Today was the last day of the workshop at Mugunga School outside of Goma. We collected 24 stories about Mountain Gorillas written by the students, many with colorful drawings included. It has been a real pleasure working with these kids. They are full of smiles and laughter. They loved trying to teach me Swahili, while also trying to learn some English. They showed off their cartwheels and backflips (which were quite good!) and tried to get me to do a few--unfortunately that's something my body is just not made to do!
Working with the kids at Mugunga, even for such a short time, highlighted the challenge kids face in trying to get an education in DRC. In DRC, you have to pay for school, so these kids were only able to attend school due to the generous support of HEAL Africa and a few benefactors. The school raises some rabbits and goats and vegetables that it sells to try to raise some money to pay for supplies. But, whereas in most place you might expect the government to provide funding to schools, in DRC schools have to pay a tax to the government, and this tax eats up some of the proceeds from the produce sales.
Mugunga is only a Primary School and, despite a 95% pass rate for their first graduating class, it is likely that most students will not have the opportunity to attend Secondary School as they will not be able to afford to attend a public school. On top of that, many of the students arrive at school hungry and often faint. And the teachers struggle to find transportation out from Goma.
Yet despite all of those challenges, the Director, Teacher, and students are proud of their school and are working hard to make the most of what they have. And it's great to know that these kids have been given the opportunity to attend such a great school. Hopefully seeing their pictures and parts of their stories in a published book will provide them with a feeling of accomplishment that will reinforce the value of education.