South Kivu, ADECK
The people of Eastern Congo-Kinshasa have been severely affected by over 20 years of conflict and chaos, first in connection with the 1994 Rwanda genocide, and then through lawlessness and looting in connection with the extraction of minerals. Several million people have been killed, and one million women are estimated to have been raped. The unrest has led to increased poverty and hindered the schooling of children, especially for girls.
Human rights are violated both by the authorities and by the companies that extract minerals in the area; abuse of power, corruption and lawlessness are widespread. The population has been passivated and affected by misery, powerlessness and lack of confidence. You have grown accustomed to living on alms, and have lost faith in being able to take control of your life yourself and create a good future.
Rural people often lack knowledge of both basic health care and good agricultural practices. Without literacy and mathematical skills, it is difficult to manage finances and small businesses. The extensive looting has also led many to stop raising livestock, and not to dare to grow in the distance from their homes. The food is not enough, and you depend on outside help.
Restoring people's courage and faith in the future, and giving them the tools to act together is the focus of ALEF's work on popular education in the Southern Kivu province.
The partner organization
ALEF's collaborative partner ADECK (Association pour le Développement Communutaire de Kabaré) is a local organization in the Kabare District in the Southern Kivu Province. They conduct study groups in three year courses in the language mashi. The language is spoken by just over a million people, of which approximately
45% are illiterate. Since its inception in 2013, over 3000 young and adult illiterates have participated in ADECK's program in Sydkivu. They have developed teaching materials and syllabuses for three year courses together with ALEF.
In year 1 you learn basic reading and writing in the native language mashi and practice reading on texts you create yourself. They talk about common everyday challenges and decide how to handle them.
Year 2 focuses on how to use the four methods of calculation in everyday life. At the same time you continue reading and writing in the mother tongue. This year's course also introduces reading in Swahili. The conversations about the challenges of everyday life and the solutions to the problems continue.
In the 3rd grade, longer texts are read both in the native language of Mashi and in Swahili. Human rights are discussed based on the local situation. The groups learn how to start and run a co-operative. The basic principle of the savings cooperative is that each member contributes a small amount each week. From the common cash register you give each other small micro loans. You also have a cash register for social assistance at eg. illness and death, as well as a fund for joint projects. ADECK regularly monitors the savings cooperatives started by groups that have completed grade 3.
Ever since the start in 2013, people have started to change their lives thanks to the courses. They get new hope, improve their finances and start income-generating activities. They start raising chickens, goats and other pets.
After years of conflict and humanitarian disaster, people are beginning to regain their confidence and belief that they can create a good life by using their own resources, instead of just waiting for outside help.
The groups are becoming increasingly bold in asserting their human rights, and demanding that the state guarantee a minimum level of service to citizens.
ADECK project manager Marc Kashera says that three study groups organized a protest against the need to pay in advance to receive care at local clinics. Several of the group's participants had died while waiting for care. The protest was heard, and when people in the villages heard about it, they got the courage to also protest against the abuse of power and the corruption that is everywhere in this part of the Congo.
Those who have participated in the groups gain a greater understanding of the importance of sending their children to school - including the girls. When the family gets better finances thanks to the new knowledge they acquired in the courses, the parents can pay the school fees and ensure a regular schooling for the children.
Here is an example of how the courses affect children's schooling: In 2013, there were 150 participants in year 1 in one area. Of the participants' children, not a single girl attended school at the start of the course. By the time the course ended, the mothers had sent 58% of their girls to school. A total of 126 children started school that year thanks to the course for the mothers. We have seen the same pattern repeated every year. Hundreds of children have been given the chance to attend regular schooling thanks to their parents' study groups.
Since its inception in 2013, the program has become increasingly established in the area. In the beginning, many expected to be paid for attending the courses. Participation was sporadic, and the level of learning relatively low. Now our partner organization tells us that everyone who goes to grade 3 has learned to read and write their mother tongue fluently. The proportion of students who leave without completing the course is low. Courses are in demand throughout the area.
In 2019, approximately 800 people participated. For 2020, the plan is for 1800 people to participate in 41 different study groups in different villages. At the same time, 277 people are participating in 20 kick-off operations.
Due to the corona crisis, the groups were unable to start as planned in March-April 2020. Instead, ALEF raises money so that ADECK can distribute food to some hundreds of people who were particularly hard hit by the pandemic restrictions. We hope that the study groups will start in July 2020.