On our recent visit to Mbuji-Mayi, we were intrigued to visit the Kasai Metzel school, a primary and secondary school with a mission to provide education to local orphans. We arrived in the afternoon, while the primary school was in session, and could immediately hear the chorus of voices from various classrooms reciting their lessons. We were introduced first to the first-grade classroom, which had kids literally spilling out the door for lack of space. Somehow, 101 first-year students squeeze into one classroom, with one teacher. There is not enough space or desks for all the students, so many of them sit on the floor. When we poked our heads in to take a picture, they erupted with laughter.
We went on and visited all of the class-rooms and greeted the students. As we entered, the students would all stand and recite a greeting in French. It seemed a bit ironic that the first time we had to ask our host, Elder Mukendi, what the students had said, and he translated it into Tshiluba. We then greeted the students briefly in Tshiluba, which they found amusing. As is typical for most of the schools in Congo, the students attend school for half the day, either morning or afternoon, so that the classrooms can be used twice per day and serve double the amount of students. In this one modest building, 754 elementary school students attend classes. Of those students, 150 are considered orphans, who have lost either one or both parents. The school is run as a private school, using the school fees paid by students who can afford it to subsidize the education of the orphans.
Paul Mukendi shows us the school building
There are 12 teachers for the elementary school and 4 teachers for the secondary school. This year PC(USA) supported a training for teachers, in part to equip them to effectively teach using new school books that were donated by the government of Belgium. One result of the training is a dramatic increase in student enrollment, since the community feels that these teachers are better equipped than those in other schools! We were excited to meet these teachers who make a tremendous effort to teach these hundreds of students.
Kristi poses with the teachers and director of the school