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UNICEF: New Schools for Indigenous Children in Republic of Congo
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UNICEF: New Schools for Indigenous Children in Republic of Congo
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The Baka indigenous people of Central Africa are oppressed and discriminated against by the Bantu majority. UNICEF and the Catholic Church are seeking to reverse this discrimination by starting at the foundation level: teaching Baka children the skills they need to succeed in school and society.
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Produced by UNICEF Television.

Find out more about UNICEF's work with minority children in Republic of Congo.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
It is morning in the village of Tosangana on the outskirts of Impfondo, the capital of Likouala province in northeast Republic of Congo. Rufin Kokolo is getting ready to go to school. His sister Naomi will also soon be off to a nearby preschool. His father Gerard takes pride in his son’s schoolwork and encourages him to pay attention in class. It all appears fairly routine; kids getting ready for school and excitement as school friends gather to walk the route together. Yet two years ago, these children did not go to school. Not because there are no schools but rather because they are Baka. Better known by the colonial label, pygmies, the Baka are seen by the Congo’s majority Bantu population as backward and inferior. The discrimination faced by Baka children from students and teachers is often too much to bear. They are mocked and ridiculed. But in the last two years, UNICEF, in partnership with the Catholic Church, has opened 14 schools throughout Likouala province catering specifically to the needs of indigenous children. Father Lucien, a Swiss missionary who has worked with the Baka for more than 20 years, is spearheading the project.
FATHER LUCIEN [Priest]
The principle cause is discrimination is anthropology. If you consider a person subhuman then you can justify the way you treat them. As long as the Bantu here in Likouala consider the Baka as inferior, nothing will change.
VOICEOVER
But many are hoping things can be different for the next generation. Education is being unleashed as a tool to give them an opportunity to rise above and seek out ways to escape their poverty and marginalization.
GERARD [Rufin's Father]
I want my children to go to school. This is the only we can succeed in being treated like the Bantu. Our children can no longer survive as we did in the forest without education.
VOICEOVER
Rufin and his friends arrive at their school. Two classrooms constructed by the community are housed on land owned by the Catholic Church. The teacher here, Jean-Baptiste Ruzinadaza, understands discrimination. He’s a Rwandan refugee. The two-year course, called ORA, is designed especially for the mobile indigenous children of Central Africa. It gives them foundations needed to integrate into the normal public education system.
JEAN-BAPTISTE RUZINADAZA [Teacher]
We have found that the solution to discrimination is preparation. This is like a preschool, a place to teach them how to study. The children that have already gone on to government schools have adapted well.
VOICEOVER
Jean-Baptiste, a dedicated teacher, seeks to make classes as fun and creative as possible. The intent is to instill in children like Rufin confidence and a love of learning. It will be up to the Rufin and his generation to define the future of Congo’s indigenous communities. Armed with knowledge and education, they will continue this fight for rights and respect and hopefully they will one day look the Bantu in the eye as equals. This is Shantha Bloemen reporting for UNICEF Television. Unite For children.