|© UNICEF video|
|A young refugee uses a UNICEF school kit in Betou, Republic of Congo.|
DONGOU, Republic of Congo, 11 March 2010 – Tens of thousands of children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been seeking refuge in the neighbouring Republic of Congo since October 2009, when inter-communal clashes sent their families fleeing across the border. UNICEF is working to make sure that these children are able to continue their education.
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Working directly with the refugees, UNICEF teams are building schools or facilitating access to existing classrooms across Congo’s Likouala region. Thus far, UNICEF has distributed 3,000 educational kits in 15 refugee sites.
|© UNICEF video|
|Children go to classes in makeshift schoolrooms in Malala, Impfondo District, Republic of Congo.|
“This is as much for continuing their education as for providing a bit of normalcy in a situation that can easily traumitize children,” said UNICEF Representative in the Republic of Congo Marianne Flach.
In the town of Dongou, three public primary schools have opened their doors to about 800 young refugees. Morning classes are held for local children, while the afternoon is reserved for refugee students.
Education is a priority
Teachers from DR Congo, who are themselves refugees, have volunteered to teach students arriving from across the border.
“We have two grades in each class, which can get a bit distracting,” said Ingoma Mazenge, a teacher who fled DR Congo. “But in the end, it is better than nothing at all.” He added the hope that roofing materials and other supplies would make it possible to accommodate all the students more comfortably.
In the village of Nyoinayoi, 35 km north of Impfondo, 320 students are crammed into two large huts. The first grade alone has 146 students sitting on the ground and on small benches made from the soft wood of palm trees.
Many parents here said that setting up schools was a priority upon arriving in their host community.
“We couldn’t just sit and watch our children be idle, so we built the schools ourselves,” said Parents’ Committee President Xavier Ekonda, a father of seven. “Now we are also getting help from UNICEF with the [education] kits and soon some sheeting for the roofs.”
Though teaching and learning remain difficult in the refugee communities, conditions are slowly improving as assistance from UNICEF, the UN refugee agency and foreign governments reaches the area.
In particular, UNICEF education supplies are make learning conditions better. “Thanks to the school kits from UNICEF, the children can participate in the classes more fully,” said Mr. Mazenge.
CRC @ 20