Aksanti Sana

March 21 2022 | by

IN 2021 the Père Antonino Manzotti Institute in Panzi, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was a work in progress. It had been established five years previously with the support of a charitable group The Friends of Father Tonino in Brescello, Italy. Each year, a further school grade was added. By May 2021, the complex already had a primary school consisting of 14 classrooms, toilets, 5 offices and a dedicated computer room. The secondary school was nearing completion too. It also had 14 classrooms, toilets, offices, and a computer room. Additionally, it had a room for the teachers, a large hall to hold up to 100 people, and three laboratories for surveying, electronics, and fine arts. But, to complete the secondary section, the school needed a further 5 classrooms. It would then be in a position to offer the six years and the courses required by the Ministry of Education.


Great zeal


The Friends of Father Tonino, was set up by Fr. Antonino’s family and the many friends he had cultivated over the period of around 50 years of mission in the DRC. “He was a Xavarien missionary of great zeal, and many still remember him here,” says Fr. Nicola Colasuonno, Panzi parish priest and president of the Parochial Pedagogical Council. “Unfortunately, with great regret, the Friends of Father Tonino informed us that some of the benefactors had died and that the group was struggling to find the funds to complete the project. With the help of St. Anthony’s Charities, we hoped to complete everything.”

A project was drawn up and submitted for approval, and after taking into account local contributions of around $3,500 – around 10 percent of the total sum required – a request was made to and granted by St. Anthony’s Charities for €25,800.


High unemployment


Panzi is a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bukavu, and has about 80,000 inhabitants of whom around 20,000 are Catholics. “The population is very young overall – 65 percent are under the age of 25, and there is a tendency for large families with between seven and nine children,” reports Fr. Nicola. “Unemployment is rife, and many of the men go to the forest in search of gold. Although the parents have little money, they do everything they can to send their sons and daughters to school.”

In fact, although the institute has been approved by the Ministry of Education, the teachers are not yet on the payroll. Until now they have continued to be supported by the students’ parents, and so it’s incredible that for the school year 2020/21 the primary school had 901 pupils (458 boys and 443 girls) and the secondary school had 733 students (584 boys and 215 girls).


Three instalments


The first instalment towards completing the classrooms was received on August 27, 2021 and work began the same day. The eighteen workers – bricklayers and helpers – were the same ones who had worked on building the school for the previous five years and were proud to be able to continue their work. The first instalment bought 200 bags of cement, five truckloads of sand, and two truckloads of semi-fired bricks in order to complete the walls. Prefabricated roofs also arrived together with 16 iron trusses to support the walls and floors.

The second instalment was received on September 21, and was used to purchase further cement, sand, and bricks. Work continued and included flooring and plastering of the first of the five classrooms. Doors and windows were also installed in two of the classrooms. The parish carpentry school also began work on preparing desks and benches for the new classes.

The final instalment arrived on October 9 and even more cement, sand, and bricks were purchased – enough to complete all of the classrooms. The classrooms were also covered with green-painted galvanised metal sheets complete with gutters. In the future, the school plans to collect rainwater and channel it to the toilets.

The project was completed at the end of October 2021 and Fr. Nicola was pleased to report that there were no difficulties encountered: “We completed the work on schedule and the students now have beautiful and new, well-ventilated classrooms.” It took another two weeks before the desks and benches were completed and all five classrooms were ready for use.


A big thank you


In November 2021, a letter expressing gratitude was received by St. Anthony’s Charities from the Père Antonino Manzotti Institute. It reads, “The management, parents, and pupils of our school are grateful for the act of charity that you have carried out in favour of our school. We are very grateful and say a big thank you for the donation of the five classrooms you have built for us. We praise the Lord asking him to repay you one hundred fold. This act will remain engraved on our hearts as a sign of your love and charity towards us. Our school has become a new school with its IT department, electrical department, and departments for building and plastics. It’s actually in its sixth year, and we are glad that we have been able to count on your moral, spiritual and material support to help it evolve. Once again and again we say thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The school belongs to the Coordination of Diocesan Catholic Schools and it will continue to be maintained accordingly in agreement with the Department of Education. Now that the school has been completed, it is hoped that the Department of Education will also begin to pay the teachers’ salaries for the current academic year.

“With all our heart, we say ‘Aksanti Sana’ (Swahili for “thank you very much”) to St. Anthony’s Charities and to all the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony,” concludes Fr. Nicola. “May the Lord bless you with great peace.”

Updated on March 22 2022