Breaking a promise made to Victoria Climbié’s parents in 2003 to build a free primary school in memory of their daughter was never an option for Mor Dioum, co-founder of the Victoria Climbié Charitable Trust and director of the Victoria Climbié Foundation, writes Caroline Lovell.
His promise goes to the heart of a story that ended in tragedy after Victoria’s parents allowed their daughter to accompany her great-aunt to Europe from Africa in pursuit of a better education.
It may have taken three years of fundraising, but the trust reached its £80,000 goal and the Centre D’Education Primaire Victoria Adjo Climbié will open in September.
Set in the Climbié family’s home town of Abobo, a suburb of the Ivory Coast capital, Abidjan, one of its first pupils will be Victoria’s younger sister, Joel. Until this point, the nearest free school was at least half-a-day’s walk away for children in Abobo. Now, up to 360 local boys and girls aged between six and 12 will be able to attend the new school.
Over three years, the trust received donations from individuals across the UK, including members of the National Teachers Union, churches and celebrities.
The final £80,000 package excludes a pledge from the former children’s minister Margaret Hodge, who said in 2003 that the government would give £10,000 to the school. A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the money was always intended to cover the administration costs of a full academic year, not to cover building costs, and would be passed on to the trust after the school opened.
The trust is now also working with non-governmental organisation Organisation Nationale Pour L’Enfant, La Femme et La Famille, which runs family, child protection and education projects in the Ivory Coast and will support the eight teachers and one school administrator at the school.
Meanwhile, the Victoria Climbié Foundation, set up by Victoria’s parents after Laming’s public inquiry, has helped more than 300 families and children in child protection cases in the UK over the past five years.
“Our strength is that we have gained trust from various communities to talk about child protection and child abuse,” says Dioum. “We have become experts on the subject and are well placed to bridge the gap between statutory agencies, care services and ethnic minority communities.”