In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the Equateur Province, there is deep segregation between the Pygmy and Bantu communities. The Bantu hunters and gatherers discriminate against the Pygmy hunters and gatherers. In response, the Pygmies distance themselves from the Bantu community. We also see this problematic coexistence in schools.
Too few Pygmy students in schools
In the town of Mbandaka, the capital of the Equateur Province, the majority of Pygmy children do not go to school. At the Bamanya Institute, for example, only 20 out of 150 students are from the Pygmy community. In another institution in the town, there are only 10 Pygmies from a total of 450 students. We have even found schools which do not have a single Pygmy child.
There are too few Pygmy children in Mbandaka’s schools. We conducted a survey in some schools in the town to understand the reasons behind the poor numbers of Pygmy children being educated. Pygmy parents do not have the means to send their children to school. Without a good job, they do not have the money to pay for their children’s education. Where parents have struggled and managed to send their children to school, these children are often mocked by children from the Bantu community. After being humiliated and bullied, Pygmy children leave school and sometimes stop their studies for good.
Education is essential in the life of a child. If they miss this step, their whole lives will be derailed.
The proportion of Pygmy children in Mbandaka’s schools is very small, given that it is school that teaches things that are essential for preparing children for their future. A Pygmy child is a child like any other and should be able to benefit from their rights, without discrimination.
Coexistence is everybody’s responsibility
If the Pygmy and Bantu communities are to peacefully coexist, interventions must happen from a very young age. The government should allow free education to all children so that they learn to mix every day.
Regardless of whether you are black or white, rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, children’s rights are the same for all children.
As a Young Reporter, I am part of the “New Generation of Mbandaka” group which encourages coexistence between the Pygmy and Bantu communities. Through radio transmissions, awareness-raising activities and advocacy, we inspire the whole community to live united and with integrity.
Every child benefits from the same rights as laid out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pygmies and Bantus are brothers and sisters and should be put on the same page of equality. Pygmies are not inferior to Bantus – they have the same potential and the same rights as the Bantus. I am launching an appeal to the entire population of the Equateur Province in particular, and to the country in general, to take Pygmy children into consideration in the same way as other children.
More information on Pygmy and Bantu children in DRC:
Kindly translated from French by Lucy Oyelade