“2019-2020 School Year: Difficult & Rewarding”
By Rev. Bahekelwa Imatha, PTPL Executive Director
The 2019-2020 school year was tragic and challenging for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The apparent new benefit of free elementary education, the COVID-19 epidemic, and severe storms and flooding created opportunities and hardships in an area where life was already difficult. When the school year began, the government announced free tuition for public elementary schools. The program had a rough beginning with confusion during the first months of its implementation. It led to overpopulation in some schools as even children from the streets had been given the opportunity to get an education. Many of them eagerly took advantage of it and even some primary school students sponsored by PTPL in private schools withdrew to attend the public ones.
As a result, in the second semester, PTPL experienced a decrease in the total number of students under the program from 350 to 296. The vast majority of students’ PTPL supports still need our help because most of them were in secondary school, and the government is not providing free education for them: grades seven through twelve.
In March 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 meant confinement with shutting down of businesses. Life was no longer the same, especially when you know that in Congo, each day already had enough troubles of its own. Before the epidemic, people had to go out every day to bring something home for the day. As people were trying to cope with COVID-19, catastrophic floods came during three weeks of torrential rain which made things worse. The city of Uvira was naturally quarantined; all the bridges leading to the city collapsed, and the rising waters from Lake Tanganyika made road traffic impossible. About 5000 homes were reported lost underwater, 300 people dead, with some of them buried in the sand. Among those who lost their homes, many found refuge in schools and churches. Schools are scheduled to resume normally in the next school year, and students in the twelfth grade this year are encouraged to prepare for the state exam. Some secondary students sponsored by PTPL will be graduating and will be taking exams. We are encouraged by their continued progress.