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D.R. Congo, a student of Still I Rise: "This school has changed me"

Freddy Mudila Mukomena is 15, and he’s a student at Still I Rise Emergency and Rehabilitation School in Pamoja, Democratic Republic of Congo. He previously worked in the mines. He recounts witnessing violence of all kinds, and being a victim himself. “I have changed, now I feel at peace,” he says.

This interview in part of the initiative “Through Our Voices”, a project created by advocacy Still I Rise to unveil what is happening in the countries where we operate through the voices of our students and their families. 

“I live in a family of 10 consisting of 8 children and my parents, we are from Mwanvwe, a village in Lualaba province.

Mom didn’t go to school, only Dad went to secondary school for a while, but he didn’t finish it, he only did level three on general mechanics. I started attending Pamoja school in February 2022. I like to use the computer because now that they have teached me, I know how to use it properly.

School is helping me a lot, I became educated, even intellectually. Now, in our neighborhood,  there are many people who ask me to help them reading or writing letters.

I am happy to come to school to prepare myself for my future life because tomorrow I will be an important person in Lualaba province. When I think of the time before I entered school, I have only bad memories. 

The young people in our neighborhood used to make fun of me, saying I was illiterate, that I would become nobody because I couldn’t read, they would insult me, saying I was like the living dead, those words upset me a lot, and that pushed me to devote myself to study.

I worked in the mines with my older brothers and friends. We did many things in the mine, including collecting and washing minerals and carrying them in bags that were very heavy.

The only good memory I have from that time is that we went with my older brothers to the l’eau verte quarry, I earned some money and bought three sheets of metal for my little house.

One day we were in a quarry underground, there had been a landslide, one of our friends named Maurice was covered with dirt, it was terrible that day, we intervened to get him out alive. I often felt in danger.

I witnessed a lot of violence and was a victim of it myself. I remember someone was burned alive in front of me. They came with this boy, doused him with gasoline, covered him with a tire and burned him.

I was also badly beaten by the “Shèges” (thugs) in Kouvas market, they asked me for money and I refused, they came with tree trunks to beat me.

There are still other children in the mine where I also used to go, and I will advise them to leave this place and go to school so that they do not endanger their lives and build a better future for themselves.

In the mine there is no good education and moreover it is not a good place to stay, it is too dirty, there is all kinds of violence, too many bad things happen.

I would like to become a pilot, it is my favorite job. Education will help me in all ways, it will help me to be educated, it will help me to know the purpose of man’s existence on earth. And thanks to Still I Rise I am doing that, being able to study every day.

I went to another school before coming here. There is a big difference in terms of education between those who study in other schools and us at Still I Rise. Here in DR Congo there is no good education, the teacher acts like a king, he imposes himself, it is difficult to even talk to them. Many children become “Shèges” (delinquents) by being in school.

I feel at peace and am so happy to see myself in uniform like the other children. I have already changed in every area of my life, my behavior has changed.

When I was in public school, I was subject to all sorts of bad behavior, I was rude and disrespectful to everyone, even if an adult asked me something, I would respond rudely. Now I know how to behave in front of everyone, adult or child, I analyze my words before I say them, I respect everyone, adult or child.

I am deeply grateful to the Pamoja School of Still I Rise. In my previous school experience, although I had reached the fourth grade, there was nothing retained in my mind. Since I arrived here, I have studied intensively, and even before completing level 2, I already knew how to read, write, and other things.”

And you, what can you do to help?

Join the “No more child miners” campaign and sign the petition!

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