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Central African Republic

Providing education to conflict-affected children in the remote regions of Central African Republic

© EC/ECHO/Daniel Dickinson 2009
Despite having only basic facilities, the pupils at the Martin Luther School are still eager to learn.

By Daniel Dickinson

BOCARANGA, Central African Republic, 31 December 2009 – After years of conflict in the rural north of Central African Republic, dozens of simple 'bush schools' are helping many children displaced by the fighting to return to full-time education. For many, it is the only chance they have to study.

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It may not look like much, the rickety wooden structure with a thatched roof and open sides, but for its 70 pupils, the Martin Luther school in in the dusty scrubland of Bocaranga - in the far north-west corner of the Central African Republic - offers the best possibility to move forward following years of conflict.

"Both my parents died, so I need to study hard at school to improve my life," says Leonard, 10, one of the pupils who attends this bush school.
Sporting a red football shirt, he is eager to learn and enthusiastically shouts out the drills called by his teacher.

A huge need

The school is extremely basic and one of around 25 schools in this impoverished part of CAR. Many of the pupils attending these schools were forced to flee their homes due to the conflict between rebel groups and government forces, and are now living in informal settlements around towns like Bocaranga.

© EC/ECHO/Daniel Dickinson 2009
A pupil at the Martin Luther School sings a national song.

Leonard has been attending this school for a year and hopes to become a teacher, a commendable aspiration in a region bereft of trained educators. Classes in the bush schools must often be taught by parents such as Yvonne Poukou, who have been trained to teach but do not yet have a full teaching qualification.

Ms. Poukou is one of around a hundred such trained parents - called 'maître parents' - in the area, complimented by only seven fully qualified teachers that have been provided by the Government. The harsh living conditions, the remoteness of Bocaranga and the huge needs of the local population make it difficult to attract teachers here.

"I do this for the children," says Ms. Poukou. "It is a difficult job; I get little money and I suffer a lot teaching 70 children every day."

A positive step

The bush schools in Bocaranga have been set up by UNICEF and are funded by a contribution of approximately $2 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO). In total, 800 schools across CAR have been funded and over 2000 maître parents trained.

"The violence and insecurity in northern CAR have led to more than 110,000 people being displaced in the bush without access to basic services," said Muriel Cornelis, the Head of the ECHO office in CAR.

"In an emergency situation, a school provides more than just somewhere for the children to study," she added. "It also often provides access to safe drinking water, healthcare and protection. For many of the children attending bush schools this is a positive step towards a normal life."

Originally posted on www.alertnet.org




'Bush schools' in Central African Republic offer access to education to conflict-affected children.
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