Africa : the "Schools of Peace"
"We suffer enormously in Africa. We have problems and wants at the level of children’s rights, we have war, illness, lack of food…"
This is what Yaguine and Fodé wrote in August 1999. They were two young Guinean men who died in the landing gear well of a commercial aeroplane flying to Brussels. They had climbed aboard in a vain attempt to hand deliver this letter to the 'Sirs in charge of Europe." It was a cry for help, the symbol of the condition of African children and adolescents in the continent that is statistically the youngest but where ill nutrition, illiteracy, and child death rate reach unsettling numbers.
The effort of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Africa has been promoting a tight network of the Schools of Peace ('Escolas da Paz' in Mozambique, 'Ecoles Populaires' in Francophone Africa) that today reach out to more than 4,000 children and adolescents.
They are children and youths who are forced to grow fast and to work in order to help their families. They deal with a school that cannot guarantee them an education because classes are overcrowded and school books too expensive. They are children and adolescents who are malnourished and poorly dressed and whose health is put to the test, not only by dangerous illnesses, but also by harsh life conditions. Among them there are also many children who live on the street, without any family ties. For them the Schools of Peace are a true family that takes care of them.
The schools of peace offer all these children balanced nutritional supplements, aid in dealing with a scholastic setting, tutoring, close attention to their health and support for the entire family.
The first centres were realised in Mozambique, which today is still the country where this activity is most widespread. From Mozambique the 'Schools of Peace' have branched out to the whole of Africa and include English, French, and Portuguese speaking countries.
The Community of Sant'Egidio in Africa runs hundreds of centers in 24 countries for more than 14,000 children and adolescents.
ESCOLAS DA PAZ … even a mat is enough
The school of peace in Mozambique is not run in proper buildings because it is not easy to find them. Well, if it is not possible to find anything better, our people get organised and make a school out of a mat. The children, gathered according to their grades, get together to study and sit quietly on their outdoor mats.