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Conflict Closing DRC Schools

Displaced people in Tanganyika province in eastern DR Congo / DRC, October 2017
Displaced people in Tanganyika province in eastern DR Congo / DRC, October 2017

KIHISI, DRC - Thomas Tumusifu Buregeya wishes he were studying for his final school exams. Instead, he scrapes a living doing odd jobs in a displaced people's camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a wave of rebel violence upended his life yet again.

Buregeya is one of the 750,000 young DRC children whose schooling is currently disrupted by insecurity in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) estimated in late March.

Since January 2022, some 2,100 schools in eastern DRC have had to close because of armed conflict, according to UNICEF.

Buregeya fled the town of Kibumba with his family in October amid a renewed offensive by the M23 rebel group - the third time in 15 years he has been forced to escape his home and has not be able to study for a whole year. He is now 22 and still waiting to complete school.

The damage could be lasting. Without access to education, children and young people can miss the chance to develop the skills needed to escape poverty and overcome the desperate economic challenges that help fuel conflict in places such as mineral-rich eastern Congo, according to a 2011 U.N. report on global education and armed conflict.

Buregeya fears time is running out for him.

"My life's dream was to go to university after high school, to look for a job, become a teacher and earn a living," he said.