Congo Republic to have special schools for pygmies

Mon Oct 6, 2008 9:02am EDT
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By Christian Tsoumou

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - Children of Congo Republic's pygmies will be able to attend special schools set up by retired French teachers in a plan to help fight discrimination against the forest dwellers, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) said.

Pygmies, who live in often isolated communities in the thick forests of several central African countries, often complain of being marginalized and treated with disrespect by their governments, while their habitat is degraded and destroyed.

UNICEF estimates that only 35 percent of pygmy children of schoolgoing age actually attend classes in Congo Republic, in contrast with 76 percent of other Congolese children.

Many of those who do go to school drop out to go to work, or as a result of bullying by the majority population from Bantu ethnic groups.

"They abandon school because they have to follow their parents for seasonal activities such as fishing, hunting, honey or insect gathering, because of financial problems, but also discrimination by other Bantu kids or parents," UNICEF representative Koen Vanormelingen said in an email to Reuters.

The U.N. agency is collaborating with a charity of retired French teachers, GREF, which is training 15 local educators to give lessons to initially 100 children in the forests of Sangha, in the north-west of the country.

The training is due to finish on October 18.

"The teaching will be done while strictly respecting the cultural values of these populations," Helene Faye, a former teacher from Toulon and a member of GREF, told journalists in Congo Republic's capital Brazzaville.   Continued...