Since 1992, the CAJED Emmaus group in the DRC has been helping children and young people in difficult social situations to get back into school and work. The team provides support to street children, child soldiers, displaced children and many others to help them rebuild their lives. Interview with Gilbert Munda, the group’s coordinator.
Why work in education?
Since the project started, our aim has been to use education to give human dignity back to disadvantaged children, so that they can regain their place in the community. These are vulnerable young people who have had a difficult upbringing and need to completely rebuild their lives. Our education projects, such as schools, workshops and games, are designed to give them peace and stability.
Who are the children that you support?
We provide primary and secondary education and professional training to 800 young people between the ages of 6 and 17. Some come from the surrounding population, but most have broken contact with their families or communities, are in trouble with the law, have been in armed groups, or are displaced. We also support 860 vulnerable young people in rural areas further away from CAJED, helping them to first locate support structures, schools and professional training in their local area, then monitoring their progress and supporting them along the way.
How many people do you have on the team?
There are around 30 people on the teaching team. CAJED also has 30 social assistants who go out to meet children in difficult situations, especially on the streets of Goma.
As well as education, the team is also involved in other activities, from cultural projects to defending children who are in trouble with the law or have been accused of witchcraft.
What specific projects have you set up to help child soldiers?
We have a Transit and Orientation Centre, where children who have been in the armed forces or armed groups come and stay for a minimum of three months. They are sent to us by MONUSCO, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 2005, over 6,300 of these children have stayed at the centre. We currently have 75 children there, waiting to be reunited with their families. There are also 23 children, including nine girls, in interim host families.
Apart from providing standard care, including clothing and sanitation, our main aim is to help these children go back to their families. The CAJED teams help children make a smooth transition back to family life by preparing them with psychological and learning support. In these cases, education takes on a new dimension – we also have to teach them how to live and cooperate peacefully.