Through gaining generous funding from The Murry Foundation, G4G was able to witness the opening of the newly rebuilt school for hundreds of children at Rumangabo, Park HQ.
The bricks used were made in Rumangabo itself using a machine imported from South Africa and local craftsmen and manual workers undertook the construction. The new school has 7 classrooms and can just about accommodate the 700+ youngsters who attend. 68% of them are the sons or daughters of the rangers based there.
March 2009 saw the opening ceremony. The children, teachers, parents and rangers were all present and looking forward to the prospect of having a new school, as frequent outbreaks of fighting had often left the children’s education sidelined for months at a time.
The Provincial Environment Minister opened the school by cutting a tape, the children acted out a play depicting their life in Virunga and sang a rousing version of the Congolese national anthem.
The leader of hundreds of local communities, Mwami Ndeze, stressed the relationship between the new school and the wildlife of Virunga National Park. Without the gorillas, elephants and buffalo of Virunga, he explained, the new building might well never have been built.
The women folk who had gathered for the ceremony sang wonderful songs and the rangers paraded in uniform.
To close the ceremony, around 1,200 poachers’ snares were burned that had been recently retrieved by rangers from the nearby forest.
Teachers are paid $25-$30 a month (£16-£19). Parents need to pay $2.5 (£1.59) per month towards the teacher’s salaries and $1 (63p) per term towards materials.
These fees can be difficult for some families to spare and the youngsters are often needed to help with subsistence level farming, fetching daily water and looking after elderly and younger family members.
Local communities are integral to the future of Virunga National Park. As Virunga states –
“The villages in which we are building these schools form a frontline against the desperation that pushes people north from Goma to wreak havoc on Virunga’s forests and animals. Now, and in the future, that frontline will be held by the people who live in these villages; by the attitudes they will have and the decisions they will make. By working in partnership, we can help them give their park a future.”
Virunga has now built new schools at the ranger patrol stations of Bikenge, Jomba, Gatovu and Bukima with European Union funding and implementation through the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and the Africa Conservation Fund (UK).
Ongoing support is vital. If you would like to help, visit www.virunga.org.