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A mobile library provides youth learning during DRC conflict

The mobile library initiative, spearheaded by the French Institute of Bukavu, is transforming the landscape of literacy and education for children in the conflict-affected country of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Eastern DRC has been a hotspot for conflict for decades, with civil war and armed groups causing widespread instability.

This relentless violence has had a devastating impact on the education system. Schools have been destroyed and families have been displaced, making education an unattainable luxury for many children.

The United Nations estimates that about 15 million children in the DRC are in dire need of humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing conflict. Just last week, more than 41 people including children were attacked in Masala, Keme, and Mahini villages in the eastern part of the country.

In response to the dire situation, the French Institute of Bukavu launched the mobile library initiative dubbed ‘Kitabus’ – in Swahili translating to ‘Books in English’. The project is designed to bring books and educational resources directly to children in schools and underserved areas.

The library, housed in a brightly coloured van, is filled with shelves of books covering a wide range of subjects and reading levels to accommodate young people.

The bookmobile library travels to various villages and temporary settlements where displaced families have found refuge. These locations are often off the beaten path, places where traditional libraries and schools exist in very few numbers.

The initiative does more than just deliver books; it provides a sense of normalcy and continuity in the lives of these children.

For many, it is a rare opportunity to engage in an educational activity that can offer an escape from the harsh realities of their daily lives. Reading becomes a lifeline, a way to dream, to learn, and to envision a better future.

Moreover, it includes storytelling sessions, reading clubs, and basic literacy classes conducted by trained volunteers.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the DRC has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children in the world. Nearly 7 million children aged 5 to 17 comprise this population with girls being particularly disadvantaged.

The ongoing conflict has exacerbated this crisis, with many children forced to abandon their education to flee violence.

Despite tough odds, the mobile library shows the resilience and determination of the organisation to provide education and a sense of community for the nation’s youth. It demonstrates that even in the most challenging circumstances, creative solutions are emerging.

Currently, thousands of children have been reached, instilling the joy of reading and the hope for a brighter future.

As the initiative continues to grow, there are plans to expand its reach, add more books to the collection, and integrate digital resources to enhance the learning experience. The goal is to see every child in Eastern DRC have access to quality education, regardless of their circumstances.

In a land where the shadows of war loom large, the mobile library is a moving symbol of hope and possibility.