Last month, TRECC announced its investment in Vallesse, an Ivorian publishing house focusing on books for children and youth. Fidèle Diomandé, CEO at Vallesse, explains why businesses like hers can contribute to improving the quality of education in a context like Ivory Coast.
Q: What was your goal in creating Vallesse Éditions?
A: Vallesse Éditions is a publishing house created in 2005 by young Ivorians with the goal of contributing to youth education. Ten years ago, we realized that general literature in school programs was essentially comprised of books from Europe. Young Ivorians were not getting enough exposure to books that spoke to their own experiences or addressed the questions they were asking.
Q: With 13 years under your belt, your books now have quite a presence in schools in Ivory Coast, right?
A: Yes, very early on we started to publish literature that we submitted to be accredited for high school and middle school programs. Today we have 11 general literature books in the school program.
In addition to these books, the Ministry of National Education has entrusted us with textbooks. Vallesse Éditions has published several educational supporting materials that have been accredited by the Ministry. Today, 80 to 85% of high schools and middle schools in Ivory Coast use at least two Vallesse books.
Q: Let’s consider a primary school-aged child who lives in a rural area. In your opinion, does he or she have sufficient access to literature?
A: It’s not always easy for children in rural areas to have access to books. This is because bookstores and other places offering books only exist in a few urban areas. It’s important to note that due to the serious crisis we experienced between 2002 and 2011, bookstores closed in many areas. This had a negative impact on access to books throughout Ivory Coast. That being said, during the back-to-school period, store owners take on the role of booksellers, offering books and other school items anywhere schools are found, including in rural areas.
Q: Can you give us an example of the type of story that wasn’t being written in Ivory Coast before Vallesse was able to introduce a solution?
A: There’s the example of the child soldiers issue, which was addressed in a book by François d’Assise N’dah called Le retour de l’enfant soldat (The Return of the Child Soldier). During our serious crisis, children were recruited and fought in battles between opposing forces. We published this book to highlight the challenges faced by these young soldiers in terms of social reintegration. What do they become after war? Can they return to the villages where they committed these atrocities? How will they be treated there? What will be their place in the community? All these questions brought up in this book help to open the discussion on peace and reconciliation, as well as the future of child soldiers. It’s very fitting, therefore, that this text has been accredited for the school program since 2008.
Q: What is the correlation between a publishing house and the quality of education?
A: A publishing house represents a cultural activity, but also an educational activity. Our hope is that, with each book we publish, we can make a small contribution to youth education, to Ivorian education, and even to global education—because books travel! We hope that all readers, no matter where they are, can be shaped by reading our books.
Q: Why is it important for stakeholders in education to emphasize the value of projects like yours?
A: First of all, because books are very important in the life of a nation. Secondly, we are operating within the educational sector, which is also an important aspect of a country’s development. For these reasons, we often seek out themes that interest youth and speak to them […]. TRECC made a wise decision to invest in Vallesse Éditions. But TRECC won’t be in Ivory Coast forever. This is why, after TRECC, we must establish systems that can significantly contribute to forming children’s habits and truly promote their interest in reading. So we are working towards this, and soon we will be able to offer something in this area.
Photo : two girls are pictured while reading books at the library of the Cultural Centre in El Fasher, North Darfur, Sudan (UNAMID via Flickr, CC-BY-NC-SA).