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Congo, Democratic Republic of: Newsline
DRC: Greater access to education for girls
Over the last ten days a man has been walking up and down the village roads of Batiamaduka, a village on the outskirts of the city of Kisangani, a loud speaker at his lips, repeating in the Swahili and Lingala languages, “Wasijana Wote Shuleni! Bana Basi nyoso na kelasi!” Passers-by and children follow him and applaud when he stops to explain his message to elderly people.
Since he walks up and down reminding people that this year all girls of school age must be enrolled in school the villagers have nicknamed him ‘Papa C.A.C.’
The C.A.C. are community development units - small local organizations - run by volunteers whose mission is to promote the dissemination of messages urging changes in behaviour in order to facilitate grassroots development.
Matabisi Bwendwa is 7 years old and is all smiles. She comes home from school with her arms full of the supplies provided to her school by UNICEF. Her white book bag proudly clasped against her chest contains notebooks, black and coloured pencils, an eraser, and a pencil sharpener.
The significance is great since in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some 4.4 million children of school age, of which 2.5 million are girls, do not attend school. In eastern Congo alone, UNICEF has spent US$1.5 million to purchase essential supplies for children whose parents, victims of wars and poverty, cannot afford to buy supplies for their offspring.
In the provinces of eastern Congo, school supplies will be distributed free of charge to some 114,000 pupils in the first year of primary school as well as to some 2,385 teachers of first year pupils. To support this campaign of increased enrolment of girls in school, UNICEF will also continue to provide support to 233 selected schools as well as to 118,000 pupils at all levels of primary school, who will receive school supplies, and their 2,613 teachers, who will receive teaching materials.
Matabisi’s father is unaware of these figures but he is vigilant and sees the makeshift cart rented by the parents’ association deposit the first lot of supplies in the village schoolyard. He says to himself: “This will not happen without me or without my daughter.” He proudly enrols his daughter and waits impatiently for the day to arrive to see his daughter receive her first supplies from the hands of the Governor before the crowd that had assembled for the event.
Papa C.A.C. did not miss the opportunity to boast of the value of school for children, particularly girls. Matabisi’s father approached him and whispered, “You should say a big thank you to UNICEF for reducing our expenses this year. Especially for me, with my four children.”