27 June 2013
By Odette Asha, Norwegian Refugee Council
Around 800 schools were affected by the latest clashes that took place in the province of North Kivu since last June.
The young Maniriho, a former child soldier, said he is full of hope for a better tomorrow. At the age of 16, he is happy to be learning carpentry, one of the activities organized by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Masisi region of DRC. Maniriho, whose name means, “God exists”, was able to escape the militia that had recruited him three years ago: “I was taken by force at the age of 9 by the members of my village’s armed militia. I was responsible for stealing goats and other food products. I was also responsible for bringing the children of the combatant’s wives along during troop movements. I had then lost all hope of seeing my parents again, of studying…simply put, the hope of living was gone. When I was able to make it back to my village, I was taken to a re-education camp. I finally went back to my family at the camp for displaced people, where I suffered humiliations. All thefts or all other types of abuses were blamed on me. But now, learning carpentry and being occupied every afternoon with activities at the Lushebere school, I am finding my dignity, my hope for a better future.”
Full of hope and ambition, Maniriho shares with us his most treasured dream: “I must become a carpentry teacher so as to help other youth, also victims of discrimination for the simple fact of being recruited by force into the armed militias.” Maniriho is one of the 9,000 children affected by armed conflicts in the Masisi territory in Northern Kivu whom NRC supports through an “education in emergencies” programme.
This assistance to children victims of conflicts is carried out with financing from the European Union, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. In solidarity with those in greatest need, the EU chose to dedicate the funds from its prize to educational projects, activities that are essential for the protection and the development of children affected by conflicts.
At Neema (« grace » in swahili) primary school, for the past 5 months more than 500 students sit on rocks to attend classes in the open air. The classrooms of this school were all systematically plundered before being burnt down during the inter-ethnic conflict at the end of 2012. “It’s a joy to be back in school even though I’m sitting on a rock. But it’s unfortunate for us when we have to stop class when it rains and look for a place to find shelter”, said Bahati, a first grade student, shared. During this season of the year at Masisi, it rains almost every day, disrupting classes.
Since February of this year, NRC has set up some thirty emergency classrooms in the Masisi territory thanks to the support of the European Union.
Like the heads of other schools who are beneficiaries of this project, Mr. Victoire Twagira, director of Neema primary school (Masisi center) explained that: “If NRC hadn’t begun its project implementing catch-up courses and building classrooms in the Masisi region, thanks to the support of the European Union, the coordinating entity of primary schools would have had to declare a blank year [a school year without classes].” In his experience, children were usually no longer motivated to continue studying during such “blank years”, leading to serious gaps in their education.
This education in emergencies project is funded by the European Union’s Children of Peace Initiative, and will help over 9,000 children in DRC affected by conflict access school. As part of the initiative NRC are also working jointly with Save the Children , who will help over 5,400 children gain access to basic education in Ethiopia.
For more information on the European Union’s Children of Peace Initiative please click here.