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School Openings & Future plans - Amy reports from DRC

Amy Parker, Programme Manager for Children in Crisis, updates us on progress made in the South Kivu area of Eastern Congo…

My most recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo took place in June, starting with a 5-day ‘training of trainers’ teacher training workshop. The two teams had just completed their baseline evaluation visits in Itombwe and Marungu, so this workshop provided an excellent skill-sharing and team building platform. The topics that were covered include training of trainers, child-centred methods, disability issues, inclusive education, learning how to make your own teaching resources and assessment for learning.

I also took the opportunity to work with the team on reviewing last year’s teacher training project, of which the outcomes are incredibly encouraging. The 18 schools worked with during 2010-11 have seen a 9% increase in enrolment and the teachers’ performance in active and participative methodology and positive discipline is now over 80%. Over 75% of pupils agree with the improvements, saying that their schools have seen improvements in both structure and teaching and learning over the last year.

(Photo to the left: Active participation from children is now encouraged by teachers)

Schooling in the DRC is not free; parents have to pay schools fees and the demands that this places on parents, means that relations between schools and parents can become strained when the school is underperforming and parents cannot see a return on their investment (untrained teachers, dilapidated school environment, absenteeism by teachers and head teachers etc). However, following the August teacher training and school management workshops and sustained work with parents and local communities, relations between schools and communities are now very positive indeed. Parent committees are much more active and aware of their roles and responsibilities, with women beginning to be well represented.

There are of course areas that need further development; there are some communities, especially the Bafuliru communities, where children are not sent to school for reasons of poverty and a lack of understanding of the importance of education. Women and girls are still under-represented in terms of key decision-making roles. We will be looking at ways of targeting such areas for development in year two of the project.

The Theatre in Education component is also nearing the end of its first year, having seen the development of some very exciting projects; including members of the community who we have trained delivering weekly village-based sketches and performances on themes such as early and forced marriage, the importance girls’ education and women’s role in decision making.

There has been lots of interest and motivation within communities for this work with very positive feedback about its impact, especially with regards to early marriage and the fact that families, communities and churches are starting to reject them and with communities now questioning the Pastors’ endorsement of early marriages.  As a result of this, a workshop for Pastors, community leaders and women representatives of the church was held covering early marriage, girls’ education, women’s role in decision making and health (STDs and HIV/AIDS). We have also started a pilot project with Radio Minembwe (which covers the High Plateau of Fizi), aiming to develop radio sketches and on-air debates for future programmes.

A new Children in Crisis school is inaugurated!

The third week of the trip saw us travelling to Marungu on the Uvira High Plateau. On 13th June 2011 Bipimo Primary School was inaugurated. The ceremony was a joyous event with dancing, singing, sketches and speeches. The school itself is now almost complete, with just the water tanks still needing to be installed. Classes are being taught in the classrooms and pupils, staff and the community are very happy with the school build, which has been finished to a very high standard, incorporating transparent Perspex over the window for the first time to protect the pupils from adverse weather whilst still allowing light in.

“We used to have study in very bad conditions but now we have a school where we can follow our lessons. My favourite lesson is French and I will refuse to get married before finishing school; I want to go on to secondary school and then to university.” Claudine, Year 5 pupil - far left in the above photo

Income generation activities will support the school

The final two days were spent with the school management committees from Bipimo, Gitigarawa and Bijojo. Following a quarterly review by EMI and Children in Crisis, a two-day workshop was organised for all three committees to attend focusing on their roles and responsibilities and the planning process involved in developing income generation activities. This was also an opportunity for the Bijojo and Gitigarawa committees to review the first 8 months; one outcome was the need to have short and long term investments and all three committees have included both types of activities in their work plans. The committees have asked for continual support and we are planning on visiting each of the committees in August.

Supporting local partners’ community development work…

During 2011-12 we will be looking at piloting small projects with different local partners working on the Mid and High Plateau to further complement the work we are already doing with Eben Ezer Ministries International. Ideas include a wellbeing and income generation project with women in Minembwe, women’s literacy groups and a focus community project. Watch this space!

To read a story in pictures, click on the gallery thumbnail photos below.

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