A Dream of Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo

November 30, 2022

When her village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was attacked in 2019, Nyota, now 13, thought all hope was lost. Her father and brothers were brutally killed in the attack, and the family's home burnt to the ground. Her dreams were dashed by the wrath of war and unimaginable attacks on humanity that have plagued the country for the past three decades.

“When I arrived in Kikumbe, I had no hope of studying because my school and our house had been burned, with my school uniform inside. I wanted to go to school but, unfortunately, there was no school available,” said Nyota, who settled with her mother and surviving siblings in a camp hosting displaced families in Kikumbe with little more than the clothes on her back.

Children displaced by violence need to go to school

In a country where 3.2 million children are out of school and just 1 out of 10 know how to read, Nyota might well have joined an entire generation of Congolese children whose dreams have been ripped from their grasp by cycles of violence, displacement, poverty, hunger and hopelessness. An innovative program delivered by UNICEF DRC, through a multi-year investment from Education Cannot Wait (ECW) — the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises — has stepped up to restore hope and sow the seeds of peace for the people of the DRC.

Through the program, a temporary learning space has been set up in the Kikumbe camp. Displaced girls and boys like Nyota were given school supplies, access to education and other holistic supports designed to get them back to the safety, hope and opportunity that only a quality education can provide. "If we could fund more schools and vocational skills training within these internal displacement camps, we could make a real difference,” said ECW Director Yasmine Sherif on her recent mission to the DRC with UNICEF DRC representatives and officials from the United Kingdom Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Education Cannot Wait provides funding so young learners can resume their studies

In collaboration with the Government, the ECW-funded multi-year education program — delivered by UNICEF, World Food Program, CENEAS, Armée du Salut and other local partners — have already reached 32,000 girls and boys in Tanganyika Province. To address the ongoing education crisis and expand the program’s results to additional provinces, ECW is calling on donors to urgently mobilize $45 million in additional funding.

Globally, ECW is appealing to world leaders, public and private sector donors, and high-net-worth individuals to mobilize $1.5 billion, which will allow ECW and its strategic partners to reach another 20 million crisis-affected children like Nyota, caught in the brutal crises in the world’s toughest contexts over the next four years.

An education is something no one can take away from you

“I am deeply moved by the strength and resilience of the girls, boys and teachers I met whose lives have been transformed by education and local partner support, the UN, civil society and communities working together,” said Sherif. “Most come from displaced families and have never been to school before. Education is their only hope. Their courage and the efforts by the community and local partners to ensure all children go to school inspire us all to do more. We call on public and private donors to urgently step up their support for all crisis-affected girls and boys in DRC and worldwide to have the opportunity to enjoy their right to a safe, protective, inclusive quality education.”

The forgotten crisis in the DRC is just one of the many worldwide that have impacted the futures and learning outcomes for more than 222 million children and adolescents whose lives have been shaken by climate change, COVID-19, conflict and other protracted crises.

Quality education is an investment in a peaceful future

On Feb. 16-17, 2023, Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Financing Conference will provide world leaders with the opportunity to step up to realize 222 Million Dreams and make good on global commitments to ensure every girl and boy on the planet is able to access a quality education by 2030 as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

“When I have completed my studies, I dream of becoming the President of my country to end the war here," said Nyota. "That will allow children to study in peace and not endure the same horrible things that I have.” 

Top photo: After an attack on her village, 13-year-old Nyota and her surviving family members moved to a camp for displaced people in Kikumbe, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she attends school through a program delivered by UNICEF through a multi-year investment from Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. All photos © UNICEF DRC/Mulala