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Right to Education in Central African Republic

Marieke Hopman


29 January 2017

Right to education and the authority of the village chief

29 January 2017 | By | One Comment

Transcribing interviews today, and came across this conversation where I was discussing authority and the possibility to create a school in the village with a village chief. The question: can he tell the literate parents of the village to all teach a few hours a week, so that the children will have education?
Resp:       They cannot accept to teach if we don’t pay them.
MH:          But what if they would just teach half a day a month?
Resp:       That would be good, but it is not possible. They have to go fishing. If they don’t go, how                      will they feed their children?
MH:          I have trouble believing that teaching for only 4 hours a week will make the difference                          between eating and not eating.
Resp:       I cannot command them. If they don’t want to, can you force them?
MH:         You are the chief, do you not have that power?
Resp:       I have power, but I cannot force people.
MH:         So what kind of power do you have in relation to education?
Resp:       If I command someone, who wants to go fishing, to teach and to force them to teach?
MH:          I am just curious to see how it works in the village, the relation of power, authority and                         autonomy…
Resp:      Before, the young people were receiving the village chief. Nowadays, after the arrival of                       human rights [a relatively new concept in the village, apparently], if you ask them to do                      something, they don’t accept it. When they don’t accept it, you have no right to take it by                    force.
Marieke Hopman


28 December 2016

Coming back from CAR again

28 December 2016 | By | 4 Comments

Dear all,

Since two days I am again back in the Netherlands, and even on the plane I started working on processing the results. There is so much information, so many impressions, and I am hoping to have a report and a PhD chapter finished in two months..!
Today I wanted to make the last video journal but I cannot really get myself to watch the images just now. It is my second time coming back from CAR and it is not necessarily easier. I guess when you are in the middle of it, you kind of absorb and postpone all emotional reactions. Then when coming back, it kind of hits you in the face. Which is normal and good, but, I just need a minute :). So the video is coming up soon, but not just now. In the meantime I just wrote a poem – it’s not a very good one, but I think it explains very well what it’s like coming back, and what reality in CAR is like. For now, it is all I can do not to get back on the next plane to Bangui…

It is usually around 4PM
I’m studying, I’m reading,
I’m listening, I’m understanding
taking a nice, analytical

it hits me
I go out for a cigarette
my stomach starts hurting
I go to the toilet
I sit, I shit,
I lost

Reality sweeps me off my feet
turns my head upside down,
Remember what you did?
Remember whom you talked to?
Remember you did not go back
to see if they were still
Remember the one trustworthy
government official
with his crooked reading glasses
who told you everything
who got killed?
Remember the girls?
Remember those you left
behind, who are waiting,
hoping, praying, while
things are getting worse?
What are you doing,
sitting on a sofa, reading
a book?
When do you go back
to die with them?
What gives you the right
to leave?

I know I don’t have a right to anything. I don’t
need to take this warm shower, wear
these warm clothes, glasses, wine, throwing
away the food that we did not finish,
using lamps,
heating the whole house,
playing violin.

But I don’t know what
else to do.

Marieke Hopman


10 November 2016

Video journal CAR period 2

10 November 2016 | By | No Comments

Dear all,
Since last saturday I have been back in the Central African Republic for part 2 of the field research. I have decided to try and keep a video journal this time. For security reasons I do not want to make it public just now, so in case you want to follow my adventures, please send me an email (, and I will send you a link to the videos!
Kind regards,
Marieke Hopman


6 October 2016

First presentation of CAR results

6 October 2016 | By | 5 Comments

Yesterday I participated in a “science slam” during the Night University Festival at Tilburg University. Four researchers had to present their research in 10min, in a way that would move the audience. It was my first time to talk about the first preliminary results of the CAR field research, and also the first time to experiment with alternative ways of presenting research (in this case, I chose a slightly theatrical form reading entries from my field research notebook, connecting to the festival’s theme “face your fears”). And then the audience got to vote and…I won!! :D

For the coming period I will experiment more with alternative ways of presenting research, ways that appeal to a broader audience, but (hopefully) still find a sufficient level of depth in communication of research results.



Marieke Hopman


4 October 2016

Do children have a right to a certain quality of education?

4 October 2016 | By | No Comments

This Central African girl is considered a good student. She has been going to school for six years now. It makes me wonder whether the right to education is more than a right to go to school – perhaps it includes a right to a certain quality education?
(name has been changed)
Marieke Hopman


28 September 2016

Speech of Touadera, president of the CAR, 27 sept in the US + discussion

28 September 2016 | By | No Comments

A summarizing transcript of CAR president Touadera’s speech and the subsequent discussion at Brookings Institute. You can find the complete video below.

Touadera at Brookings Institute, 27 sept 2016

Via (audio file) (video file)

Intro, by Steven J Bennett: ‘the situation is not that bad’. Subject: a donor conference coming up. ‘we can be glad that the president Touadera has come to power with a great deal of legitimacy’.

Touadera (translated): I would like to talk about the developments in my country. Thanks ‘president Obama and the American people, our friends’. ‘the CAR is grateful for the personal involvement of his excellency president Barack Obama, involvement in our stabilization and in our peacemaking during the crisis’.

‘our history has always been marked by crisis’. ‘of all those crises, the one in 2012 and the one in 2013 were the most bloody. Religion was used for violence between Muslims and Christians and this crisis was marked by violations of human rights, the destruction and looting of public and private property and the destruction of the economic fabric and this brought about a humanitarian crisis without president. This crisis lasted 3 years and really it made the state of CAR fail. This caused disunity in the country and broke the fabric of the country.’ ‘the destruction of the state’. Thanks int. community help ‘to rebuild national cohesion’. Government, people etc have demonstrated willingness to close this dark period by ‘holding presidential elections that were free, democratic and peaceful across the country’. ‘this is one of the best exits from conflict’. ‘I committed myself, once in office, to build a country of peace, of security, a country that’s concerned with the search of cohesion and justice…where corruption would be the main enemy of the government…in summary, I have committed myself to building rule of law in my country’.

  • Minister, Nat assembly is working now, started restructuring armed forces – ‘so that we can have a democratic and inclusive military’. I also committed myself to sustainable peace and started a dialogue with the armed groups, started a DDR and security sector reform.

National reconciliation: have set up commission of truth and reconciliation. ‘The government has set up a court system that has become functional all over the country so that justice can be rendered effectively and close to the citizens. And government authority is functional all over the country with help of the international community’.

Economy: cleaning up funds, clearing up customs, auditing systems for corporations, launch development of sectors such as mining, agriculture. Improvement of business climate (one of my priorities) . launch reforms to improve investments. And a job creating private sector.

Refers to help of the US, LRA (evil, people who are causing violence) – shows that the situation is fragile. ‘we need the input of everybody for social cohesion’.

‘Coming here, we come to get strength from you…but also to convey a message, a message of hope…You [institute or US] have demonstrated that democracy can be strengthened, security can be strengthened, and that opportunities can be found here in the US…So we come here to also strengthen our economical, social and political cooperation with the US. We want the lifting of embargo on weapons. Embargo imposed on the CAR and we want to train our military so that they can start their mission [..] on the integrity of the territory and the people and of property. We also brought a message of hope and friendship, because the CAR has some assets for sustainable development. Indeed, we have a geology, a hydrography climate, agricultural potential, forestry potential … we are in the heart of Africa … this country is tremendously rich in natural resources, but that are not well developed, or not well enough. We have tremendous mining resources according to the world bank …we have 470 mining sites and a partial lifting of the Kimberley process would open that industry. We have iron, copper, gold, diamond, …4 petroleum sites…between 1 and 5 billion barrels that have not been exploited yet…[sums up agricultural potential, cettle, tourism, hunting, energy production, etc]…in addition to this post-conflict situation…’

‘We’ve had different forms of aid and this has brought back peace and constitutional legitimacy’ ‘but…the situation needs some support, support on the part of the international community. That’s why the CAR is closing this dark chapter of crisis. We have come back to constitutional order, we have a national assembly that is fulfilling its role, we have a government made up of technocrats, representing the various political forces of the country, civil society and all the regions of the country. CAR is on the right track…’

  • Conference of donors nov 17 2016 in Brussels
[end of speech]


Q: We are all Central Africans…I’d like you to try to bring us into the mindset of a citizen of CAR who lives not in Bangui, on the border perhaps of South-Sudan or Birao, the border with Chad, perhaps describe what this person has experienced. How did this person experience the crisis that you mentioned? And with the efforts of the community, the church…how did such a person overcome this situation and survive? And how were certain services continued to be provided? Mr president, from Bangui, how are you going to strengthen dialogue with citzens in the CAR who are so far from the capital? how do you support their efforts and their endavours?

A: ‘one of our main priorities…we really want to focus on national reconciliation…that al CAR can regain social unity…one of the measures we have taken is to go out and meet these communities…we’ve been to Boar and had discussions with these citizens…Kaga Bandoro…people live in very difficult conditions, there are still armed groups in these areas…Bria…we met all of the leaders of the armed groups that have set up in that sector…in some ways it is a taking the pulse of the population, to understand what their needs are…Sibut…we are going to continue this, to stay in contact with the communities…Obo…the LRA has been threatening the population in that area [thanks US]…

Q: In Brussels on nov 17, there will be an international donor’s conference. In Brussels, how are you going to achieve this balance between aspirations of the CAR people and the ideas/initiatives of the donor countries?

A: ‘Brussels will be a key moment in our countries’ program. As you know we are exciting a crisis…this destroyed the fabric of our country…’ the CAR people are committed to leaving this situation of insecurity, despite its challenges, they voted. ‘The population wants to live side by side’. We will present priority projects. We are going to invite our partners to support us.

Q: regional integration. You have 6 neighboring countries. How are you going to strengthen regional integration? EMCCA?

A: aspiration of the CAR is to live side by side with our neighbors ‘and we have good relations with all our neighbors’. We are part of a community. [talks about refugees that have been welcomed by neighboring countries] ‘this certainly testifies to the harmonious existence we have with our neighboring countries’. MINUSCA: provide security and civil protection in the CAR.

Q: Were you able to resists the temption of visiting maths department?

A: I would have liked…I do continue to give a few classes…

Q: ‘Mr. president was one of my professors and it’s thanks to him that I learned differential equations. He’s a very demanding, but very fair teacher. Mr. president, I’d like to address national reconciliation. In a family, when brothers argue, when they fight, this means that there is an unequal distribution of resources or it can be caused by the fact that the share of the pie is so small that everybody’s fighting for the same share of the pie. So in the context of the CAR, …I realized that there are not really inequalities in terms of the regions, there are no poor and wealthy regions…there are no extremely wealthy Central Africans, there are no extremely poor…therefore this issue of is not by organizing discussions that we are going to resolve the issue, but I think rather by making the share of the pie much larger…’ Q: regarding national reconciliation, a process ‘in your opinion, how important is justice and the lack of, impunity, in this process?’

Mod: 2 other questions

Q: I work with American NGO…[wants 5min with president to discuss project]

Q: Will you be welcoming American Peace Corps volunteers in your country?

A: respond to last one: [praises peace corps] my wish is to welcome the peace corps to the CAR…As an educator, I have worked with the peace corps, I have been in the field…I continue to pressure the US ambassador so that we can implement a peace corps mission in the CAR…for the time being we do not have yet..perhaps we are not legible…

First question, regarding the role of justice: peace is the main priority. First and foremost about the DDR. ‘much of our territory is currently occupied by armed groups. Some of them have decided to lay down their arms …secondly, thanks to this crisis, we no longer have a defense force, a national armed forces. We need to rebuild the armed forces, which is a very important aspect of any nation state…the crisis, in an artificial manner, had communities turn against each others…some thought it was a religious crisis, which it was not…’ ‘It is my believe that in order to achieve reconciliation, we need to recognize the rights of the victims. We need to acknowledge that they have lost much. And in order to do this, we can only turn to justice. Justice will be the cement that holds this reconciliation together…[at forum 2015] everybody said that they wanted to have zero impunity, and that is what we are currently working on. We are working with the government in order to strengthen our legal system, so we can have an independent judicial system with trustworthy people who can truly implement law. This justice is not just something for the people. We are asking partners to assist us…This is extremely important, this notion of justice. We wish to build a state of law, that is based on the rule of law. And the population has clearly stated that…I am endavouring to build a state based on the rule of law. A state in which democracy, freedom are applicable to all.

Q: I work with African diaspora, I come from Burundi. 2 Qs: 1. What is the role of the African diaspora in your projects?; 2. In terms of constitution of your country, I’ve heard there is something about your terms. You don’t want to be glued to the presidential seat forever.

Q: with committee for free and … ‘I would like to salute you for demonstrating that the rule of law, good governance and stability can take place in Africa. As you know, the president of equatorial Guinea is Africa’s longest sitting dictator’. What would you do to urge African dictators to leave because they’ve overstayed their welcome? What would you recommend that we do to bring democracy?

Q: from DRC – you inherited a challenging situation. Why did you not think about an emergency 3 year plan to stimulate the economy…don’t you think you are going to suffer from a lack of coordination?

A: last question: the Brussels conference is predicated on a 3 year strategy. The diaspora can be a source of funding for development. In my gvmt there’s a ministry that handles this particular sector – foreign ministry.

Other question: ‘we have a constitution. You know that the constitution went into effect the day I was sworn in. My mission is to uphold that constitution, this fundamental law of the country and this is the vision of the central African people and I think that this was clearly expressed’. ‘So be reassured on that particular question, we will uphold the constitution. You know that every nation has its vision and we do respect the will of each nation’s constitution…’



Marieke Hopman


12 September 2016

Back from the CAR, trying to understand

12 September 2016 | By | 2 Comments

Dear all,

A few days ago I came back to Europe after the first 6 weeks of field research in the Central African Republic. As I am trying to make sense of what I saw, the stories I heard, trying to fit it into some academic theoretical frame .. I find my mind filled mostly with the children I met, the stories they told me, the desperate, seemingly hopeless situations they find themselves in. I want to write something smart and academic but find myself reflecting on a more sensitive level as well, in particular musing over the lack of love in these children’s lives. How can a country ever move forward, if its children are the subject of physical and psychological abuse on a daily basis, adults treating them like they are no more than objects or slaves?

There is a very interesting academic analysis to be distilled here that I think, or hope, will have an impact on the lives of these children, through hopefully influencing government and NGO work on education. However, for now there are two things mostly on my mind; one is, I have to go back, collect more data, finding the pieces of the puzzle that are still missing. So some of my time for the next two months will be spent on finding financial means to go back. Secondly, on the sensitive side of understanding, I find that Benjamin Clementine’s reprisal of Jimmy Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child” expresses the situation of CAR children better than I ever could; the chaos, fear, insecurity, loneliness…


Don’t wanna think about two times ten plus seven
Oh, this is getting too damn scary
Lord, hope I’m not a voodoo child […]

Standing by in the middle of the road
watching passers by as we go by
and still I’m on front, no I’m on front
as the cops, they come by
So I’m a voodoo child, I’m a voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child […]

I’m sorry for taking your sweet time 
I’ll give it back to you one of these days
if you don’t meet me now, meet me 
when I say goodbye to you
don’t meet me the next world war
I hope you meet me the next one after that
You know, I’m a voodoo chid, I’m a voodoo child 
And lord knows I’m a voodoo child


Marieke Hopman


27 August 2016

What if your grandmother says you can’t go to school?

27 August 2016 | By | No Comments


Max (8): “It is important to study. Sometimes in the morning, my grandmother tells me I have to work in the field. When I tell her I want to go to school, she hits me with a “switch”. Of the scars on my legs, some are from those branches, some are from when I play and I fall. Often I get up early when it is still dark, before everyone else wakes up. I brush my teeth and go to school.”


Children in the Central African Republic often attend school irregularly, or don’t go at all. Most of the population does not know how to read a simple sentence. One of my most important research questions is why for these children their right to education is being violated.

Until now, I find that most children like to learn, and prefer to go to school. However there are many factors that influence their situation. Max’s story is typical. I was very impressed by this boy; such autonomy and willpower! This, also, seems typical for children in the CAR.  

Marieke Hopman


23 August 2016

Update #4, 15-19 August: Bambari

23 August 2016 | By | No Comments

On tuesday 15th August we were supposed to leave for Bambari at 16.00. Unfortunately there were some problems at the bank (they had no cash), and it got later and later …

In the end we left after 18.00 and had to drive to Sibut in the dark, which felt a bit unsafe. Driving in the dark, knowing there might be armed groups around ready to attack and loot the car, you start looking at the road differently. You find yourself watching the hands of people on the side of the road; are they carrying guns? Do they wear amulets (which they believe protects them from bullets)? Fortunately, other than that we killed a pig that was crossing the road, nothing happened.

The next day departure for Bambari at 5.30. The road was again very beautiful, and very bumpy. We stopped along the way so that I could do some interviews. One village chief explained to me that the children in his village could not go to school, because the school was in the neighboring village and the chiefs don’t get along. So the children are not allowed access.

We arrived in Bambari in the late afternoon. Bambari is the second most important city in the country, especially because of its diamond mines. The city is currently divided into two halves, one anti-balaka and one UPC (ex-Seleka) side. MINUSCA, the UN troops, guard the bridge in between. This is why we went for drinks in the bar next to the bridge, even if the music was too loud to be able to talk :-).

Wednesday morning I started by going to the IDP (“Internally Displaced Persons”, meaning people who fled their homes yet stayed in the country) site. There are several IDP sites in and around Bambari, however most of them do not have any schools, and children have not had education for years. I chose to visit a site where they do have an operational school. In addition to interviews, I got to follow a class (see video below). Strikingly, although this education is completely free and even school supplies are paid for by NGOs, in this class almost 20% of the students was absent.

In the afternoon, I did an interview with the Imam of the central Mosque, on the Muslim/UPC side of the city. He explained that at first, due to the fighting it was too unsafe for children to walk to the public school on the other side of the city. Therefore the armed group UPC decided to build its own school. These days, allegedly, they manage a public school, open to both Christian and Muslim children, paid for by the General Ali Darass.

What’s more, we walked over to the school and now that it’s the holidays, they are using the school for adult education. In a country with an extremely high percentage of illiteracy, stumbling across this adult education felt almost like a miracle. The Imam himself told us that he had never been to school and was now taking his first lessons (in yet another location than the one we saw). Word has it that even the General himself is taking lessons, learning how to read and write!

And this coming from an armed group that is normally know for committing human rights violations…Seeing the adults studying, and learning about their investment of money in quality, public education – something the CAR government (at least, the previous governments) does not always seem ready to do – totally blew my mind and especially confused my ideas about right and wrong.


Marieke Hopman


20 August 2016

“I don’t even know how to write my own name”

20 August 2016 | By | No Comments

In a CAR village I spoke to Kafe (12). Kafe has attended a few years of education but then had to stop, both because of insecurity issues – the walk to school is about 2km, and when armed forces are running around this is particularly unsafe – and because his mother wanted him to work in the field with her. He explained that he wants to go back to school, because “I don’t even know how to write my own name, I only know the first two letters”. Together we figured out the other letters and this resulted in him writing his name! (We also wrote his last name, but I left it out for anonymity reasons). 

The story is not exceptional and shows the difficulty of children’s rights to education in the CAR; there is a big problem of access, and even if you do get to a school, the quality of education is often very poor. Kafe himself is going back to school next week, after his aunt offered to pay his school fees (about $4.5).