150,000 children out of school as violence rocks DR Congo region

Theirworld, June 11, 2017

By Evan Watt, Online Editor

More than 150,000 children are missing out on education because of violence and attacks that have seen over 600 schools damaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other schools in the Greater Kasai region have been occupied by military forces or are being used as emergency shelters for displaced families.

Even where schools have not been directly affected, many children and teachers are unwilling to attend classes because of the fear of violence or attacks.

“It is essential to give children the opportunity to return to the classroom as quickly as possible,” said Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, Acting Representative in DRC for the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. 

“Schools should be safe places where children can learn and begin to recover from the stress of the displacement or the memories of what they might have seen.

“Returning to the classroom can give children a small sense of normality in troubled times.”

Hundreds have been killed and 1.3 million displaced in Greater Kasai since fighting began last August between a local militia and government forces, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Since then 639 primary and secondary schools have been damaged in attacks. 

This is despite DRC last year signing the Safe Schools Declaration – an international commitment to protect students, teachers and their schools during armed conflict.

More than one in 10 children of primary school age in the region have had their education interrupted as a result of violence. Many schools in the region have not been operating for more than 100 days.

An estimated 400,000 children in Greater Kasai are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. As well as the attacks on schools, more than a third of health centres have been forced to close following looting – depriving children of vital services and medicine.

Supplies of food and basic necessities are dwindling and displacement has forced families to live in conditions with inadequate hygiene or sanitation.

“Even if the volatile security situation limits humanitarian access, we have to take advantage of calm moments in some areas to intervene and restore education,” said Dr Oyewale. 

“The future of too many children will be at risk if nothing is done to provide emergency assistance in education.”

In the midst of the crisis, UNICEF is supporting more than 3600 children to take the national primary school final exam to help them advance to middle school.