Back to School: The Long Road for Erick

school start in DRCYOUNG REPORTER – My name is Reddy and I’m a Child Reporter from Mbandaka, in the province of Equateur, where a lot of children have still not recommenced the school year, which was supposed to have started two months ago. They remain at home or are travelling. What is their story? I spoke to Erick, who told me about his late return to school.

Erick’s Story

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“I’m Erick, I’m 13 years old and I come from a a single parent family headed by our father. My mom, Eyenga, died when I was only 7 years old following a heart attack. I was in second grade. I am the eldest in a family of three.

I was raised by my mother’s family, my father did not look after us at all, even though he earned a lot of money working as a driver. Our schooling, food and clothing depended on his wife’s family. Papa did not want to stay with his wife’s family, which is why he abandoned us.

I risked becoming a child of the street

When I was 10 years old, I was in fifth grade, my Mom’s family decided that we should leave my father’s house. I did not want but I no longer had the choice.

At that time – I had such freedom, despite my age! Nobody took care of me, I was at risk of becoming a “street child”. I no longer went to school, because nobody paid for my school fees.

Having been advised by my grandparents (my mother’s), I fled my dad’s home and and went to live with mom’s little sister, Niclette.

The third day my father came to get me from my grandparents’, who scolded at him. Grandpa said, “We lost our daughter, so do not dare tell me that you went three days without being aware of where your son is staying or you will regret the day you were born.

Afraid to listen to all that, Dad decided it was best to go home. I stayed with my “mum” Niclette and my little brothers and sisters, at our grandparents’ house.

I had no hope of going back to school

I had no hope of going back to school, seeing my friends in the grade above me. I was not even going to have a certificate for completion of primary school. My grandparents were worried that I had spent two years out of school, so they found a way to pay my school fees.

A week before the start of school, I went home to ask dad to buy me the school uniforms because Niclette had bought me all of my other school property. Dad wanted to first get married to his new wife. I would have had to read him the complete book of children’s rights for him to be convinced of them.

It was the beginning of the school year, all the children from my neighborhood had already returned to school, and I was ashamed, I only hung out at home. I told myself that after his marriage, my father would have to answer me, but my grievances went unanswered. The task at hand was to get back to Niclette’s place, meanwhile my classmates were already studying.

I will always remember Friday, October 7th of this year, when I began back at school in sixth grade, with a delay – but I’m proud because I went back to school.”

My plea so that every child can return to school

The school year has already started, I hope that all children who still linger at home or are traveling find ways to return to school. Unfortunately, I found that the number of students in some schools is significantly reduced.

To all parents living in the absence of your partner, I want to remind you that you should take responsibility for your children so that you do not to compromise their future.

The DRC government strongly supports single parents. It is said that unity is strength and both parents come together to support their home. So when one leaves the other, it becomes an enormous task for the one who is left.

Let’s help them for the good of the children who, like Erick, are searching for a way to get back to school and towards a better future.

More info about education in DRC

Translated from French by Robert Marshall

Photo: UNICEF DRC 2016 Mounet

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Reddy

Reddy a 19 ans et est devenu enfant reporter de la ville de Mbandaka en 2015. Reddy est devenu enfant reporter après s’être intéressé à l’activité de ses amis à la radio. Reddy est diplômé en chimie-biologie et commence ses études en économie, certain que le destin le conduira où il le doit.

Reddy is 19 years old and became a young reporter of the Mbandaka city in 2015. Reddy became a young reporter after becoming interested in the activities of his friends on the radio. Reddy has graduated in chemistry and biology and has started his studies in economics, certain that destiny will lead him where it should.

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