DR Congo

Attending school in UNICEF tents after the violence in Kasai

KASAI – For the last several weeks, a sense of hope has returned to Kanzala, on the outskirts of Tshikapa, capital of the Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Children have made their way back to school thanks to a temporary school set up in UNICEF tents.

Temporary schools in Kasai
Deha Njeka is the principal of Kamajiba School in Kanzala. He is happy to be able to welcome his students back in good condition. He gets emotional when he talks about the incidents of 4 December 2017 and what followed.

“Our school was totally destroyed. Our teachers had to hold their classes under trees for months. There were very few children attending school then because many had fled with their families. They came back only after several months, when peace was re-established.”

The Kamajiba School is not the only one. More than 400 schools around Kasai were sacked, burned down or destroyed during the crisis and 440,000 children were unable to complete their 2016-2017 school year. In an effort to address the situation, UNICEF arranged to have catch-up classes for thousands of children. The reconstruction of the destroyed schools must also be addressed, but this will not be easy: it will take time and funding.

That is why UNICEF launched an appeal to the Ministry of Education to get authorization to set up temporary schools in tents. “Nothing is more important for children who have been through the horrors of war than to return to school. In school, they learn to deal with the traumas caused by violence“, said Deha Njeka, principal of Kamajiba School.

A new hope for the future
As soon as government approval was given, UNICEF began setting up temporary schools in the communities where the schools had been destroyed. The Kamajiba School was one of the first to open its doors. The school consists of four large tents in which six primary classes are held. Each class has benches and a blackboard. There are ten teachers, four of whom are displaced persons themselves.

Some one hundred children were registered in mid-October, and more children are arriving every day. “Today, 427 children are registred“, said proudly the principal. Bakala is one of his students. She missed school for months while trying to run from the violence with her mother. Today, she is happy to be back at school and looks forward to the future: she wants to be a seamstress.

The work of UNICEF and its partners
UNICEF plans to build 100 temporary schools throughout the Greater Kasai region which will allow 33,000 children to return to school. It is crucial that children return to school in order to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives after spending months living in fear and uncertainty.