DR CONGO: Salesian Missionaries Train 100 Youth at New Don Bosco Center
(MissionNewswire) In 2014, Salesian missionaries opened a Don Bosco Center in the city of Bukavu located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Operated by two Salesian priests and one Salesian brother, the center is located near the main town square and a prison, giving missionaries the ideal location to meet the many street children who spend time in the square washing cars, carrying luggage and parcels, stealing and begging. Shortly after the inception of the Don Bosco Center, a Salesian school was opened on the premises which serves the local population.
The new Salesian school started with 100 students, filling it to capacity. Beginning with a remedial education with a focus on literacy, the school works to raise its students’ knowledge base in order to prepare them for advanced skill training. Within the first two months of the school’s opening, its first students had advanced to learning French and computer skills and then commenced professional training. The school program includes a daily meal for each student as well as sports that are offered twice a week. The current curriculum spans eight months and graduates trained carpenters, builders and drivers.
“Most of these young people have very limited education,” says Father Robert, a newly ordained priest, bursar and principal of the school. “They have attended a few years of primary school and then left because their families could not pay school fees. Other young people, victims of the same conditions, have found work at the port of Bukavu. We opened the school for youth in order to give them the opportunity to learn a trade and gain employment.”
In addition to the school, Don Bosco Center Bukavu offeres sports and games four afternoons each week for 100 young people from the community. It also provides French lessons once a week to more than 50 area youth. The resident Salesian brother at the center participates in Sunday activities in the prison chaplaincy, a well-organized group of religious and lay people who work compassionately with the prison population. Missionaries at the center have been asked to help educate 30 of the younger prisoners so that upon release, they will be able to learn a trade and become productive members of society.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been plagued by intense civil war and internal conflict since the outbreak of fighting in 1998. As a result, there have been close to 5.4 million deaths, according to the International Rescue Committee. Most deaths resulted from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, all typically preventable under normal circumstances but often fatal in times of conflict. Close to 1.5 million people have been internally displaced or have become refugees in neighboring countries after having fled the country to escape the continued violence.
Young people make up about 19 percent of the country’s population but account for 47 percent of deaths during this conflict. Poverty is rampant, according to UNICEF, and 72 percent of rural households and 59 percent of urban households are poor. Nearly 40 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and most of the population lives with moderate to serious food insecurity. The 2013 Human Development Index ranked the Democratic Republic of the Congo 186th out of 187 countries and territories listed.
Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Primary and secondary education schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs provide youth with an opportunity for a stable and productive future.
UNICEF – DR Congo