"It's never too late to learn": A second chance at school in Congo-Brazzaville

Re-schooling centres offer education opportunities for children forced out of school by poverty

By Marie-Laure Kibangou Moutoula and Aurelia Jessica Ickonga
A girl writes in a notebook at her desk, Republic of Congo
UNICEF Congo/2018
30 May 2018

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo, 29 May 2018: At age 12, Rizanie Nianga was four years behind her classmates in school. Although she should have been in secondary school, she was still trying to complete level four of elementary school. But she was consistently underperforming in class, with no signs of improvement. Rizanie was struggling. 

Part of the problem was adult support. At the elementary school in her village, there were just two teachers for the six classes. And her parents, themselves illiterate, could not provide any guidance.

When her aunt, who lives in the capital city of Brazzaville, found out about Rizanie’s situation, she knew she had to help.


A second chance

After relocating to Brazzaville, Rizanie had her performance assessed at the local elementary school. There, administrators advised her to consider enrolling in the Ngamakosso re-schooling centre, which offers specialized education to out-of-school children and youth.

It only took a year for her to get back on track. After starting the programme in 2016, she became a candidate for the Certificate of Elementary Primary Education (CEPE) in 2017.

“I am very grateful to my aunt for agreeing to this decision” says Rizanie, with a beaming smile. “Since joining the centre, I have been able to catch up with the syllabus and I was even the best student at the centre in 2017”. 

For her hard work and achievement, Rizanie received a monetary award, some school supplies and an Android phone to prepare her for formal schooling.

A girl in a school uniform stands in front of a blackboard, Republic of Congo
UNICEF Congo/2018
Rizanie stands in front of the blackboard at the front of her class. After falling behind in school, she is now the top student at her new re-schooling centre.
Forced out of school

Rizanie is among the thousands of children from the Republic of Congo who fail to get access to quality education or who are forced to drop out of school early. More than 117,000 children across the country are out of school, often because of different social and economic factors.

Poverty is often to blame, with high costs of schooling (including indirect costs like transportation and school materials) and lack social protections like health care putting a strain on families.

Non-formal education opportunities, offered through Ngamakosso re-schooling center and 17 other centres in three regions of Brazzaville, Sangha and Likouala, have now become the beacon of hope for children who were unable to continue with schooling.

Around 1,200 children have been enrolled in formal or vocational training education system. Through rigorous catch up sessions and close supervision, more than 630 children who are in these centres have a chance to re-enter the formal schooling cycle.


Setting new goals

Now enrolled in a private school, Rizanie continues to receive critical support and supervision from the tutors from the centre, to make sure she fits in perfectly with her new schoolmates. 

With her dream of returning to school now realized, her new goal is to become a nurse or health worker to care for children.

"I have always been impressed by the way nurses welcome and care for sick children. Their attitude gives me a lot of emotions because I see in them people who save lives,” she says.

She also recommends the re-schooling centre to children who are falling behind.

"It's never too late to learn,” she says.