Eastern Congo was ravaged by a regional war from 1996 to 2003, bloody clashes over land, mining rights and other issues continue today.This village was the scene of a massacre in 2014. In January, the Congolese army launched a military offensive in eastern Congo aimed at rebel fighters.
The charity Justice Rising has opened 7 schools in the region designed to keep children off the streets and safe.“By planting one of these schools in a community that has been torn apart by war, you can see a decrease of child soldiers;you can see young girls less likely to be taken as a child bride and in turn become child mothers; you can see community health increase.”
The UN Children’s Fund UNICEF says 27 million children are out of school in conflict zones.Sometimes they are put to work or they care for younger siblings. The gap in their education hurts their social development.“But it’s also about humanitarian development as well, the development in a long term of a country and of an individual.”
She says that getting kids in school helps a nation’s stability, Cassandra Lee says schools are a catalyst for change.“If we cluster the schools and have multiple schools in a community, we can see them come out of war and into a culture of peace.”
Cassandra and her husband Edison hope to open more schools in eastern Congo and forge partnerships in the Middle East.“But I think in Syria and Iraq,we are really trying to empower local organizations that are already doing great work into supporting them financially or sponsoring their programs.”
Less than 4 percent of global humanitarian appeals are directed at education.UNICEF launched an appeal this year for 900 million dollars earmarked for the purpose.The programs must be flexible.“We have that with examples in Afghanistan with community schools where the schools reach out to the village where the children are.There’s also programs where radio..., learning through radios to reach children.”
Without education she says poverty and instability can become entrenched, harming one generation after another.
Mike O’Sullivan, VOA News, Los Angeles.