School vs. gold : my plea for education in Ituri

education in IturiYOUNG REPORTER – In my province of Ituri, many children have no access to education. The children used in gold mining go to mining quarries instead of being in school. For this story, I went to meet these children, 85 kilometers from my house, during the launch of the campaign “Back to School” for this new school year.

Children need education in order to be at the center of tomorrow’s development. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the right to education for the child is not guaranteed. However, to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” is the fourth Sustainable Development Goal.

An overpopulated area where few children attend school

This is a territory Landlocked in the center of the Province of Ituri, but known in the country and even in some parts of the world for its mineral wealth. Many companies have been exploiting gold for years there (SOKIMO AGK, etc.).


Mineral resource of Ituri

This territory represents only 12.46% of the total area of the province, but oddly, it is the most populated of the five territories that make up the province. What territory is this? Well, Djugu…

According to the Provincial Division of Primary and Secondary Education (EPSP) in Ituri, during the 2014-15 school year, the school attendance rate was only 21% at the primary level and 14% at secondary. This is a very low rate compared to other less populated areas and less rich than Djugu. This unfortunate situation not only raises many questions, it also represents a concern about the future of thousands of children in this area. This issue is the main reason why the “Back to School” campaign was launched and was centered in this territory.

Gold vs. education

The “Back to School” campaign was launched, like last year, in the territory of Djugu. On this occasion, a launching ceremony was attended by parents, children, local notables, ODH (Human Rights Observatory NGO) and UNICEF in Mongbwalu (80 kilometers from the town of Bunia, capital of the province of Ituri).


Launching ceremony in Mongbwalu

At the ceremony, Idris KOMA KOKODILA, the territory administrator, said that “mining careers, attract not only adults but also children who come either accompanying their parents, or by themselves hoping to collect easily kilos of gold.”

The campaign “Back to School” refers to the mass enrollment of children in school instead of letting them work in quarries.

Meet a child working in quarries

After the campaign launching ceremony, I went with Angèle, another Kid Reporter, to Kpangba, a town located 7 kilometers from Mongbwalu. This town, rich in gold, has witnessed the arrival of more than 15,000 people since the beginning of this year. Among them, pregnant women and children despite the different measures banning their presence in such areas (source: the Ituri Civil Protection coordinator). The health situation remains deplorable in Kpangba: no wells water, lack of latrines, etc.


David meets a child working in quarries

Accompanied by the focal point Child Reporter of ODH Ituri, Angèle and I met a 15 year old. He had come to Kpangba to earn money for back to school. He added that “it is almost a custom here of 10-12 years, children have to learn the work in the quarries, in order to secure their adult lives.” Is this hope, to secure life this way, well founded? Or is it a guarantee without insurance?

These children are many to participate directly or indirectly in the exploitation of gold instead of focusing on their education. Those enrolled in the beginning of the year have sometimes hard times completing normally their school year because dropouts are very high when a new gold-rich area is discovered.

Education in Ituri as a priority

To encourage the education of children in the Djugu last year, school kits were distributed to 427 schools by UNICEF. This year, through the EPSP Ituri, UNICEF will provide school supplies to nearly 48,000 children in first grade, as well as 1,750 educational kits to teachers. With its partner Caritas Bunia, UNICEF will also continue to support social protection for the maintenance and protection of 11,910 vulnerable school children in 397 schools in the sub-division of Djugu.

UNICEF’s efforts are significant for the promotion of education for all children in this territory and all over the country. Despite these efforts, only 58.5% of children aged 6 to 7 years were enrolled in first grade (2015-2016). In terms of primary education, the subdivision of Djugu is in penultimate place among 10 subdivisions within Ituri.

The effectiveness of the free primary school is a problem. In addition, there is a lack of will from the parents. It is necessary that children and parents are aware that education is essential.

Let us advance humanity by enrolling children, because education is the priority of priorities.

More info about education in DRC


Translated from French by Dorsaf James

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David a rejoint le Club d'Ecoute pour Enfants en 2012. Deux ans après, il en est devenu le porte-parole puis en 2015, le coordonnateur. La même année, David est devenu Enfant Reporter. Il présente également diverses émissions sur les droits de l'Enfant. "Parler des droits de l'Enfant via les médias, c'est ma préférence". David étudie le droit à Bunia et rêve de travailler à la défense des droits des plus vulnérables.

David joined the Children's Listening Club in 2012. Two years later, David became the spokesperson and in 2015 the coordinator. That same year, David became a child reporter. Since 2014, David has hosted various programmes on child rights.  "I want to use the media to talk about child rights”. David studies law in Bunia and dreams of working to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. He says he will always work for children.

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