of those living here have moved to the capital from the north of the country, fleeing civil war. Others have moved to a more affluent Cote d’Ivoire from Burkina Faso. The most run-down parts of Abobo lack crucial infrastructure such as running water, sanitation and waste disposal, and the area is prone to violence, with women and girls living in fear of sexual attacks.

Overcoming education challenges in Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire’s educational challenges are significant; almost 1 in 2 children aged 6 to 11 do not go to school. The stark boy-girl and urban-rural divides only add to this issue – 59% of boys against 51% of girls, and 66% of urban against 48% of rural youths, actually attend school.[1] To explain this situation, both quantity and quality play a part. First, the aggregate number of teachers and school buildings around the country is deficient. Second, those who do go to school do not always benefit from quality teaching. This partially bears out the country’s high dropout rate – only 52% make it to 5th (primary) grade – and is one of the reasons why many students finish primary school functionally illiterate.

The ‘Yarani model’, then, might be key to overcoming some of these challenges. But for it to survive, and for future Ivorians to benefit from its subsidised services, Yarani needs more funds and more skilled volunteers. Financial self-sufficiency, while a top priority, remains an ongoing progress. Such are the improvements that Yarani hopes for as its traction grows.

Find out more about our projects in Cote d’Ivoire