More than 150 schools in North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been attacked by armed groups in escalating violence since the beginning of January, affecting the education of over 62,000 children, Save the Children said.
Armed groups have targeted schools, often burning desks and chairs as firewood, leaving children without a safe space to learn.
Over 150 schools out of a total of around 6,800 schools** in the province have been attacked. Eighteen schools are currently occupied by armed groups and 113 schools are being used as temporary shelter for internally displaced people, according to data from the DRC’s education cluster, which is led by the Ministry of Education, Save the Children and UNICEF.
North Kivu is one of the country’s most conflict-affected provinces. Over the past year, close to one million people have been internally displaced due to violent clashes. Conflict has been raging in parts of the country for nearly three decades, and children are paying the heaviest price.
The attacks on schools in DRC are having a devastating impact on children’s education, with about 4% of schools occupied or rendered unusable.
Alphonsine*, 13, from Nyiragongo, in North Kivu, left her village six months ago, and is now living in a camp for displaced people. Her school is currently occupied by armed groups. She said:
“One day I met our school headmaster and two of my friends in the camp. The headmaster said that our school was destroyed by bombs. The armed people occupying our school took away the doors and windows to sell them. The headmaster told us that we will take over the school only when the war will stop.”
Save the Children supports schools through partners in North Kivu with building repairs, teacher training, school kits, menstrual hygiene items, and cash transfers for vulnerable families. Four of the organisation’s partner schools have been attacked by armed groups.
Juliana*, 27, is a teacher at a Save the Children partner school in North Kivu, she said:
“Our school has been a battlefield. All the wooden school materials and benches were used as firewood by the armed groups that occupied our school. Students and teachers left the villages for safer places. I hope that peace will return so that I can resume work. I miss my students.”
Marc*, 45, is a headmaster at a Save the Children partner school in North Kivu, he said:
“When I think of all the support Save the Children gave to our school, and now almost everything has been destroyed, I am saddened. Classroom doors and windows taken away, school materials burnt, these armed men are attacking the future of the children. I ask the authorities to secure our environment, including schools, so that the right to education is always guaranteed.”
In addition to schools being damaged during attacks, countless children across the country are unable to attend school, as they are fleeing violence, and living in camps or makeshift accommodation, including school buildings.
Save the Children supports displaced families with food assistance, water, Children's Clubs and health support.
Alphonsine* added: “When I fled, I had only taken a jumper to protect myself against the cold. My clothes, notebooks and school backpack were left behind.
“I come every day to the Child Friendly Space that Save the Children has created. We do karaoke, we play many other games. I like coming to the space because I feel free. There is also food and we are given soaps or wipes to be clean.”
The DRC is one of the world’s most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises, with 14.2 million in dire need of assistance.
Amavi Akpamagbo, Country Director Save the Children in DRC said:
“This year the North Kivu has seen a startling increase in violent attacks on communities, including schools, and as a result, children’s right to education is under threat. Save the Children calls on the warring parties to establish their camps, storage and training sites away from schools, and for DRC’s government to include school safety in upcoming peace talks.”
Save the Children has worked in the DRC since 1994 to meet humanitarian needs linked to the massive displacement of populations due to armed conflict in eastern provinces, especially in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri and Kasai-Oriental and Lomami in the centre of the country.
MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113 or email@example.com.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
*Names changed to protect identity.
**According to the State Education Office.