A week to the day after the start of the school year, it was time to meditate in the courtyard of Simone Ehivet Gbagbo high school. Around the Ivorian flag planted in the middle of the courtyard, a hundred students gathered on Monday, January 13, to listen to Adama Traore, the principal of this public high school in the popular commune of Yopougon, in Abidjan.
It is the knotted throat that the head of the establishment pronounced the funeral eulogy of one of his students, Laurent-Barthélémy Ani Guibahi, found dead at Roissy airport on Wednesday, January 8 in the morning the landing gear of an Air France flight operating between Abidjan and Paris. "He died doing something you should never do. Don't try this kind of adventure! Happiness is not found elsewhere, it is here ”, concluded the educational manager in a martial tone, before decreeing a day of mourning within his establishment.
A few days after the official announcement of the death of the young 14-year-old boy on Friday, the teaching teams are still accusing them and are sorry to have seen nothing coming: "He seemed really ordinary: neither brilliant at school, nor problematic on the disciplinary level", says Ousmane Ba, deputy head of the school. Absences, the officials of this municipal high school deal with it every week, but it is generally small runaways including "Motivation is generally sentimental", specifies Mr. Ba. This time, the cause was much more serious and constitutes a first in this high school with a capacity of 3,500 pupils who welcome this year however nearly 7,000. Student of 4e, the young Laurent-Barthélémy was taking lessons alongside his 111 classmates.
When he was not in the process of fighting for a seat on the end of a bench, the young man stayed at his father's home, half an hour walk from high school, in a two-room apartment under 15 m2, where he shared his bed every night with his half-brother and half-sister, younger than him, while his father and his concubine occupied the other room.
A native of Gagnoa, in the center of the Ivory Coast, Marius Ani Guibahi, the teenager's father, is a private tutor. He teaches math, physics and chemistry at home, "When there is demand", he wants to clarify to justify his low income. Sitting on a damaged plastic chair in his small living room which turns into a children's room in the evening, he admits straight away that the family is living " in misery ".
Proud of his missing son, he comments on his report cards, religiously compiled in a small filing cabinet: "Last year at Gagnoa he was fourth in his class, averaging 14.5. Like me, he was very strong in science. " In 2018, convinced of having a "Professional project better than in Abidjan", the father decides that the whole blended family must move to Gagnoa, his hometown, before finally reversing his decision and staying in Abidjan. Too late for the college student: he enrolled in the modern Lycée in Gagnoa and immediately transferred to his uncle's. "Even though he enjoyed spending time with my brother there, after a year my son wanted to go back to my side. But he came back a little traumatized ", adds the father.
And for good reason: during the strike movements that paralyzed most of the student establishments in Côte d'Ivoire in 2019, leaving many to fear a white year, Laurent-Barthélémy saw one of his friends get stabbed. "After this event, he didn't speak much anymore, it really affected him and he said he realized how dangerous it was to be a student in this country", explains Marc-Grého de Vilermoze, his half-brother from the father's first marriage, aged 28, and a fire safety system technician in Abidjan.
"They rotted his head"
In September 2019, after a year in Gagnoa, the young native of Yopougon finds his neighborhood. But, according to his relatives, he had become different. "He had an average of 14.5 last year in Gagnoa, then 9 here in Yopougon just before the holidays, observe his big brother, before adding: "He had lost interest in classes, had his mind elsewhere. " Elsewhere, but where? Opinions differ between relatives and the teaching staff. Nothing abnormal for the school principal: "We’re talking about a teenager, it’s a sensitive period when we are starting to assert ourselves, he was changing. " Another bell from the big brother: "Someone manipulated him, he was spending a lot of time on the internet, he had to come across smugglers who rotted his head and gave instructions. " His classmates also confirm that Laurent-Barthélémy, with a reserved and generally assiduous temper, had been skipping school regularly since November to go to the cybercafé. According to his mother-in-law, who spoke with him the day before his disappearance, he was still there on Sunday " for a few hours " "Maybe to take the last instructions", advance his big brother, very reassured and determined that "The truth emerges".
Only one certainty, his departure was premeditated. A travel bag containing several outfits, including one "Rather chic" his father said was found on the tarmac at Abidjan airport. This bag was that of her son. According to Séraphin, one of the boy's neighborhood friends, "Little surprised by the adventure" of his friend Laurent-Barthélémy got used to it at the end of last year "To imitate the accent of whites when he spoke French. He was preparing for there, for sure. "
After the speech in the form of a warning from the principal and before dispersing in the courtyard of the Simone Ehivet Gbagbo high school, a student points to the decrepit walls and benches of the establishment eaten away by time, and declares ironically in looking at his friends: "It is true that happiness is here, it should not have left. "