From a summer camp to school : Merveille’s moving testimony

education in Kwilu

A young girl on the way to school in the Province of Kwilu (UNICEF DRC Dubourthoumieu)

TESTIMONYIt is August 2016 and we are in Masimanimba, a town with the same name as the territory in the Province of Kwilu. As part of the ‘’Women and men, moving forward together’’ initiative, Primary Secondary and Vocational Education, in collaboration with EDUCON consulting educators (a local NGO working in the education sector) organises summer camp activities in Masimanimba.

Meeting Merveille, a little girl deprived of education

‘’I am 12 years old. When our mother died, I had to stop going to school. Since my brothers go to school in the morning, there was nobody to stay at home to look after our younger brother.’’

Merveille was sometimes invited to go and play with her friends. The EDUCON community workers used these fun meetings among friends to explain gender to the children. They emphasised the importance of developing the competencies of each child, whether they were boys or girls, and how they complemented one another in the community. Hence the slogan, ‘’boys and girls moving forward together’’.

‘’When I listened to these lessons, I realised that I needed to attend school. But given my situation, I wondered what I could do?’’ Merveille decided to talk about this to the community worker.

 ‘’I decided to take her out of school so that she could do the housework and look after her brother’’

Passy Mwenze remembers meeting Merveille. ‘’What caught our attention was that fact that she always arrived with a child. And when he cried, Merveille left the playground. When she told me her story, it sparked an urgent need in me to help her go back to school. So I went to see her father’’.

Jean-Luc, Merveille’s father tells the story: ‘’When their mother died suddenly, there was nobody to take care of the younger boy. Her brothers had to stay in school. Because Merveille was a girl, I decided to take her out of school to do the house work and to look after her brother until I found another wife’’.

Giving young girls a future through education

It was not easy to convince Merveille’s father, admits Passy. Using the arguments of the ‘’Women and men, moving forward together’’ campaign and of the Convention on the rights of the Child, Passy managed to convince Jean-Luc.

He understood that his decision was unfair, contrary to the Rights of the Child and to the development of his daughter. He undertook to find other solutions for the housework and for the care of his youngest son. He allowed Merveille to go back to school again from September 2017.

Aware of the benefits of the ‘’Women and men, moving forward together’’ project and grateful for the intervention of her teacher, Merveille said: ‘’I now realise that there is not one work that is exclusively for boys or for girls. I would like to become a teacher one day and get involved in the education of boys and girls’’.

Small initiatives may save lives and the ‘’Women and men, moving forward together’’ initiative is one of these!

Women and men, progressing together

Through the ‘’Women and men, moving forward together‘’ programme, UNICEF and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children’s affairs, with funding from the European Union, wish to act on all types of gender based violence and their root causes.

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Jean Paul Nico Luketo

Jean Paul Nico Luketotravaille à l'UNICEF depuis 2006 dans la province du Bandundu. Tout enfant ne peut se construire qu'à travers l'éducation: aucun enfant ne doit être privé de ce droit. "N'attendons pas que les enfants soient dans le rue pour les aider."

Jean Paul Nico Luketohas been working with UNICEF since 2006, in DRC's Bandundu Province. He believes that no child can develop without education: no child must be denied this right. "Let's not wait for children to be on the streets to helo them."

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