In school, the boys and girls use tree trunks as chairs and use their laps as desks. This all happens on the Isle of Idjwi in the middle of Lake Kivu, on the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because of its secluded location, it has been used as a platform for the secret movements of various military troops in the recent conflicts that have affected the country.
On the island, many services are lacking such as the supply of electricity and transport. The population moves from the island to the mainland mainly by pirogue which, because of its instability, causes many deaths by sinking or drowning, leading to an extremely high mortality rate. The data gathered shows that in a family of five there is at least one widow or an orphan.
The island’s economy is based on farming and fishing. In particular, beans, cassava, peanuts, soy beans and coffee are cultivated. There is also a consistent breeding of chickens, goats, turkeys and pigs. In the last years, however, agricultural production has diminished, among the many reasons for which was the deterioration of soil quality, poor training of farmers, and the absence of seeds and varieties that are more resistant to diseases. Given the economic situation, many young people on the island do not have jobs and career prospects.
The four parishes there try to respond to the needs of the local population. Specifically the Bumpeta parish in the northern part of the island that counts about 76,000 inhabitants has been very active in running the primary and secondary schools, and for this has received an award from the Congolese state.
Because of the population’s active participation in promoting the schooling of the island’s children and youths, AMU has initiated a project that focuses with conviction on the future of the country, and aims to support the parish of Bumpeta by furnishing the equipment of the Cikoma Institute. It is a high school specialized in pedagogical and social sciences that train the future teachers of the island. It is thus a school that looks to the future but that has to tackle the current backward conditions, and a population that is struggling to rise above poverty.
The school is attended by about 900 boys and girls, divided into 14 classes. In some there are makeshift desks, in others practically everything is lacking. The project will chiefly equip the school with the 308 missing desks. Currently many students still use tree trunks as chairs and their knees as desks with the consequence of a serious deterioration in their posture. The desks will be built by a Congolese carpentry shop and in this way the project will help support the local production activities. The population of Bumpeta takes active part in carrying out the project and will primarily take charge of transporting the desks on the Island.