Shaping Congo’ s future, one teacher at a time

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Violent conflict and a broken economy have turned teaching into a dangerous profession. Forty-year-old Kabuo defies the war, however, dedicating her time t

Kabuo plays volleyball with the children. Photo: NRC/Ephrem Chiruza, July 2018.

o educate the children of her war-torn community.

Kabuo, who was forced to flee her home when conflict erupted in her village, has returned to teach children affected by the conflict. “Teaching children in a conflict zone is not easy at all. Instead of focusing during the day, some children prefer to sleep because they stayed up all night, worried about being attacked by bandits.”

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 7.4 million children between the ages of five and 17 are unable to attend school. Many of them live in rural areas ravaged by armed conflict.

A courageous woman

Kabuo is a lively woman, courageous and passionate about the education of the many children she has met who have been affected by conflict. She lives in Kirikiri, a small village in the resource-rich yet conflict-plagued province of North Kivu in Eastern DRC.

AT OUR VOUCHER FAIR: Teacher Kabuo with some of the children she teaches. Photo: NRC/Ephrem Chiruza, July 2018

On a regular morning, Kabuo rises at the break of dawn to draw water and prepare breakfast for her seven children. She then walks 5 kilometres to the Mutwambi Primary School, where she teaches. This is a major departure from what she has experienced in recent times. From August through December of last year, Kabuo was on the run, fleeing several violent clashes between different armed groups near her village. These conflicts caused a massive wave of displacement, forcing some 37,000 men, women and children to abandon their homes and seek safety elsewhere. During her time on the run, Kabuo struggled to survive by offering services like washing clothes for people in the host community where she was staying in exchange for food. Although 95 per cent of those displaced have returned to their places of origin, most of them do not have access to adequate food, clean water, sanitation facilities or health care.

A teacher in Kirikiri earns about 50,000 Congolese francs on a monthly basis, the equivalent of 31 US dollars. To earn extra money and meet the needs of her household, Kabuo has developed a small business where she sells a local drink called mandale, made from corn juice. Through her small business, she earns enough money to feed her children.

Kabuo plays volleyball with children at the NRC voucher fair. Photo: NRC/Ephrem Chiruza, July 2018.

Education, a neglected sector

When I was a child, I always dreamed of becoming a teacher. I loved teaching. Now, my dream has come true. I’ve been a teacher for seven years now.

In earlier times, teaching was a highly respected profession, and teachers were considered essential role models in Congolese society. Teachers had a high relative wage and good living conditions, while enjoying many social benefits, such as medical care and housing. Since war broke out in the country, the country’s economy has been paralyzed, and teachers’ salaries have deteriorated.

Since 2010, the Congolese government has made enormous efforts to strengthen its education system by introducing a legal mandate of free education at the primary school level. Despite the goodwill of Congolese authorities, the education sector has remained poorly funded at only 18 per cent of its total 7 billion (USD) budget, as of 2017.

As previously mentioned, many of the 7.4 million Congolese children who are out of school live in rural areas ravaged by armed conflict. Millions of Congolese children are without hope of a better tomorrow due to a lack of education and dearth of future employment opportunities.

With funds from UNICEF, we are training more than 100 teachers, including Kabuo, in psychosocial support. Photo: NRC/Ephrem Chiruza, July 2018.

The frustration of these children and youth, and their sense of hopelessness, may if not dealt with, force many of them to join armed groups as an only means of survival. The risk of regional “lost generations” is, therefore, amplified.

In DRC, parents pay high school fees to enrol their children in school. Through this, they support Congolese teachers’ salaries. Congolese teachers have, for a long time, demanded that the government cover the entire expense of their salary so that more families can afford to enrol their children in school. They are also demanding that the government support their medical care and accommodation or housing, so they can continue to focus on teaching despite continual conflicts.

“The war has led many children to abandon their studies. Now, the ones that want to return to school lack the means to pay for school fees, while others remain too afraid to go to school for security reasons,” Kabuo explains.

Original post by NRC


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin