The Ananda Marga school in Congo is now entering into its third year. Republic of Congo is a small country in Central Africa; it has the size of Germany but only three million inhabitants, neighbouring Democratic
Republic of Congo (former Zaire ). Like its neighbour it is a country rich in oil and gold and diamonds, but unfortunately all its wealth does not benefit the citizens, rather it is the oil and the diamonds that is the cause for so many wars and destruction in that area.
Even 20 years ago, Congo had a high literacy rate and a good public schooling system. Then in the end of the nineties the country suffered two wars, which the media call civil wars, but actually these were imported wars fighting for the control of oil and gold resources. Now the country is in ruins, roads and houses are broken, the whole infrastructure is damaged and very little reconstruction work is happening. The country seems forgotten by the world and abandoned by its own government. Even the agriculture is down, because there are almost no roads to transport the products to the cities. There are almost no industries. Just now the Chinese are repairing the local cement factory. How can you rebuild the houses when each sack of cement has to be imported, not to talk about other industries? And even though the country relies completely on imports, the road from the main harbour town of Pointe Noire to the capital of Brazzaville is not repaired and everything has to be brought by local plane or sometimes on a train which is getting assaulted so many times by rebels, who actually supported or constituted the former elected government.
When visiting the public schools we saw with our own eyes what you would not believe: 200 children in one class with one teacher, no tables, no chairs, the roof is leaking and the toilets are broken. But still when we would ask the director what help would you like to receive for your children they would request us to do a feeding programme, because many children are undernourished. This is the situation of about 20 public primary schools with about 2000 children in each school in the capital of Brazzaville .
School Feeding Program
The teachers are working with much idealism and sincerity, but they are overwhelmed by the situation and have nobody to turn to. It is a whole generation of the country which is getting neglected and pushed into a chaotic future. But still how much hope and joy of life was pouring on us, when we entered the overfilled and dark class rooms, which have the beauty of a prison camp. It is very touching and gives us hope and the responsibility to do something for these forgotten children in a forgotten country. (In 2004 the USDA was feeding around 160,000 children in the whole country regularly, but due to the election in the USA the shipments in 2004 were delayed, on top the transport problems inside the country which I mentioned above, so as a result this year they started their programme six months late and could feed only less than half.)
Our Ananda Marga school started in September 2003 with 65 children the first year. In the last moment before opening we had to change our sign board from School of Rising Sun to New Dawn School , because the rising sun is the symbol of the political opposition and it could get us into real trouble. Even then we had some considerable problems with the local police and had to spend some money on them and their arbitrary demands. Finally at the end of the
school year the ministry of education told us that the local police had no right to interfere into the internal affairs of the school, but that advice came very late.
The parents were hesitant in the beginning because in the same building a year before a school had opened and closed in the middle of the term, but finally we gained their confidence and we hope that this year the attendance will increase. It is very hard for the parents to pay the school fee of $5 per month (which is much cheaper than any other school with comparable quality would charge), but we are living in the city and we cannot do the school for free; then we will have 300 children in one class. We are not very strict in collecting the school fee, which means we are not throwing the children out if their parents are not paying and we are suffering for that. But the parents are very much appreciative of our service and they understand that the spirit is very different in our school. In the parents’ meeting they do express their thankfulness.
We have a long way to go for improving the quality of education. All our teachers are practising yoga and meditation, so at least we can be sure they have a loving mind and a balanced behaviour. You know that singing and dancing is very popular in Congo and our children love kiirtan and learn also many songs in school and you can be sure that the spirit of neohumanism is vibrating in the classrooms.
It may seem only like a drop in the ocean, but we are giving our best and hope to improve and increase our service work, as you know one drop may be the beginning of a big rain and flooding the whole earth with love.
School Children with Dada Dayashiilananda and Dada Sarvajitananda
For more information please contact Dada Sarvajiitananda at <>. Donations for this project are welcome through AMURT Germany . For details please write to Dada.