REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Salesian missionaries provide education and social development programs for poor youth and their families
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working in the Republic of the Congo ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
The Republic of Congo was, until its independence in 1960, a colony of the French Congo. Today, it is a small country in central Africa with about 6 million inhabitants mainly located along the Congo river and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Salesian missionaries have been in the country since its independence and operate three centers that provide for poor youth and their families.
In 1964, the first Salesian center was established in Pointe Noire, the nation’s commercial capital. The center houses a Salesian parish, a youth oratory, a primary and secondary school, a boarding school, a vocational training center and a shelter for youth experiencing difficulties. Salesian missionaries also provide pastoral care in the local prisons.
Salesian missionaries also operate two centers in Brazzaville, the country’s political capital. The Salesian St. Charles Lwanga Center, launched in 1975, includes a parish and a primary and secondary school which is attended by 900 youth. Unfortunately, the school can no longer accommodate all the children who want to attend. To serve as many as possible, students attend in two shifts, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Even this is not enough so Salesian missionaries are working to find the funding to expand the school.
Also in Brazzaville is the Salesian Vocational Training Center which was launched in 1992. This center provides education for more than 700 students who take two-year and three-year courses in electrical, automotive mechanics, welding and lathing, carpentry and air conditioning installation. Father Marc Abumba Kizeji, who met Salesian missionaries in Lubumbashi while attending graduate school in mechanics and was later ordained a priest, is in charge of coordinating vocational training at the center.
“One of the key challenges facing youth in the Congo is the lack of education and the skills required to find and retain stable employment in the labor market,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries provide youth access to education and training opportunities they would not have otherwise—with a focus of the training to prepare students for the workforce. Making improvements to Salesian schools to accommodate more children is essential to the quality of education provided.”
The Republic of Congo’s population is concentrated in the southwestern portion of the country leaving the vast areas of tropical jungle in the north virtually uninhabited. One of the most urbanized countries in Africa, it has 70 percent of its total population living in a few urban areas.
In recent years, industrial and commercial activity has declined rapidly in rural areas leaving rural economies dependent on the government for support and subsistence.
According to Rural Poverty Portal, poverty has worsened in the Republic of Congo since the 1980s, resulting in half the country’s population living below the poverty line. Close to 65 percent of the country’s poor live in rural areas where nearly 50 percent of the population is unemployed with little access to education or long-term stable employment.
Most living in rural areas are small-scale farmers or fishermen with those most vulnerable to living in conditions of poverty being young people and women who are the primary agricultural producers and processors. While more than 75 percent of people living in urban centers have access to water, access drastically decreases to 11 percent in rural areas. In addition, more than one third of children under age 5 that live in rural areas suffer from malnutrition.
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Rural Poverty – Republic of Congo