Building schools together with communities
In the Kasai region, with UNICEF's help, local communities are rebuilding schools destroyed by violence.
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It took only three months to put a smile on the face of Pétronie and the 646 other students at Lunyenga Primary School in Tshingana, a village in Kasai-Central province. That's how long it took villagers and UNICEF to rebuild the classrooms that were destroyed during the crisis in the Kasai region.
During the fighting, more than 550 schools were destroyed, leaving more than 100,000 students without classrooms. In Tshingana, the roof of the school had been pierced by bullets and the benches had been used as firewood. The villagers had tried to restore the school but to no avail. " When it rained, we went home because the school roof would leak," recalls Petronie.
In January 2022, UNICEF brought the necessary materials and the whole village mobilized to rebuild the school. "During the whole construction period, we were fetching water from the spring, carrying sand and gravel for the workers," explains Pétronie's mother, who was accompanied by UNICEF's partners on site.
Three months after construction began, the pupils moved into the six new classrooms. An office was also built, as well as sanitary facilities. Each student has been given a school bag, notebooks, pencils, and pens. "I'm happy with our new classroom," says Pétronie, who is no longer afraid to get her uniform dirty.
Pétronie’s school is one of 22 schools built with the help of local communities in the Kasai region, improving the learning conditions of students. The community-based approach in the Kasai region reduces construction costs and time while ensuring that communities take ownership of the schools and are committed to their protection.
This approach also allows for the development of local resources and the training of young people in construction trades. "The community has become aware that the school is our property and our heritage," explains the village priest who played a leading role in the construction. Thanks to this construction, Pétronie and her friends can study in good conditions and prepare for their future with confidence.
UNICEF will continue to support the school by training teachers on gender-sensitive pedagogy, violence prevention and school hygiene to encourage girls' education. "I want to become an inspector in the national education system, like my father," says Pétronie, sitting on her new bench.