The education situation in DR Congo is alarming, with 7.4 million children out of school across the country. Despite this, only 4 per cent of humanitarian funds have been received for education, 9 months into the year.
"The dire education funding situation puts many children at risk of illiteracy, and puts them at a disadvantage for finding future employment for generations," warned Celestin Kamori, the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) education programme coordinator in DR Congo.
Over the last two decades, DR Congo has experienced new and recurrent conflicts that have forced more than 3.8 million people to flee their homes. At least 684,000 of these are school-aged children.
"When children are displaced they are forced to suspend their education, or drop it all together. This disruption to their development hinders their personal progress, and has detrimental effects to the socio-economics of the entire country," explained Kamori.
The effects of a lack of education are most acute in DR Congo's Kasai provinces. Since August 2016, the intensifying violence in Grand Kasai province has displaced 850,000 children and left over 900 schools destroyed. The schools that are open are being used as shelter for displaced families.
Conflict has been detrimental to other parts of the country too. In Kalemie town in Tanganyika province, out-of-school rates among displaced children from 6-11 years are as high as 92 per cent - an increase of 76 per cent over the course of the year.
DR Congo's emergency education woes are compounded by an already weak educational system that is unable to absorb shocks caused by chronic conflict. The decrease and slow trickle of funding for education in emergencies is the real gap donors should prioritize on the humanitarian relief agenda.
"Donors should recognize that education is also a protection tool. Children enrolled in emergency education classes, catch-up classes and child-friendly spaces are less likely to join armed groups," said Kamori.
"Education is the key to a prosperous future, but millions of Congolese children trapped in illiteracy will not have access to it," she continued. "We need more funding to scale up emergency education support so that we don't lose a generation."
NRC's education programme in DR Congo
Since it was set up in 2001, thousands of displaced children have received education support through NRC's education programme in DR Congo.
In 2016, NRC provided education support to close to 88,000 children. As of June 2017, we paid school fees to over 1,600 crisis-affected children in Kananga, in Kasai-Central province. There are currently over 8,000 displaced and host community children in NRC's education catch-up programme in the province.