A Global Youth Ambassador in the DRC tells how reading is important for children to develop skills and make them appreciate their own cultural heritage.
January 24 was the first International Day of Education - and a great opportunity to celebrate education’s role in promoting peace and development.
Education has an important role in building peace and prosperity, especially in countries that have experienced hardship as a result of conflict.
Access to safe learning environments is a vital requirement at every stage of a child’s education – from pre-primary years, during which a child’s brain undergoes 90% of its development, through to adolescence, when young people are prepared for the contributions they will make to their communities, the economy and the wider world.
A quality education can improve the life chances of individuals themselves – especially girls – and the communities around them.
It is strongly linked to improved physical and mental health, lower risks of exploitation - such as modern slavery, child labour and armed conflict - greater equality and more peaceful, prosperous societies.
Education is the cornerstone of development and is recognised by the United Nations as a human right. Due to this, our organisation REPER Asbl, which I am Secretary General of, wanted to do something special to commemorate this very first International Day of Education.
We came up with the idea of organising a spelling contest on the role of education in peace-building called "Les Champions de l’orthographe” (The Champions of Spelling) at Giovanni Santolini, a primary school located in a disadvantaged area of Kinshasa.
It was an immense joy for the school principal, teachers, students and president of the parents' committee to receive the members of REPER, such as Augustin Mulund, Danielle Tundula, Falonne Mpiana, Yourry Boyamba, Benie Makinu and myself, along with the famous musician Licelv Mauwa who was the sponsor of the activity.
When we arrived at this school, we were surprised and delighted to see that, despite the disadvantaged environment, the school is well-equipped and the school officials are making great efforts to provide quality education to children who live in this neighbourhood.
At the beginning of the competition, I introduced the work of our organisation, while also pointing out the motivations that led to the the contest.
I encouraged students to enjoy reading to broaden their knowledge and improve their academic success. I underlined that reading is important to develop cognitive skills and emotional intelligence, and gives students appreciation about their own cultural heritage as well as those of others.
Forty-five students divided into three classrooms took part in the spelling contest and the text for the spelling was entitled "Cultivez la paix" (promoting peace), which corresponds exactly with UNESCO's International Day of Education’s theme.
Before the winners were announced by the artist Licelv, the school principal thanked REPER’s team, the sponsor of the activity for choosing his school and for the professionalism that we have shown.
For me, there were three stand-out moments - the REPER presentation, the contest and finally the much-anticipated announcement of the spelling champions and delivery of diplomas and gifts to the winners by Licelv.
As gifts, they received diplomas of merit, books of Congolese authors and French dictionaries. The first champion received a surprise gift from Licelv - a scholarship for the year 2018-2019. She also gave a certificate of participation to the school principal.
The event was a fantastic success and as recognition of this the contest was recorded by the national TV channel.