DR CONGO - “Where government is absent, the Church is present ”:
commitment to education for children and young people
Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most reliable institutions in the fields of education, health care and charitable work. Numerous local and international observers see the Church present in the most remote areas of the Republic: “Where government is absent, the Church is present and where the Church is absent government has no intention of going, say the Congolese”: Fides was told by Fr. Simon-Pierre Kakiau, Congolese Missionary of the Society of African Missions.
“The Church is seen as a sign of hope for these people who have suffered so much; a sign of liberation from a painful past, a sign of hope for people suffering not only because of hunger and endemic diseases but also because they live under the ghost of totalitarianism and imperialism, western, American and Chinese”, says fr. Kakiau.
The missionary continues highlighting the “Church’s commitment for the future of Congolese youth particularly in the field of education and moral and spiritual presence”. Speaking of the education system in Congo the priest describes it as “almost esoteric, and not because it is reserved for the inducted but because it is a prerogative of rich families. Poor children are categorically excluded. There is no clearly defined policy to guarantee education for all children and young people. However the education system launched by missionaries provides schooling for even the poorest children”.
“The majority of our leaders benefitted from this same system” Fr. Simon-Pierre explains. “Following the socio-political crisis in the 1990s the reopening of schools was not part of the government programmes and education was always been left to the families. I ask myself: where would we be today if the Church had not intervened? Our families, due to unemployment, have no money to send their children to school. Youngsters live a childhood marked by violence and no schooling”, the missionary adds. Statistics of 2015 show that 3 out of 10 children do not finish even primary school. What is more 30% abandon school in the early years, 20% between primary and secondary school. Many stop going to school for lack of money. Even the teaching staff, with a small government wage, find life difficult.
“To make up for this education deficit quality instruction is provided by religious communities and parishes. Every parish in the archdiocese of Kinshasa has a kindergarten, a primary school and a secondary school. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Congo (CENCO) invests considerable money in the country’s Catholic University. What is more – says Fr. Kakiau – besides support which from other sources, every year on the 2nd Sunday of Lent CENCO holds a special collection in all parishes for the University. The Bishops are also committed to finding scholarships at the different levels of instruction for the more vulnerable children and young people”.
“Religious Congregations are involved in guaranteeing schooling for the most needy, with professional training centres all over the country offering special courses such as dress making and hairdressing for girls and carpentry and mechanics for boys. This helps restore dignity to the young people making them feel useful in society”, the missionary said.
And he adds: “If today the quality of education in the DRC has improved this is mainly due to the Church. Statistics regarding literacy and level of instruction show an increase from 66.4% to 82.2% between 2005 and 2012. Despite the present pre-electoral crisis, which has serious socio-economic effects, the Church confirms her preferential option for the poor concretised in service of education to restore to young people their future otherwise at risk”.
Source : fides.org