Globally, 357 million children live in areas affected by war or armed conflict. The numbers are daunting but one community, one school, and one child at a time, Plan International is determined to make education a reality.
This photo essay is an ode to the children of Central African Republic (CAR) who are finally returning to school after many years. They have long awaited the opportunity to unleash their power and potential and we hope their learning is never disrupted again.
For five years, armed groups in CAR occupied, looted, and damaged school buildings, preventing children from getting an education. The use of schools by armed forces has further damaged the country’s already fraught education infrastructure.
Without access to education, thousands of children had nothing to do and were being lured into joining the armed groups. Since the conflict started, the UN estimates that at least 13,000 children have been recruited on both sides of the conflict.
“During the crisis there were no more classes, I did not come to school because there was war. We were trying to save our lives because when the rebels came, we had to flee and hide in the forest. They took our classrooms and destroyed them.” – Abigaël, 15
The exciting news is that children are finally heading back to school. Unfortunately, they still have to learn sitting on the floor, as there are not enough benches and tables for everyone yet.
Though some schools are reopening. many children of school age are still not back in class due to the lack of school infrastructure and amenities, including in the country’s capital.
Education and the protection of children affected by the country’s conflict are a priority and a major focus of Plan International’s work. We are working with community members in affected towns and villages to raise awareness of the importance of education and refurbish and re-open schools that have been closed for years.
Plan International liaised with the occupying armed group and with our support, the building has been repaired and school committees established to ensure the school continues to function well. To encourage children to return to classes, hygiene and school kits were distributed to students.
The school welcomes children from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds without distinction.
Photographed below is head teacher Olivia Koulayom and she’s dedicated to the care of the children at her school so that cohesion returns to the community.
It takes a village, they say, and no one understands that better than Plan International. Even in difficult, seemingly impossible environments we will work to ensure that children’s rights are being upheld.
Education is a right being denied to millions of children around the world – but you can help change that. Give today and help us send 1,000 South Sudanese refugee children living in Uganda to school.