As a result of the six-year civil war and ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that as many as seven million children throughout the country are unable to attend school. Without an education, these children are unable to access higher-paying and fulfilling jobs as they grow older, and become trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty.
From 2000 to 2013, Shalupe has worked to educate disenfranchised youths through its partnerships with local organizations in three different regions of the DRC: Kinshasa, Bukavu, and Kisangani. Our target populations are former child soldiers, the homeless, and other vulnerable children and women. Adrift in a broken system, Shalupe is their “lifeboat" for academic success.
Shalupe‘s methodology is innovative. We build capacity by providing leadership training to youth; our programs are made sustainable by the willingness of many of our graduates to voluntarily return to mentor younger students. By partnering with local but struggling NGOs, we help build a stronger, more robust civil society in our target communities. Programmatically, we utilize a holistic psychosocial approach that encourages healing from violence and sexual trauma, builds self-esteem, and provides educational opportunities to those who could not access them otherwise. All of our centers follow a similar curriculum for primary, secondary, and technical schooling.
Shalupe Foundation provides primary school education to 550 children from the first through seventh grades, and provides these children with daily meals, school supplies, and uniforms. In partnership with local shelters and primary schools, we pay for orphans and other vulnerable shelter children to receive an education. Much like Maman Jeanne’s home in the early years of the war, the schools we support have become havens of safety and stability in the otherwise tumultuous lives of children affected by war.
At Shalupe, we believe that literacy is one of the basic conditions for promoting economic and social development. Unfortunately, over 25% of the children who enter the program are not fluent in speaking French – let alone reading and writing it. Upon exiting, over 65% of the children who were illiterate are comfortable speaking, reading, and writing in French.
Our assistance to shelter children does not end when they graduate from primary school. Our secondary school program, which covers the eighth through twelfth grades, is particularly challenging due to the fact that most of the children who enroll have never gone to school before. Despite the challenges of making up for eight or more years of lost education, Shalupe decided to enroll these students in their age-appropriate grades based on the knowledge that children’s socialization with peers is essential to achieving academic success.
The students enrolled in our secondary school program are of a pivotal and impressionable age, and many are made vulnerable by the loss of one or both parents in the war. Because of this, we provide mentors – themselves often graduates of the program – to serve as positive role models for these youths.
At the end of twelfth grade, children are provided with financial assistance to take state exam preparatory courses. Through these courses, graduates that choose to pursue higher education are able compete with other students for admission on more equal footing.
We are deeply committed to helping those at the margins of society – many of whom are children. To this end, we manage transitional programs for former child soldiers and rape victims. In order to provide holistic services to these vulnerable groups, we work in partnership with locals.
Through our economic development program, we offer job skills training – such as computer skills training, sewing skills training, and brickmaking apprenticeships – to youths who fall into this particularly vulnerable demographic. Shalupe Foundation provides Congolese mentors, career counselors, and tutors (including spiritual leaders like priests and nuns) to our students. Our vocational programs teach livelihood skills that foster self-esteem, self-reliance, and dignity, and given broken individuals the chance to a fresh start to life.
Computer Skills Training
Our Kinshasa-based Computer Skills Training program is open to students ages 15 and up. The program aims to develop computer literacy, including the ability to draft documents and conduct market research. Further, as students develop their abilities to communicate over the Internet, they interact with Shalupe Foundation’s U.S. headquarters to give updates and assist with program monitoring and evaluation. In addition to giving practical experience to our students, this partnership provides valuable insight that helps us continue to improve all of our programs.
The Computer Skills Training program started in early 2000, with only three instructors and ten used computers at Shalupe Foundation’s Kinshasa headquarters. Since then, we have had dozens of students graduate from our program and go on to professional careers. As with many of our initiatives, the Computer Skills Training program is made sustainable by our graduates’ willingness to give back by volunteering as mentors and tutors for younger students.
Sewing Skills Training
This program focuses on livelihood training for young women who have never sewn before. Participants are taught how to operate a treadle sewing machine and produce wearable and sellable products, a skill that will allow them to build businesses and generate a sustainable livelihood in the future. Run at the Monseigneur Matungulu center, the program enrolls only ten students per class because only ten sewing machines are available. With additional funding, Shalupe could expand this program to teach more girls and young women how to sew.
Graduates of our sewing program often go on to open their own businesses and hire younger sewing students to work for them.
Thanks to the donation of a used hydro-form brickmaking machine, we now offer an apprenticeship program in brickmaking. As of early 2010, we trained about 25 students in Kinsagani in this valuable skill. In order to graduate from the program, each student is required to complete all six phases of this eight-week program, and produce at least five bricks a day until the class is able to produce 1,500-2,000 bricks to be used for local building projects.