In theory, the school system in DRC is much as it is anywhere else. Primary education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and twelve. A Certificate of Primary Studies is awarded to students upon successful completion of primary education. This allows them access to secondary education, which lasts for five or six years, depending on whether the education being pursued is general or technical.
That description, however, belies the reality of schooling in DRC. The school system, like much of the country’s social infrastructure, has been badly damaged by years of war and by chronic under-funding. The Kivu region has been particularly hard hit as it has been at the center of all the epic conflicts of the last 15 years. The vast majority of schools that exist are in disrepair and regular attendance is the exception, not the norm. According to the World Bank, only 61% of children in the DRC enroll in primary school and only 67% of people over 15 are literate. Many families cannot afford the enrollment fees and many others cannot afford to spare their children from the daily grind of subsistence life. Those children who can attend school often face a dangerous and difficult journey to get there.
However, the political and social climate in the DRC is ripe for change. The most difficult hurdles have been cleared: the country is largely at peace following the M23 conflict and has a democratically elected government. The school system shows particular promise. The teachers are trained and motivated; and the parents and their children are aspirant, dynamic, and eager. But, they need more schools, and the schools that have been built need more support.
The cost of building five schools in Virunga has been met by the European Union and The Murry Foundation. The Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and Africa Conservation Fund (UK) have been the implementing partners on the ground. But, the schools need materials, as well as support for an environmental education program.
The villages in which we are building these schools form a frontline against the desperation that pushes people north from Goma to wreak havoc on Virunga’s forests and animals. Now, and in the future, that frontline will be held by the people who live in these villages; by the attitudes they will have and the decisions they will make. By working in partnership, we can help them give their park a future.
Schools of Virunga
The following are the existing schools in Virunga, built in five of the villages in the southern sector of the park.
While the cost of building the schools has been met, the schools need materials and support for an environmental education program.
Click on a photo to learn more about each facility and how you can help.