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Press release

DRC: UNICEF supports the return to school of children in Bunia and Beni

KINSHASA, 16 June 2003. UNICEF has announced that more than 1000 primary school children will be assisted to sit for their final examinations in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s towns of Bunia and Beni, despite the violence plaguing the region.

Speaking from the capital Kinshasa, the UNICEF Representative to the DRC, Gianfranco Rotigliano, said that the children’s organization will support local educational authorities with the equipment necessary to ensure that the Sixth Grade students, more than half of whom are girls, complete their school year today.

He said that the decision to hold final exams was taken after consultations with parents, children and teachers, as well as discussions with UN peacekeepers and the multinational troops arriving in Bunia. Peace-keeping troops will secure the five centres in which examinations take place, and will support the distribution of UNICEF materials.

"Over and above the realisation of this fundamental right, this will contribute to the return to peace in this town which has been so deeply affected by conflict,"said Rotigliano. He added that UNICEF will provide the same assistance in Beni to children from Ituri displaced by the fighting.

UNICEF consistently advocates for the earliest possible return to school of children in conflicts areas. The organisation believes that school services provide a community with a semblance of routine, as well as a safe-haven for students during the day. Reports of sexual violence against girls in the DRC have been relentless and increasingly common.

The examinations will also coincide with the celebration of the Day of the African Child.


For further information, please contact:

Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Media, Geneva, (41) 22 909 5517, dpersonnaz@unicef.org

Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, New York, (212) 326 726, jsedky@unicef.org





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