I have no place to learn but at school

My name is Merveille and I am a Young Reporter in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa. This year, the new 2015-2016 school term starts today, Monday 7 September.

My country has set itself a challenge: to enrol nearly 20 million children, girls and boys alike, aged 6 to 7 years old, in primary schools and to make sure they stay in school up until secondary school.

The aim is quite clearly for these children to become educated, to be able to develop their skills by learning to read, write, express themselves …

Are we going to fulfil the challenge this year?

Several children who live in different areas of my neighbourhood, Masina, have indeed reached the right age for primary school but they don’t even know if they’ll be able to start school today, Monday 7 September, as they should. And there are other children for whom it is quite certain that they will not be going to school this year.

Idriss, a 9 year-old boy, doesn’t know yet whether he will start school today. His father hasn’t bought his school uniform yet because it is expensive and he hasn’t yet paid Idriss’s school fees.

But Idriss isn’t the only one in this situation.

I had the chance to speak with Isabelle who is 6 years old and is the youngest in her family. This year, she won’t go to school because her parents prefer to send her older sister and brother to school so that they can complete their education up until the end of secondary school.

This year, Isabelle’s parents will not be able to financially support their three children at once.

Dear parents, it is your duty to send us school, without discrimination, because primary school is essential. It is useful for our development because it will allow us to discover all the qualities with which we entered into this world with. It is through education that we will then ourselves be able to express ourselves in the future.

Idriss and Isabelle are unfortunately not exceptional cases. There are thousands of children in a similar situation. They all ask themselves the question:

How will I, Congolese child, ever be able to express and develop myself?

Dear authorities of DRC, don’t forget that our country has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) along with several other legal documents.

Article 28 of the CRC contains things that the Government must do for children’s education. The article also contains things that we, Congolese children, expect from you, State authorities:

○ Effectively make primary school education free for all, without discrimination;
○ Make buying school uniforms optional;
○ Take measures to encourage regular school attendance and to reduce school dropout rates.

To all parents and State authorities, we need your commitment to fulfilling our rights. We don’t want to live in a country that respects our rights in some far away future/ We want to live in a country that respects our rights in a near future, and why not immediately?

Because I have no place to learn but at school.

©UNICEF DRC/Perrine Piton/2013
Translated from French by Eleanor Hac

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Merveille a 17 ans et elle étudie en première année à l’Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de la Gombe à Kinshasa. Après plusieurs années d'expériences d’enfant reporter, Merveille s'est lancée dans des études d'histoire, sciences sociales et gestion politique. Son but est de défendre les droits de ses pairs et de venir en aide. Selon elle, “il ne faut pas se limiter au rôle d’enfant reporter mais poursuivre cet engagement pour les enfants dans la vie d’adulte”.

Merveille is 17 years old and is in her first year of university in Kinshasa. After a few years of experience as Child Reporter, Merveille has decided to study History, Social Sciences and Political Management. Her goal is to defend her peers' rights and help. Merveille believes: ‘One must not restrict oneself to the role of being a child reporter, but continue this commitment for children into adult life.’

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