Meetings with schools in Cotonou
By Ludiwine Clouzot
January 27, 2015 – Private, public, and community schools
Our tour of schools ended in Cotonou with visits to two primary schools, one private and one public, as well as a community school complex based on the principle of conscious entrepreneurship.
The private school we visited is a wonderful school of 750 students, covering kindergarten and primary grades. We were impressed by the knowledge of the children in Grade 6. In Cotonou, they watch a lot of television, notably the French channels, which explains how they know so much.
The difference between this school and others we visited was blatant in terms of access to drinking water in homes and the presence of toilets. When I asked them if they practiced defecation out in the open, they laughed, while it is common practice in schools at Pobé and Djougou.
The teachers were very interested in collaborating with us to develop awareness posters we’d like to create for Benin. This school has very good water conditions. The parents’ association has installed numerous water basins where the children can wash their hands, as a response to the Ebola virus.
The public school is almost the same size, about 700 students, but only covers the primary grades. The premises were not as nice and they had a large empty yard with little shade.
The students performed some excellent dances to welcome us as well as to say goodbye. We were not in the same neighbourhood as the private school, and we felt it in the responses, which were less numerous. And even if the majority had drinking water and toilets at home, not everyone did. In the school there was just one tap for everyone.
We had a Skype call with a class the Toronto French School and the children really enjoyed it. The exchange of questions was really interesting and we’d love to repeat the experience.
The city school complex covers from kindergarten to university and works with about 1,000 students. They have joined the network of the International Organization of Conscious Entrepreneurial Community Schools in 2013, a concept developed by a Canadian NGO based in Montreal (more information). We collaborate with them and so that’s why we visited their school in Benin.
While based on the national curriculum, teachers transform their courses into current community projects that children must choose. For example, the primary classes we visited went on an exploratory visit in an area chosen by the school and then decided to drill a well in order to bring clean water to children who don’t have it.
In order to find the money to drill, they spend the year developing commercial projects from practical workshops provided them by the school. For example there are workshops to learn multimedia, music, sewing, hairdressing, art, etc.
We fully support the concept of conscious entrepreneurial community schools and hope that more schools will join the network.
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