YOUNG REPORTER – All children have the right to education, however it is a disturbing reality in the Mambasa territory of Ituri Province that there are thousands of Pygmy children who have never been to school! Those who are fortunate enough to study have difficulty completing the school year. How can we make sense of this unfortunate situation? I propose some answers in this article.
Tradition vs education
The Pygmy people were the first inhabitants of the Mambasa territory. They are divided into small groups in the forest. When we visited schools in the territory, we noticed that Pygmy children are increasingly rare in classrooms. We tried to find out what the real problem was.
The Mambasa pygmies uphold a seasonal culture. As a result, during certain periods, pygmy families retreat far into the forest with their children, which really puts the brakes on the children’s education. These periods are quite busy: small game hunting, honey harvesting, working in mining quarries, ‘kumbi’ (an initiation to manhood for Pygmy boys),etc.
Faced with this reality, Pygmy families move location several times during the year, which creates instability for the children.
Pygmy children rarely complete primary school
“We finished the school year with 92 Pygmy children in our school. All are studying without their parents giving us anything,” explains the Director of Wanyi Primary School in Banana, a small village 25 kilometres from the centre of Mambasa.
This school is home to the largest number of Pygmy children in the area. The majority of them are in the first three years of primary education. In spite of the free schooling for them, they rarely complete their primary education since they are forced to follow the movements of their parents. Each time, they leave their studies behind.
Keeping Pygmy children at school
“We encourage Pygmy parents to send their children to school ; but they worry about their children’s clothing” adds the Director. Hence the need for more awareness about Pygmy culture and to accept them as they are. Curiously, there is a Pygmy camp 20 metres from the school. But sadly Pygmy children of school age do not go to the school!
“Our children do not have much clothing. We also have to travel far from here to find food to survive. That’s why it is not useful for us to educate our children,” says a Pygmy parent whose children have never been to school.
The Director of Wanyi Primary School is trying to keep Pygmy children at school.
“We have accepted one of their community leaders onto the School Parents’ Committee. Because of this, the children of his camp study in a more or less regular fashion”
Ramo is one of the Pygmy children attending Wanyi Primary School. “I am studying to be intelligent. I plan to become a great footballer,” he said. Unfortunately, there are very few who finish primary school: only one Pygmy has finished the State diploma in this territory!
Raising awareness about behaviour change
During an outreach session Angèle Wakusomba, Education Administrator at UNICEF Ituri, asked Pygmy parents to give their children the opportunity to study to guarantee their future.
“The world today wants all children to go to school. You can sell honey, game, etc. to ensure the schooling of your children, who all have the right to education”
Being aware of changing these attitudes is necessary to save the future of thousands of Pygmy children who have never been to school. What the schools of Mambasa do is encouraging since Pygmy children do not have to pay any fees for their schooling. Sometimes even schools help them with school supplies!
We call on the Government and organisations who work to support indigenous peoples to pay particular attention to the Pygmies, a category of people often discriminated against in the country.
All children must have equal opportunities. To achieve this, raising awareness and changing attitudes among the Pygmy populations is crucial. And when there is an economic or social programme, adults can get involved and ensure that their children continue to go to school.
More info about education of Pygmy children :
Translated from French by Tim Barnes
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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