Education Continues Despite War in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

26 June 2024|JRS West Africa - Natalia Sepulveda

“I was afraid to take the exam because of the bombs being dropped in this area. I had to overcome the fear to encourage myself to come,” confesses Kitumaini Jeanne, 40, who took the primary school exam. Despite her fear of being attacked on the way, Jeanne did not want to miss the opportunity: “Given my age, I couldn’t afford not to come. I am very happy not to have had any problems; besides, the exam went well for me. I await the results calmly.”

Despite the prevailing climate of insecurity in the country, JRS has collaborated in conducting the national end-of-school exams in Bweremana, a city located in the territory of Masisi, North Kivu, where the armed conflict has been active for several months.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo faces one of the most significant humanitarian crises in the world, with more than half of its population living below the poverty line. Violence perpetrated by armed groups has compelled over 6.3 million people to flee their homes and seek refuge within the country, resulting in the destruction of thousands of schools and depriving children of their fundamental right to education.

I was afraid to take the exam because of the bombs being dropped in this area. I had to overcome the fear to encourage myself to come,
Kitumaini Jeanne, JRS Student

Out of the total of 1,033 expected candidates, 60% took the exam. Most of them are internally displaced children who braved the danger of gunfire and insecurity to reach the examination center. Others, due to the conflict in the area, were absent during the previous months and missed the opportunity to attend, thus exposing them to the risk of recruitment by armed groups. Additionally, girls face an additional risk of experiencing sexual violence and forced marriages in this crisis context.

Thanks to efforts to maintain a violence-free school environment, no incidents were reported during the exams, which took place in a highly militarized zone. The first day was dedicated to language and general culture tests, while the second focused on mathematics and sciences. Authorities, especially those responsible for the educational sub-province, took all necessary measures to reassure participants. Additionally, a week before the exams, JRS accompanied displaced students in the area, providing them with psychosocial support and reviewing the curriculum to ensure their optimal performance.

Since 1995, JRS has been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo, initially providing assistance to refugees fleeing the genocide in Rwanda. More than 25 years later, the organization remains dedicated to supporting refugees and displaced populations. Currently, its areas of intervention include education and livelihoods, with activities ranging from the construction and rehabilitation of schools to teacher training. Additionally, JRS focuses on reconciliation, forging close ties with conflict-affected communities. And mental health services and psychosocial support, while actively advocating for and safeguarding the rights of displaced persons before authorities and other institutions.