Kinshasa, Oct 28 (IPS) – Director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW) director Yasmine Sherif said that she was “deeply moved” by the resilience of children she met during her week-long visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 3 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 are out of school. However, there was a desperate need for funding.
“The educational needs of these children remain very high. I ask all partners, the government, the private sector, people of good faith, and all those who have funding to show their humanity and lend us a hand. We call on donors to urgently scale up their support for all girls and boys affected by the crisis in the DRC. We have a joint program valued at 66 million US dollars. ECW has already invested 22 million; we need another 44 million for the next three years,” Sherif said in an interview with IPS. ECW is the United Nations’ global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.
Sherif visited an ECW-funded programme in Tanganyika in the country’s southeast. UNICEF implements the programme with the Congolese government, provincial authorities, and other key implementing partners.
While the programme launched at the end of June, it was already showing promise.
“We have seen the progress and the needs for children, communities, and villages,” Sherif said.
The delegation visited the Lubile 1 primary school in the village of Pungwe; a school built with funding from ECW. The school has high-quality infrastructure and provides students with a meal. There are also psychological services to assist children with trauma. According to the delegation, this school is a first – indicating that anything is possible if the means are available.
Sherif yesterday also announced 2 million US dollars in new funding to provide life-saving educational support for refugees and host-community children and adolescents in the Nord Ubangi province in the DRC.
However, Sherif and the UNICEF Representative, Grant Leaity, have also called on donors worldwide to provide 45 million dollars in urgent, additional funding to support ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme in the country facing a humanitarian crisis.
“I witnessed first-hand the refugees crossing after a harrowing journey from the Central African Republic and the generosity of the government and local communities hosting them. For vulnerable children, particularly girls, education offers protection and hope. Many girls and boys who had never been to school in their home country now benefit from an opportunity to learn and thrive. With this new grant allocation, we can ensure to sustain and expand the response and build on this successful programme,” said Sherif.
Alongside Lubile 1 Primary School, ECW and its partners have also developed a learning center dedicated to the non-formal education of young girls displaced by war in the region. They are often victims of sexual violence and sometimes neglected. “We must therefore work to reverse this trend. To achieve this, adequate funding is needed,” she said.
“I am deeply moved by the strength and resilience of the girls, boys, and teachers I have met and whose lives have been transformed by education and the support of local partners, the UN, civil society, and communities,” said Sherif.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are around 5 million internally displaced people, including 700,000, this year. This is the largest number of displaced people in Africa.
The province of Tanganyika alone registers nearly 350,000 internally displaced persons. This represents a major challenge. The province has nearly 4,300 primary and secondary schools to educate more than 1.8 million school-aged children. At least 1,700 more schools must be built to ensure good education for children.
Education is the basis of all human rights, says Sherif adding that investing in children’s education guarantees the achievement of sustainable development objectives. Because she believes education is at the center of human rights. Without it, little can be achieved.
“With education, we can improve mental health, school feeding, water and sanitation, protection, and many other useful services for our children,” she said.
ECW works with donors, the government, parents of students, and local organizations to provide quality education to children who are victims of violence of various kinds in this part of the DRC.
According to Laura Mazal, the British Embassy’s development director, access to quality education in times of humanitarian crisis is vital for children. It offers protection, a sense of normalcy, and hope.
“Most of the children come from displaced families and have never been to school before. Education is their only hope,” said Mazal. Great Britain is the second largest contributor to this multi-stakeholder fund at the global level. “Their courage and the efforts by the community and local partners to ensure all children go to school inspire us all to do more. We call on public and private donors to urgently step up their support for all crisis-affected girls and boys in DRC and worldwide to have the opportunity to enjoy their right to a safe, protective, inclusive quality education.”
ECW and its partners operate in three provinces where the horrors of war are still perceptible including Tanganyika, Central Kasai, and Ituri. The initiative intends to mobilize more resources to deploy in other provinces affected by violence and other crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Schools are essential in reducing tensions between community groups, which often spill over into armed conflicts.
“We must step up to help the next generation to heal from the wounds of violence,” Sherif said. “It is crucial to jointly expand holistic education programmes that integrate psychosocial support, gender transformative approaches, and a focus on safety and the well-being of children and adolescents. At the same time, more must be done to stop this cycle of unspeakable violence and systematic violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. The pervasive impunity must end; perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
IPS UN Bureau Report
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