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Praying with refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo: education as hope
16 February 2015

A young girl in Mweso, 2014 (Padriac MacOireachtaigh / Jesuit Refugee Service)
High school fees meant that only Maombi's brothers could attend school at first. Her mother and father had no money and felt that educating boys was a wiser investment
Kashunga, 16 February 2015 – Moambi's white blouse gleams bright in the morning sun of Kashuga. She beams with pride in her new school uniform – she gets to attend high school after two years of staying at home.

Maombi is one of the more than 2.7 million internally displaced persons living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She and her family fled their homes due to attacks from one of the countless armed groups operating in the region. Having left all behind, Maombi's family had very little resources to start over.

High school fees meant that only Maombi's brothers could attend school at first. Her mother and father had no money and felt that educating boys was a wiser investment. Now after two years, the family is more and less established and Maombi can begin secondary school.

Growing up without consistent education is the fate for many displaced children in North Kivu, where JRS works. The reasons are manifold. Many families cannot afford the school fees, whereas others can afford to pay but do not have enough money for school uniforms or supplies. In other families, the children have to work to keep the everyone afloat. Orphans and unaccompanied children often have to support themselves or their younger siblings. In other cases, armed groups have destroyed school buildings and children lack safe spaces to learn.

No matter the reason, education is a fundamental right and absolutely necessary for a hopeful future.

For Maombi it is as simple and fundamental as this: "education gives me hope of a better future beyond the camp."

With one last appraisal of her new uniform, Maombi enters the class rooms towards a brighter future.

Your Reflections
The Bible praises wisdom, which is considered a gift from God. It is achieved both through education and through the process of helping others. Wisdom cannot grow if education is denied. Without it, an individual cannot develop his or her personal dignity nor self-determination.

Felix Polten SJ, Education Coordinator, at the Jesuit Refugee Service in Mweso, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo