|© UNICEF 2007/CAR/ Holtz|
|One of the UNICEF-supported temporary schools providing education to children displaced by ongoing violence in the Central African Republic.|
By Emily Bamford
BANGUI, Central African Republic, 17 September 2007 – Seven-year-old Agnès Sadoua grins widely as she talks about her love for school, her friends and her family. Just a few months ago, however, Agnès and her mother were forced to leave their home in search of safety in the bush outside her town of Pauoa.
“Mama woke me early. We dressed hurriedly and left the house,” Agnès recalls. “I was very scared and didn’t understand what was happening. We left in silence.”
As Agnès and her family fled their home, they were joined by many others also seeking safety. The terrified villagers avoided the main roads, afraid of bandits and armed groups who regularly patrolled the area.
“I remember the walk through thick bush and the pain in my legs,” says Agnès.
The group finally settled at an abandoned hut next to a field and have remained there ever since, living solely on the cassava growing near the hut.
Bringing education to vulnerable children
Prior to fleeing, Agnès had been out of school for months due to ongoing conflict in the northeast. Approximately 39 per cent of the country’s girls attend primary school, with secondary school attendance even lower.
|© UNICEF 2007/CAR/ Holtz|
|Programmes supported by UNICEF and partners are helping children such as these get back to school in conflict-afflicted areas.|
In response, a joint programme between UNICEF and the Italian non-governmental organization Cooperazione Internazionale has provided 10,000 children the opportunity to attend school in the bush – a temporary solution to a region that has long been ravaged by war.
In the bush where Agnès is living, families cleared a space for their school in the surrounding woods. A shelter was made from a tarpaulin, beneath which lessons could be taught. A trained teacher arrived and the students were provided with a blackboard, stationary and other equipment.
Reuniting friends, providing normalcy
For children like Agnès, fleeing their homes also meant losing their friends.
“There were no other children for miles around and Mama said it was not safe for me to go and look for them,” she says.
Thanks to this programme, Agnès was reunited with the other children from her village and has been given the opportunity to go to school again.
It is hoped that in time UNICEF will be able to extend the reach of its programme to establish more permanent schools. For the moment, the temporary schools provide both education and a sense of normalcy for vulnerable children.