DRC: bereaved fathers beg “no more attacks on schools”
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the parents are just like mine: proud, anxious, wondering what the future holds for their children.
But beyond the daily fretting of any parent, they have one far greater worry: will their child grow up at all?
Papa Vanny no longer asks this question. We are at Save the Children’s office in Kitschanga, North Kivu, an area which was hard hit last February when fighting broke out between the Congolese Armed Forces and APCLS, an armed group.
He wants his story to be heard. But when I ask his daughter’s name, his voice shuts down and he blinks hard. With fumbling fingers he pulls a ragged photo out of his pocket and silently hands it to me.
She was 6 years old. Working as a farmer, he’d earned enough to send her to her first year of primary school. When the fighting broke out, Nadine’s school was caught in the middle. An artillery shell fell on the school and she was killed. Only much later did rescue workers come to tell him of the death of his daughter and her burial in a shared grave.
“We cannot sleep, since the fighting and the loss of this girl,” he said.
We ask what he would say to his daughter’s killers. He tells me he is just an unimportant man whose voice won’t be heard. But “if I had the power, I would have our schools rebuilt and peace restored. No more attacks on schools. I would advocate for the destructors to be punished for their crimes. Peace, nothing but peace.”
Outside, two more fathers are waiting to tell their stories. Papa Patrick is next. His daughter was attending her 5th grade morning classes when the shooting happened. She died instantly.
“School is for everyone, not the military.”
Last is Papa Kuvuya, telling us his son’s sad story.
“It was morning and he was at school when fighting broke out. The children wanted to save themselves and ran – on the way, Julien was hit by bullets. Other children were also hurt or killed. The school was damaged. Life has now become very difficult. The war has destroyed everything and we are rotting in misery. It will take time to recover.”
What they ask is simple: protect education and don’t drop careless bombs on our children’s schools. Let the only shooting be our children having a shot at a better life.
Isabelle Modigell, programme trainee, Save the Children DRC, Goma office
Save the Children supports 15 schools in Kitschanga. We distribute school kits and teaching materials, train teachers, raise awareness on the importance of education and hold sessions on positive discipline, social cohesion, child protection and prevention against explosive devices.