Mead Johnson, in Partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation, Helps Broaden Education Opportunities in West Africa

Posted on Jul. 2nd, 2015 at 11:30am

The enrollment figures speak for themselves. Nearly 200 people are taking adult literacy classes, with the same number participating in health education. In the co-located preschool, all 50 seats are filled.

These numbers represent children and families taking advantage of a new education program in West Africa, called “Aspirons à la Santé Maternelle et Infantile” or “Aspire to Maternal and Infant Health” – a program funded by the Mead Johnson Nutrition Foundation, in partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation.

Maternal and infant mortality are critical public health problems in developing areas like Africa’s Ivory Coast. One key to reducing that mortality is giving families information about health and nutrition. This program aims to help residents in farming communities, such as Kouamékro and Batégueda, become more empowered and prosperous. This is achieved by creating a sustainable infrastructure for ‘two-generation” learning – getting preschoolers off to an educational “best start”, while offering their mothers opportunities for literacy, health and life skills training.

We are just now entering the second year of a three-year pilot program that gives back to the farming communities from which we source cocoa. Since last September, child and adult classes have been underway. In addition to having new classrooms and new teachers, local preschoolers are armed with new kits including pencils, paper, chalk and slates, for use in school and at home. Thirteen community literacy facilitators have completed their training, and nearly 200 mothers have attended health and information sessions, covering topics ranging from growth monitoring and breastfeeding to vaccination and nutrition.

Learning centers are being constructed and teaching staff are being recruited and trained in two additional Ivory Coast villages in 2015, with two more to be added in 2016. Look for updates as the program continues to grow and evolve, as part of Mead Johnson’s ongoing commitment to give back to and nurture its communities.