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DRC: Occupation of schools by displaced persons disrupts start of the school year

DRC: Occupation of schools by displaced people disrupts the start of the school year in an eastern area   -  
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AFP -

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The start of the new school year was disrupted on Monday in an area of eastern DRC, due to the occupation of many schools by war-displaced people, an AFP team found.

In Rutshuru, displaced people and their children holding sticks blocked in the early morning the way to schoolchildren accompanied by their parents who were trying to reach the classrooms transformed for a few months into homes for those who fled the war.

"This is where we live because we have nowhere else to go. This classroom is our home. Now they want to chase us out of here, to go where now? We don't want to sleep under the stars, we are displaced by war," pleaded Fabiola Nyarahabwa, a displaced person at the demonstration.

President "Felix Tshisekedi and all his deputies are here because they have studied. We ask that Bunagana and our villages be liberated so that our children can also go back to school," Elizabeth, a leader of the displaced people living in a stadium housing more than 453 households, protested to AFP.

Inside the classrooms of the Rugabo school, as in others visited by an AFP team, desks are completely broken. They are used as supports to fix mosquito nets that delimit spaces considered as bedrooms for the displaced and their families.

"We are studying the possibilities for the students of Rutshuru center to study in the morning, and for the displaced [schoolchildren] to study in the afternoon," explained Luc Bakole Nyengeke, military administrator of Rutshuru territory.

Bakole acknowledged, however, that it is difficult for the displaced to clear the classrooms during the day.

The lasting solution is "to ask the Congolese state to end this war so that we can return to our villages and allow our children to study because all children have the same rights, ours also have the right to schooling," urged Alexis Senga, an IDP.

In Rutshuru, the Congolese army and peacekeepers are battling the rebels of the M23, for "March 23 Movement" (M23), a former rebellion defeated in 2013 that resurfaced late last year and which Kinshasa accuses of being driven and supported by neighboring Rwanda.

The eastern DRC has been plagued by violence for nearly 30 years due to the presence of hundreds of armed groups of varying sizes.

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