This is an architect's impression of the new school which COFAPRI is planning to build for the local children.

Interview with Mugisho Theophile, by Andrew Sampson. 

In the rural mountain villages of eastern DR Congo, the communities are still recovering from the ravages of cyclic wars.

Within these communities, as well as problems associated with poverty and insecurity, the trauma of abuse and violence during the war continues to haunt - especially for the victims of the sexual torture and degradation of conflict rape.
Most, though not all, of these victims are women and girls - many of whom became pregnant.

The pregnant mothers are ostracised by their communities, while the children born of rape are stigmatised even before they are born.

Economic struggles, and the stigma, often results in these children being neglected - particularly the girls who also suffer gender discrimination.

In a region where education is a constant challenge, the children born of rape face a precarious future. Without help, they become especially vulnerable to the militias and to all forms of abuse.

In the villages in general, children who don’t go to school are at risk due to boredom and wandering from the villages. While those who do go to school are at risk on the very lengthy journeys walking alone to and from school.

COFAPRI co-founders, Mugisho and Bahati, believe that a new school will provide an impactful solution.

Mugisho explains...

COFAPRI has decided there is a need for a new school – is that because the nearest school is too far away?

"COFAPRI has always hoped to start a school for children who don’t have access to education, many of whom are those born to raped mothers and who therefore suffer discrimination. These children are our priority.

However, many other children come from very poor families that cannot afford school education for their children due to poverty.

Moreover, the children who do go to school cover long distances to reach a school - they walk through valleys and cross rivers and forests, with the risk of being raped or abducted to join the militia who are still operational around the villages.

Parents have been repeatedly asking for the school, because they understand the risks the children go through by covering long distances to get to school."

So do some children not go to school because it is too far?

"Yes that is the case. They stay home doing nothing and this pushes them to become disruptive to the stability of the fragile community. They may become thieves, bandits, and the girls become involved in untimely and unprotected sex, which is very risky. The boys may join the militia as they are bored of staying home idling."

Are the schools they go to now too expensive?

"Yes they are, since most parents have no stable and sustainable income. Parents are poor in the villages and school fees are a heavy burden to them."

What will the school fees be for the new school?

"The school fees will be less expensive than the schools they go to at the moment. It is hard to fix the exact amount to pay since costs vary constantly in the DR Congo."

How many girls and boys will the school hold in total?

"We expect to have between 25 and 30 children in each class, with three classes to begin with. The majority of the pupils will be girls - as the majority of victims of discrimination are girls.

Many will want to register when the school is ready to start, so we cannot know how many exactly the school will take."

From what age will they attend and what age will they leave

"With the 3 classes to start with, the children will start from age 6 to 7 in primary one and will leave when they complete the six years of primary education, at around age 12 to 13). But there are also special children who are older than this required age frame. They failed to attend school due to poverty or discrimination. Their age might vary compared to the standard age to start school education."

How many teachers will be employed? Where will the teachers come from?

"As we'll begin with three classes, we'll need three teachers and a head teacher. Also an accountant, a gardener (also in charge of cleanliness at school) and a sentinel for security. Maybe also an auxiliary teacher to replace any absentee teacher in class. All these people will come from the village."

Who will run the school – will there be a head teacher?

"COFAPRI will run the school via a headmaster. The parents will also be involved in the school management."

Who will look after the administration of the school – paying the rent etc?

 "COFAPRI will look after the school administration. There will be no rent to pay since COFAPRI will build the school on its own land."

Will you still support kids to go to the other schools?

"Yes, COFAPRI will still support them since there will not be enough rooms to host them all in the new school, and some are in classes beyond primary 3. COFAPRI is only starting with three classes: primary 1,2 and 3."

Once a child has finished at your school where will they go for more education?

"As the COFAPRI school will start with three classes, the children will be helped by COFAPRI to enroll in secondary schools in the area. But COFAPRI plans to be building one classroom a year until there are six primary classes and six secondary classes and so all the children will be studying in the COFAPRI school premises."

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