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10,000 Children kept from School in Central African Republic due to violence, says UNICEF

The U.N. Children's Fund says about 10,000 children in the Central African Republic have not been in school this week because armed groups are occupying their classrooms

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School in CAR
Students are seen in a classroom at a school in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. VOA

Oct 01, 2016: The U.N. Children’s Fund says about 10,000 children in the Central African Republic or CAR, have not been in school this week because armed groups are occupying their classrooms.

School started last week across the Central African Republic, but UNICEF says about 400 schools have been affected in provinces outside the capital, Bangui. That amounts to one-fifth of the country’s primary schools and one-third of the nation’s children.

Herve Verhoosel, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, told VOA he thought the rebels were specifically trying to block access to educational resources.

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“In some cases, [the rebels] are not even using the schools as a place to sleep,” Verhoosel said.

Elsewhere, they have set up checkpoints on roads near the schools, deterring parents and children alike with the threat of violence.

“In that case, it’s clear that the reason is they want to deny access to education to those kids,” he said.

He said the gunmen were members of several different armed groups operating around the country, and he vowed that the U.N. mission, known as MINUSCA, would strive to get them out.

“If they don’t leave those schools, if they don’t leave those 10,000 children to have the education they deserve, MINUSCA will use all that we can use in those cases to protect the population,” he said.

Education access limited

UNICEF spokeswoman Donaig Le Du told VOA that the problem has been going on for several years. She said access to education is a challenge because some parents need their children to work, some parents are too poor to send their children to school, and some children have been recruited by the armed groups.

Compared with other countries, CAR has one of the highest number of children associated with armed groups in proportion to the population, Le Du said. “Since 2013, basically between 6,000 and 10,000 children have been associated with armed groups,” she said.

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Le Du said UNICEF tries to work with the armed groups to release the children and allow them to resume a normal life, including schooling or vocational training. But, she said, “there are still hundreds of children in the Central African Republic who are currently used either as combatants or cooks, help, or sexual slaves for different members of those armed groups.”

“This has to stop,” she said, noting that the country, plagued by civil unrest, has historically been a very difficult place for a child to thrive.

“You cannot have another generation of kids growing up without health services, without being able to be immunized, with 40 percent of children under 5 years of age who are chronically malnourished,” she said.

‘We will be very firm’

MINUSCA’s Verhoosel said peacekeeping forces were doing everything they can to protect the population and reclaim the schools from the armed groups.

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“We’ll ask them to leave without condition and without any negotiation,” he said, “and in the coming days we will be very firm with those who won’t accept to leave under those conditions.”

On November 17, a group of government leaders from CAR is scheduled to meet with international partners in Brussels to discuss policies designed to stabilize the country over the next three to five years. (VOA)

  • Antara

    Education of the children must not be hindered for anything!!

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UNICEF to Bring 11,000 Lower-Income South Africa High School Girls in Tech Industries

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa

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UNICEF
Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries. VOA

Women are woefully underrepresented in technology, science, engineering and mathematics jobs in South Africa. But for the last decade, a homegrown, UNICEF-supported program has worked to bring 11,000 lower-income high school girls into these industries.

Among those students was Raquel Sorota. Sorota has come a long way from her humble upbringing in Johannesburg’s Tembisa township. She now works as a risk engineer at a top South African insurance company.

She was those one of those South African high school girls who went through the UNICEF-supported TechnoGirls program, which started in 2005. She was selected for the program in 2009. Now 24, she says it changed her life.

“My life has literally never been the same again,” she said. “So, before the program, I wanted to be a doctor and today I’m an engineer, through that program. So I think a lot of what I think I took from that program was how it exposed me to the world of engineering. I think for the longest time I never knew how broad that world was and that I could have a place in that world, most importantly.”

Bright, disadvantaged girls

The program selects bright high school girls from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them exposure to professions in science, technology, engineering and math, pairs them with mentors, and follows them through their university studies.

The program’s founder, Staff Sithole, says this is about much more than creating a new crop of workers. This, she says, is about changing the world — and who runs it.

“It is more an instrument, or a program, which is contributing towards gender equality. So rather than just running advocacy programs, let’s come with something that can change the circumstances, can be a purposeful targeted intervention of contributing towards gender equality,” she said.

Challenging obstacles

For high school students Gugulethu Zungu and Queen Makaile, the obstacles are more than just lack of opportunity. Both are physically challenged; they were both born with different, rare genetic defects that have affected their appearance and their health. Both were chosen to participate in the program this year for their high grades in math and science.

Zungu says the program led her to identify her dream career — forensics — but also to expand her horizons.

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“I like investigating and solving mysteries. And it actually makes me believe that, indeed, nothing is impossible. You just have to think out of the box,” she said.

Makaile, who has struggled with hearing and vision problems as a result of her rare defect that has also given her asymmetrical facial features, says she now wants to be come a journalist, to show the world that her thoughts matter more than her looks. For these girls, nothing, they say, will stand in their way. (VOA)