Lack of Education is at the Root of Youth Issues in Cocoa Growing Communities
In many places around the world, youth are presented with an array of exciting and valuable opportunities as they transition from childhood to adulthood. They might begin post-secondary education, start working their first job or volunteer in their communities. This is not the case for young people in cocoa growing communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire where a lack of educational opportunities limits their employment options and undermines their rights and wellbeing.
Limited Educational Opportunities
Educational opportunities are severely lacking for young people in cocoa growing communities. ICI supports 47 cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire; none of these communities have post-primary educational opportunities. The cocoa growing communities that ICI assists in Ghana are similar; few have senior secondary schools and none have technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Older children in both countries must travel long distances to access secondary school or TVET, with children in some cocoa growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire travelling as far as 66km.
Abubakar Shaibu (18) from Afrisene Camp in Ghana was assisted by ICI to find an apprenticeship as a tailor.
As a consequence of inaccessible educational opportunities, older children in cocoa growing communities in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have the lowest school attendance rates of all age groups. Lack of schooling, coupled with few alternative job opportunities, mean that young people often turn to cocoa farming to bolster their household income or strengthen their own skills.
Involvement in Hazardous Work
Young people, particularly those aged 15 to 17, are at great risk of hazardous work while engaging in cocoa production. According to the Tulane University Survey, 59.8% of children aged 15 to 17 working in Ghana’s cocoa production are engaged in hazardous work compared to 50.7% of children aged 11 to 14 and 27.5% of children aged 5 to 11. Cocoa farming communities in Côte d’Ivoire are similar: children aged 15 to 17 working in cocoa production engage in hazardous labour at a rate almost three times higher than children aged 5 to 11.
Gender Inequality, Child Marriage and Early Pregnancy
Although both young boys and girls are at risk of hazardous work in cocoa growing communities, gender inequality poses additional risks to young women’s lives. Child marriage and early pregnancy are particular concerns. In Côte d’Ivoire, 34% of women are married before the age of 18. Child marriage rates are only slightly lower in Ghana with 21% of women marrying as children. Because child marriage and early pregnancy are interconnected, rates of early pregnancy are similar. 31% of women in Côte d’Ivoire have their first child before the age of 18 while 16% in Ghana do.
When girls and women marry young, they are more likely to drop out of school to take on domestic duties or care for children, which they often have soon after marrying. Early pregnancy can have serious health consequences if the young woman’s body has not yet matured. Additionally, married young women and girls are more vulnerable to sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Limited educational attainment is one of the key drivers of child marriage and early pregnancy, along with gender inequality, traditional norms, rural residence and poverty. In Ghana, 41.6% of women with no education were married before 18, compared to 4.7% of women with secondary education. The numbers are similar in Côte d’Ivoire; 27% of women with no education were married before they turned 18 in comparison to 9% of women with secondary education or higher. Given that young women in cocoa growing communities have limited access to education, investments in young people’s education and women’s empowerment play a crucial role in protecting young women and girls from the risks associated with child marriage and early pregnancy.
Investments in Educational Opportunities for Youth are Essential
Enhancing youth’s access to educational opportunities including secondary school, post-secondary school, TVET, apprenticeships or bridging classes, is essential to advance their life prospects and protect their human rights. ICI engages in a number of initiatives in cocoa growing communities which help to do this such as supporting young people to undergo apprenticeships, forming Community Service Groups which provide agricultural training and job opportunities to youth and strengthening primary school infrastructure and quality to increase the likelihood of children attaining higher levels of education.
This article by ICI was published on “World Youth Skills Day” on July 15th 2018
Click here to read about our 2017 Stakeholder Meeting dedicated to youth & older children living in cocoa-growing communities