Victoria Climbie school in doubt as government drags heels on donation

Plans to build a school with funds raised by a charity set up by
Victoria Climbie’s parents could be under threat unless the
government honours its promise to donate £10,000 within three

Francis and Berthe Climbie, who are on a five-week visit to the UK
to launch and publicise the charity established in their daughter’s
memory, have so far raised just £4,000 of the £250,000
needed to build and run the school for five years.

They need £12,500 to secure the purchase of the land before
they return home to the Ivory Coast next month, but were told by
children’s minister Margaret Hodge last week that she could not
guarantee when the £10,000 promised would be given. At a
45-minute meeting with the Climbies, Hodge said that, as the money
was for an overseas project, it would need parliamentary approval,
raising doubts it would be available in time. The cash was
originally promised by Alan Milburn when he was health

The money will be used to buy half the land needed for the school,
which is being sold to the charity by elders from the Climbies’
community for a quarter of the normal £10 per square yard

The Victoria Climbie Charitable Trust, which was formally launched
last week, was set up to raise money to pay for a school in Abobo,
a suburb of Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, where Victoria
was born.

Victoria’s father says: “My family, friends and community are very
excited about this school. Not just excited, but hopeful too. That
is why it must be a success. We have qualified teachers in the area
who are willing to work for half their salary and have already
formed a committee.”

But Mor Diom, an adviser to the Climbies and a trustee of the
charity, says they would be in “an extremely difficult position at
home” if they returned without the money because people would start
to wonder whether the plans were real.

Many children in Abobo have no education because the nearest state
school is half a day’s drive away.

It is hoped that the new school, funded by the charity, would serve
150 local children, aged six to 12, including Victoria’s
five-year-old sister, Joelle.

Eight-year-old Victoria was entrusted to the care of her great
aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, in the belief that she would receive a
good education in England. But she died in February 2000, 10 months
after arriving in the UK, having suffered appalling abuse at the
hands of Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning. Both were jailed in

Francis Climbie said: “Providing this school in Abobo will give at
least some children an opportunity. It might open the gates for
them to fulfil their potential and stop them making the journey
Victoria did.”

The Victoria Climbie Charitable Trust

To make a donation go to, call
020 7618 9181, or send a cheque made payable to The Victoria
Climbie Charitable Trust to PO Box 184, Southall, Middlesex UB7

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