The pandemic is threatening children’s futures. We’re determined not to let it. You can help by doubling your donation at no extra cost to you through the Big Give between 1-8 December! All donations raised through the Big Give are unrestricted, which means that funds will be spent where the need is greatest to help ensure that no child is forgotten. Your support could help children in DR Congo, where many children are at risk of not returning to school at all:
In April, DR Congo launched the country’s first radio-based learning programme, to ensure children were able to access education throughout the lockdown. We supported our partner, Children’s Voice, to provide additional radio lessons to over 6,500 students. However home schooling over radio is no substitute for in-person interaction between the child and the teacher, and many families did not own radios. This meant that many children were unable to continue their education throughout lockdown.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has had wider consequences for families. Family cooperatives, which were established before the pandemic, were greatly affected during lockdown as the border with Rwanda was closed. This reduced the income of people in Goma (a city of 2 million in the North Kivu region where we work), meaning many struggled to afford basics like food and medicine. The prolonged period of lockdown meant that some families chose to leave Goma for the countryside, travelling up to 85km away, where food is cheaper or families could get support from their relatives.
This meant that when schools reopened in August, many children didn’t show up because they were still in the countryside. Others did not have the face masks that were required for every student. This has resulted in a large number of children dropping out of school.
Out of school, children are exposed to a number of risks. Boys might be recruited into the armed groups in the region, whilst girls are likely to be subjected to violence and abuse. Traditional gender perceptions mean that girls are often expected to carry out domestic chores and might be coerced into child marriage. Before COVID-19, with our local partner, Children’s Voice, we had started to support these out of school children by educating their parents and communities on the importance of sending children to school. We were also helping to reduce the harmful effects of devaluing girls’ education and enforcing a traditional domestic role. Through this, we wanted to ensure that girls reach their fullest potential and ensure their contribution to long- term peace and security within the region. Now that so many children we were supporting have not returned to school we’re worried that they are likely to face these risks.
As the border with Rwanda is gradually opening, we’re working with Children’s Voice to reach out to families. We’re tracing the families who moved away from Goma to encourage them to send their children back to school, whether that is back in Goma or in the region where they are now. We’re also distributing facemasks to children who don’t have them, as well as other hygiene equipment to protect them, so that children ready to learn aren’t denied an education.
The longer children are out of school, the less likely they are to ever go back. We urgently need to reach more families in DR Congo and support their children back into education. From 1st December, all donations to our Big Give Christmas Challenge campaign are doubled. Will you support us in protecting children’s futures by getting them back into education? Find out more.
Programme Manager (Rwanda)