In the Central African Republic, parent-teachers provide basic education in conflict-affected area and beyond
By Colette Boughton
OBO, Central African Republic, 3 October 2012 - Since 2009, when attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) began in the area, the number of people fleeing their homes in and around the rural town of Obo, Central African Republic, has increased significantly.
More than 6,700 displaced people and more than 2,000 refugees are now staying within a 5-km security perimeter set up around the town.
Parent-teachers fill critical gaps
UNICEF and partners have been supporting local schools and temporary schools to assist the wave of displaced children to continue their education.
It is difficult to place qualified teachers in this remote, insecure area, in which civilians are targeted by the LRA. Most teachers in Obo are therefore ‘parent-teachers’ who have been identified by local communities to provide basic education in the conflict-affected areas.
Juliette Ume Djamobi is one of only five female parent-teachers in Obo. She is a mother of five. Her oldest child is 15 years old, and the youngest is 1. “I became a parent-teacher because there was nobody to teach the children. I believe that education is important, so I went to the Parent’s Association to volunteer as a parent-teacher.”
With support from the United States Agency for International Development Office of United States Foreign Disaster Assistance and Common Humanitarian Funds, UNICEF partners in Obo have provided Ms. Djamobi with regular teacher training so that the children can receive the best education possible. Ms. Djamobi says, “We are here in a place with little security, and I wish for continued support for training and school materials.”
Elei Mboligbe came to Obo to escape the threat of the LRA. He teaches in one of the temporary schools for displaced children set up by UNICEF and partners. According to Mr. Mboligbe, “Children need to become something in life, so I decided to become a parent-teacher. I have had three trainings, which help me to teach and manage 27 children. I do not have much time for other work, but I receive 2,000 CFA [USD4] a month from the Parent’s Association.”
Parent, community volunteer and President of the Parent’s Association Benoit Benapa helps to support and manage the school. “We also encourage parents to send their children to school instead of taking them to the fields or forest,” he says.
Schools function, thanks to the community
Not only do parent-teachers serve in conflict-affected areas and in emergencies, but they also make up for shortages in qualified teachers in the capital and other communities.
UNICEF Chief of Education Farid Boubekeur says of the situation in Obo, “It should be acknowledged that, in many communities, basic education is only possible thanks to parent-teachers, and, without them, thousands of children would be illiterate. Parent-teachers are also vital in providing an education to children in other areas of the Central African Republic affected by seven other armed groups. These schools are only able to function due to the community’s efforts and commitment – and need our continued support. More needs to be done to build the capacity of parent-teachers so that children in Obo and other affected areas receive better quality education.”