By Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile, Founder/Executive Director, COFAPRI
Tackling the Neglect of Girls' Education
Just after its inception in 2009, the Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development (COFAPRI) began seeking assistance to educate girls born of rape and subjected to domestic discrimination. We believe that education provides opportunities for personal development, self-reliance, and independence, while building a strong foundation for overcoming poverty in the future.
The education of girls is often neglected in the rural DR Congo; most parents are poor and uneducated themselves. Most of the children in these areas cannot attend school because their families cannot pay the school fees. In other instances, parents refuse to send their daughters to school, due to traditional beliefs that they will not perform well, providing their parents with an unwanted financial burden.
This presents a significant challenge that must be addressed and overcome.
In 2013, COFAPRI started supporting the education of three rural girls. All of them were in level Primary Two, and they are developing very well.
This school year, we are pleased to report that they have all entered Primary Three.
“We very much appreciate this support as we have been staying home, but now we can go to school. We have endured a lot of discrimination because we are born of rape and we have no fathers. Sending us to school is a great help for us, as we are empowered by learning a lot of things. We study how to remake our future through empowerment, as the wars have damaged our bodies and souls.
This is a chance that will never come to us twice. We shall work hard in school to show those who think girls are unable, that we are able.”
Bintu Alphonsine - beneficiary.
When we began, we felt like a small drop of water in a large lake. People were laughing at us, and we feared we might not succeed. They told us that due to local customs and traditions, we would not be successful in changing people’s minds regarding the education of these girls.
Our only response was that we would not give up before giving it a fair chance.
In 2014, we sponsored 23 of these vulnerable children, 16 girls and 7 boys, and so far in 2015, COFAPRI has been able to give a hand up to 86 rural children, providing both school equipment and fees.
One of these children, Sylvie, is being sponsored by Liz Layton, a generous supporter from the UK. Sylvie has benefited greatly from her sponsorship and has entered level Primary Four.
Her joy of being supported is immense as she shares:
“I truly appreciate the support I am getting from Liz. I have never met her physically but she is helping me a lot. She has taken me where I would not be on my own. I would ask any person over there who has a good will of helping, to do so for other children here in these villages where we live.
Human beings always need support from those who want to; I am glad I am now going to school and my mother likes this, as well. The other children will no more be laughing at me as they used to do.”
The children we support by providing fees and materials are always very grateful. Their mothers are also, and are pleased to see their daughters attending school. Their hope being that education will help them make their futures more fulfilling, for themselves and their families.
“We never get tired of repeating that the school support our children get from COFAPRI is invaluable. This has pushed us to think deep on our future and obviously that of our families. Once we complete our studies, it will be a wonderful start; we will be able to fly with our own wings toward development and self-dependence.”
Lucie Bahige - beneficiary.
“Most of the children in our villages are now going to school; we appreciate it greatly. We want all of them to study and in the future they can fight women’s poverty and help their families and the nation. COFAPRI is doing a great job. They are opening the eyes of our children. The problem that remains is to have all our children in the same school. Sending our daughters to school brings moral peace and security in our hearts. We can now ensure the future of our children will be ok with the education they are getting, thanks to this organization.”
COFAPRI member - a mother.
Education for Positive Change
Poverty remains the main reason most children do not attend school in rural DR Congo. By educating girls, COFAPRI hopes to help them aim high, allowing them to be economically self-reliant in the future.
This is a sure way of addressing poverty and the discrimination usually directed at women and girls in this part of the world. We think this process can help lift them from the quagmire of being financially dependent when mature.
Despite our limited financial means, we are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of these rural children. We endeavor to show them that their present circumstances do not have to dictate their future.
We hope, by collaborating with generous supporters, to show these children that they should not give up, but, instead, should keep up their determination for positive change through education, formal or informal.
The need is great and, with your support, the lives of rural children in the DR Congo will change forever.
The support and involvement of the global community is vitally important to the COFAPRI members.