The widespread use of children in cocoa production is controversial, not only for the concerns about child labor and exploitation, but also because, as of 2001, up to 12,000 children working in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest producer of cocoa, may have been victims of trafficking or slavery.
In a bid to stamp out the practice, the government has implemented a 20 million euro education action plan that will see them study instead of working on these fields.
“Since there’s been a school, these children come everyday. When we opened in 2013, we had many students in the first class, big kids 10-year-olds who hadn’t been to school. They managed to catch up and it stopped them going to the fields,” said Mr Kouakou Angoua Denis, school director of the Goboué Primary School.
Once a child is in school, he doesn’t have time to go the fields so he can’t do that laborious work.
Child labour in the country has been well documented despite an agreement between the government and the world’s top chocolate sellers to stop it. According to the International cocoa initiative, between 300,000 and a million children work on Ivorian cocoa plantations.
Kids rescued from child slavery in the cocoa fields of The Ivory Coast. Thanks INTERPOL and IOM. pic.twitter.com/P1S6EM70iA
— Slave Free Chocolate (@slavefreecocoa) June 22, 2015
“Establishing schools is an important step in eliminating child labour because once a child is in school, he doesn’t have time to go the fields so he can’t do that laborious work,” said on worker of a cocoa plantation.
The government action plan has seen about 155 schools opened and thousands of classrooms renovated over the past five years and if this trend continues, more Ivorian children will be able to access education.