The Côte d’Ivoire United Methodist Church is planning to help build schools in the Central African Republic.
Côte d’Ivoire Bishop Benjamin Boni and Central African Republic Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire Lydie Flore Magba signed an agreement for technical and economic cooperation in education on Oct. 8 at the Jubilee Temple of Cocody in Abidjan.
“When the church invests in education, it sends the message that the life that Jesus gives is not only about the kingdom to come but also about the present,” Boni said.
He praised the Central African government’s efforts to improve the lives of its people.
This collaboration aims to replicate the United Methodist schools model of Côte d’Ivoire by building, among other things, 12 school complexes in 12 cities ranging from preschool to secondary school, each with a health center, a canteen and a place of worship.
“We want to care for each child at all levels,” said Lazare Kouassi, director-general of the United Methodist Schools in Côte d’Ivoire.
The project is expected to take five years and is estimated to cost nearly $165 million U.S. The government already has made 124 hectares (about 306 acres) of land available. The government will take care of the schooling of 60% of the children, and support one-third of the total cost. The rest will come from outside partners.
The Côte d’Ivoire church will help design curriculum, share best practices and assist with the management of the schools, according to the memorandum of understanding.
The education system of the United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire is organized around a structure called the General Directorate of the United Methodist Schools. It has 97 schools, including 36 preschools, 53 elementary schools and eight secondary schools.
For the 2019-2020 school year, 23,257 students were enrolled, with more than half of those girls (51.11%). Its schools are among the institutions of excellence in Côte d’Ivoire. The General Directorate has existed since 1926.
It was during a mission to Côte d’Ivoire that Biro Rameaux, economic affairs advisor to Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, suggested that the General Directorate of the Methodist Schools could be a model for “his country in reconstruction,” Kouassi said.
“Following his report, the president of the Republic made it a priority by entrusting its follow-up and implementation to his ambassador,” said Hippolyte Tramo, a Central African citizen and professor of mathematics at the General Directorate of the United Methodist Schools for about 10 years.
The successive socio-political and economic crises in this former French colony have disrupted the Central African education system, leading to an insufficient number of qualified teachers, low school attendance and the destruction of school equipment and infrastructure, according to data provided in the memorandum of understanding. The document noted that surveys in 2010 showed that 30% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 have never had access to school.
“If the church has decided to accompany me in my mission, I give glory to God,” said Magba. “The signing of this agreement is a divine plus in my mission.” She said it was the first agreement in the international relations framework that she signed since coming to Côte d’Ivoire in November 2019.
The United Methodist Church in the Central African Republic is a mission initiative under the East Congo Episcopal Area. It is supported by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The presence of the denomination in the country dates back to 2006. There are 20 United Methodist communities (local churches) in the country, according to the Rev. Marcel Sachou, a Global Ministries missionary in the Central African Republic and a member of the Côte d’Ivoire United Methodist Church.
Boni expressed the wish to see the education project become a reality.
“We will make ourselves the instrument of God to help the brotherly people of the Central African Republic who, for some years now, have been passing through the valley of trial,” Boni said. “For us, it is an infinite joy to share with others what God is doing with us.”
Broune directs French news for UM News and is based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
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