Graduates and Community at the Nouvelle Cite June 2010 Preschool Graduation

Ecoles Maternelles”, our equivalent of preschool along the Head Start model, have opened in Mbandaka and other urban areas of Congo. In one of the larger Disciples parishes in Mbandaka, the Nouvelle Cite parish, 180 children enrolled last year.

The Mbandaka UNICEF staff member assigned to Education programs told me the preschools were among the strategies intended to foster completion of primary school in the country. With only two in ten children graduating from the six years of primary school in the Equator Province, the lowest rate of any province in the country, special attention is being paid by UNICEF to the results there.

Rev. Michel LIKOMBA, Nouvelle Cite’s head pastor, serves as Counselor to the provincial volunteer committee charged with oversight of the preschools. The provincial committee’s chair, a Catholic priest, is liaison with the Congolese government for the national movement of Ecoles Maternelles.

While UNICEF leads in funding construction and purchase of furnishings for the preschools, the World Food Program, PAN in the French acronym, supplies daily lunch for the children and staff. Parents’ Committees in each school collect the fees, averaging $1 per month plus an enrollment fee, which results in some children dropping out during the year. Two thirds of those enrolled did complete last year’s instruction at Nouvelle Cite, among them children of Mbandaka Pygmy parents whose fees were covered by the Parents’ Committee organized by the Disciples parish. The Congolese government provides virtually no funding for the program.