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Displaced children come back to study in a secondary school renovated by JRS, Goma, eastern Congo. (Danilo Giannese/JRS)
Bujumbura, 3 April 2013 – "Going back to school, to study and be with my friends help me feel normal again. It helps me forget the war and the sorrow of no longer being at home in my village", said 17-year Samuel Shukuru, one of the thousands of displaced children who found refuge in camps around Goma, a strategic city in eastern Congo, following the armed advance, in November 2012, of rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23).

For the last few weeks Samuel has frequented Nyabyunyu institute, one of the six secondary schools supported as part of the emergency education project of the Jesuit Refugee Service on the edge of Goma.

"Following the arrival of M23 rebels into Goma in November, the schools and churches were the first places where displaced person found refuge. Classrooms were completely destroyed as people used the desks and doors as firewood for heating and cooking. The military and rebels also occupied the school buildings. Consequentially, both displaced and local children were denied the right to education for months", explained JRS Great Lakes Programme Officer, Mariana Morales Arce.

Integration, displaced pupils in class. As part of the new project, JRS has already renovated three schools and provided support to a total of six institutes, including the provision of scholastic materials and teacher training.

"By allowing displaced children to return to school and encouraging their integration with their local peers, we hope to help bring a sense of normality back to their lives. This is why in exchange for JRS support, we ask headmasters to commit themselves to meet us halfway by covering the tuition fees of displaced children whose parents has lost their sources of income", said Ms Morales Arce.

There are more than one thousand pupils living in the immediate proximity of five of the six JRS-supported schools. Approximately half of these pupils were displaced from their home villages as a result of the conflict and are currently living in nearby camps.

"Normally the displaced children stay in the camps all day as their families do not have the means to send them to school. Now we have begun cooperating with JRS, raising awareness about the issue to convince families to send their children to school. Given the circumstances of the families, we won't ask them to pay tuition fees and our teachers will work to promote harmonious relations between all students", said a representative of the teachers in Nyabyunyu Institute, Célestin Munanira.

The choice of secondary education. The decision to provide secondary school education is derived from the fact that humanitarian intervention during emergencies like the one in Congo is limited to the provision of primary education.

This is also the case in Masisi and Mweso, remote areas in North Kivu province where JRS has decided to build, renovate and provide support for secondary education to keep the hope of a better future alive among adolescents.

"When they told me I could enroll in school again, I went there in a hurry. Before, I stayed in the camp all day. With nothing to do, I was bored. Now I want to study and start living again", said Samuel.

Danilo Giannese, JRS Great Lakes Advocacy and Communications Officer

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