Friday 15th December 2017 was the start of the holidays at the Musue Bionso Primary School in Mulombela – a village situated 20km from Kananga in Kasai-Central province. The students and teachers did not know then that they would not be able to return to the classroom after the holidays.
“On the 8th January, after the holidays, we did not go back to school because of the fighting between the army and the militia,” Mbombo explained. She is 14 and in the 6th grade.
The villagers fled to find shelter in the bush. “I sleep with my parents, my brothers and my sisters in the jungle. We are scared to go back and sleep in the village,” Mbombo admits. Like many inhabitants, the young girl and her family took refuge in the bush. During the day, the adults go back to the village to find food and whatever else will help their family survive. “Living conditions in the jungle are difficult. We sleep under a hut, sometimes with empty stomachs if there’s nothing to eat,” explains Mbombo.
Uncertainty still reigns all around Mbombo’s village. The school benches are hopelessly empty and the blackboards still have “15th December” written on them. Mbombo said that she fears getting very behind in her studies.
However, everything is ready to welcome students and teachers back. Since October 2017, four temporary classrooms have been built and equipped in the school. UNICEF’s tents, the wooden desks and the blackboards give the teachers pride and give the students motivation. “Before, the learning conditions were hard and classes were interrupted when it rained. With the new classrooms, we could study until the end of the day, regardless of bad weather,” Mbombo says.
She hopes to be able to return to school quickly. Not being at school is a hindrance for her future. Mbombo dreams of becoming a teacher to combat illiteracy in her community. “When you learn, you can go far,” she concludes.
Education in the Kasai region
The crisis in Kasai has had a devastating impact on its children. They have been injured and killed, and become victims of sexual assaults and arbitrary arrests, and used in militias. Due to the violence, 440,000 could not finish the 2016-17 school year. In all of the Greater Kasai region, UNICEF anticipates putting 100 temporary schools in place, which will allow a total of 33,000 children to return to school. It is crucial for the children to return to this path to restore a sense of normality in their lives after months of fear and uncertainty.
Translated from French by Johanna McCalmont
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