By Dan Torsiello
Although I have taught in some very economically disadvantaged school districts during my career, nothing prepared me for what I saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last summer.
I visited the DRC hoping to accomplish the lifelong goal of trekking in the mountains and visiting the endangered mountain gorilla. My guide, Christian Aganze of Congo Local Guides in Goma, DRC, asked me if I would also be willing to visit some of Goma’s overflowing orphanages. Goma is the capital of the province of North Kivu in the DRC.
Aganze recommended that I donate $100 to help provide food for these children, many of whom live daily on congee, a rice porridge. I agreed and, in an effort to have a slightly bigger impact, launched an impromptu fundraising campaign. Despite having little time and even less fundraising experience, I was able to raise $1,400, which was enough to buy nearly 3,000 pounds of food to be distributed among three orphanages in Goma.
Aganze also arranged for me to visit the rural village of Mushaki. Conveniently located in territory that is home to some of the 120 rebel groups currently operating in the DRC, Mushaki is a rural farming and herding village perched high in the hills.
Part of my time in Mushaki was spent visiting a local school – “school” being used in the most basic sense. A lack of supplies, missing walls and far fewer seats than students are just some of the challenges facing the school. I decided to try to have a positive impact.
After discussions with Aganze and engineers back in Africa, we drew up plans to build a modern wood and concrete school with six classrooms, two offices and four toilets. Due to the relatively inexpensive nature of supplies and labor in the DRC, such a school would cost just over $8,300 to build. It is this cost, plus an additional $1,700 to cover any cost overruns, that I hope to raise to build this much-needed school. Any funds not spent on school construction will be used to purchase school supplies for Mushaki students and teachers.
According to UNICEF’s report on education in the DRC, the nation “has made significant progress towards universal access to primary education over the past decades. The net attendance rate increased from 52% in 2001 to 78% in 2018, but 7.6 million children aged 5 to 17 are still out of school.
I hope to do my small part to help change this statistic, so that, at least in Mushaki, children can get the education they need to gain admission to secondary school in a larger and safer area of the country. ground floor.
To follow Torsiello’s progress in building the school, visit thekivuproject.org.
Dan Torsiello is a social studies teacher at Central Regional High School in Bayville. He can be reached at [email protected]