Greater Hope

November 07 2017 | by

OPPORTUNITIES in Lukanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are limited. 95 percent of the population are engaged in agropastoral activities, struggling to make ends meet. Budgets are tight and school fees unaffordable for the many abandoned mothers with school age children. The Butembo-Beni Diocesan Office for Development, active in the region since 1972, is working hard to improve opportunities in the region, and in particular, access to education. For its latest project, it asked Saint Anthony’s Charities for help to complete six new classrooms.      

Lukanga is the main town of Bukenye, a conglomeration of the Baswagha tribal territories in the region of Lubero, in the province of North Kivu. It is also the name of the Catholic parish of the area, situated some 35 kilometres to the south of the town of Butembo, the seat of the bishopric of the Diocese of Butembo-Beni. The area is mountainous with a cold climate. The villages are located on the hills, separated by small streams and the River Biena which winds its way through the region. The estimated population of the region is a little less than forty thousand, with infants of school age making up nearly 69 percent. Schools are overcrowded with a consequent increase in illiteracy. The economic prospects in the region are poor, being mainly agropastoral. “Many men abandon their wives and family after just a few years of marriage and head to more remote regions in search of more arable land,” explains Father Valérien Kahindo Katsinge, Project Director. “In many households, mothers are solely responsible for the education and instruction of their children because it is almost impossible to afford the school fees.”


Unique school


The Kambala Secondary School provides agricultural, veterinarian and nutrition training. It was founded in 2013 to meet the needs of Lukanga and surrounding areas, where around 95 percent of the population are involved in agropastoral activities. “It is the only school in the area which concentrates on agropastoral problems in order to promote productivity, consumption and marketing,” says Father Valérien. “The project consists of constructing a six-classroom building with an office administration unit, and a latrine block, all built to the official specifications required for a secondary school.”


Education investing


The organisation proposing the project, the Butembo-Beni Diocesan Office for Development, has been operating in the region since 1972. It operates in five strategic areas: construction and rehabilitation of basic infrastructure, food safety, water, hygiene and sanitation, good governance, and environmental management. “Our mission is the full development of people and communities in the diocese through the improvement of infrastructure, community and family life, and working locally on sustainability,” Father Valérien explains. The organisation already has many previous successful projects under its belt including the construction of eight primary schools, two secondary schools, two health centres, a hospital, construction and repairing of various roads, water supply projects and agricultural training projects. “With this project, our objectives were to contribute to the improvement of the schooling conditions of the students at the Kambala Secondary School, and to provide good education and instruction to the youth of our country,” Father Valérien continues. In a letter recommending the project, the bishop of the diocese added, “The development of a nation is possible only if it is educated. This is why I recommend this project. Our mission is to promote the education of young people, for our population to leave illiteracy behind, to take in hand the education of our youth, who are our hope for tomorrow.”

The total cost of the project was just over €65,000 but with local contributions of €11,600, a contribution from the Diocese of €11,700, and a further €4,300 donated by a Canadian association, the request made to and granted by Saint Anthony’s Charities was for €30,000. At the time of the request, work was already in progress with 4 of the classroom blocks nearing completion.  


Three phases


The first instalment of the grant was made in June 2016 and contributed to the commencement of the construction of two further classrooms, a pavement and a temporary office. The work consisted of excavation and laying of the foundations, rising of the brick walls, providing a roof over these. The second instalment in August 2016  allowed work on the existing four classrooms to be completed, including work on the roof, plastering the walls, providing a smooth cement floor, and coating the interior and exterior walls. “There were some difficulties encountered due to supply difficulties of construction materials during the rainy season and a reduced number of volunteers due to holidays,” says Father Valérien.

The third and final phase was completed on 22 October 2016. Work included: painting of the interior walls and the installation of ceilings, metalware and necessary joinery for the doors and windows, and the materials necessary to construct desks for the pupils. “We also had some difficulties during this phase,” explains Father Valérien. “Bad weather continued to plague us and this slowed down the natural pace to complete the buildings. Funding expected from another charitable organisation was received later, which delayed the completion of the last two classrooms.”

After completion of the classrooms, enrolment at the school increased from 178 students to 253, but there are other benefits beyond the confines of the school. “New agricultural techniques learned at school by the students have been adopted by the parents at home,” says Father Valérien. “Similarly, new culinary techniques to fight against malnutrition in the region have also been adopted and the students have learnt good hygiene practices which will help the fight against courageous and endemic diseases.” Studies have also promoted forestation in the area, which should enrich the local environment while helping to combat climate change and its impact.

Parents, teachers and students at the school are all delighted by the new classrooms. “The parents are so happy that everyone wants to have their child registered at the Kabala Institute,” says one parent. “The new buildings are good and beautiful. The options offered at the school are of interest to all parents.” Mr Kambale Ka Vughe, a teacher at the school, agrees, “We are very willing to teach here because the classrooms are so spacious and airy,” he says. “These conditions are well suited for education.”


Good environment


Mumbere, Student President now in his fourth year at the school, says everyone is pleased with the new building: “The new classrooms provide a good environment for work and study, for both the teachers and students. The classrooms are well ventilated and bright, and each student has a good desk where we can store school things.” Kasoki, one of the girls at the school, adds, “Previously, the old rooms leaked when it rained and we were unhappy, but now we are happy to be in clean and safe rooms. Truly, we pray that God keeps and blesses our benefactors forever.”

“I would like to thank Saint Anthony’s Charities, the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony and all the benefactors who contributed to the realisation of this work that has now taken form,” concludes Father Valérien. “You stretched out your hands to help us when we were in need. May God bless you, protect you and support you for the efforts you have made to help us.”

Updated on November 07 2017