This is just a quick message to tell you all that I have arrived safely in the Central African Republic last Wednesday and I am busy setting up the research. So far I have done 3 official interviews, and many unofficial conversations on children’s rights to education in the CAR. It promises to be an interesting research, among other things because a qualitative research on the right to education has not yet been done yet in the country – at least as far as the people who I have been working with know (or from what I’ve been able to find).
Me and my colleague Bonheur and some of his cousins
I am so lucky to be working here with CARITAS (NGO), who have been incredibly supportive of the research and are providing me with all kinds of logistic and practical help (also with security issues as this conflict affected area is far from safe) as well as the chance to exchange thoughts and experiences. They really work closely with the locals – in fact, there is only one European employee I have met so far – which is just perfect for my research purposes. Hopefully this will enable me to really get to understand the child’s right to education from the inside out, even though I never feel more white and different than in Africa.
I am hoping to be able to share some more about the research soon, in between organizing research interviews, visiting places, waiting waiting waiting (it is Africa after all), seeing if the internet is working … So far the plan for next week is: to visit M’Poko refugee camp, the Bangui pediatric hospital, the ministry of education, Kaga Bandoro and the orphanage in Bangui. Which is probably slightly unrealistically ambitious, especially at local (sometimes very frustrating) pace… On the bright side: connecting to children so far has been very powerful and provided me with a lot of inside information. Some of which makes it hard to sleep at night.
Just a quick word to let you know that my field research in the Central African Republic is finally taking concrete shape… I have booked a flight to go Aug 2 – Sept 1 (I intend to go twice, a second time around november), the UN OCHA has offered to send an official letter of invitation and to support me where possible, also I am looking to work together with local offices of UNICEF, Cordaid and Caritas. The best thing is that the people who are currently working there seem very happy for me to come. They explained that whereas neighboring countries are often visited by researches, CAR is not, while there is a great need for knowledge. And this is especially true for the field of education; someone told me the current lack of education in the country is truly dramatic. This is why they are happy to offer their support and advice.
Ex-Seleka rebels man a checkpoint on the eastern fringe of Bambari, on Sept. 24. (Ty McCormick | Foreign Policy)
Personally, I think a big part of the long term solution lies in education. It is only through education that we can offer the population a different future perspective. That we can offer children the means to make a living other than by stealing and looting. That we can teach children how to read and write instead of how to handle a gun. Unfortunately, currently most schools are closed, as you can see in the chart below.
The way it looks now, I am hoping to travel to CAR in February and research the child’s right to education.
As you probably know the plan for my research is to field research in the Central African Republic, to research the right to education there. You have all seen the image of the classrooms taken over by the military and understand the difficulties of the inability to educate a new generation growing up with conflict and violence.
Last week I met with UNICEF employees Esther and Florine. Esther has been working for UNICEF CAR as an emergency officer for two periods, Florine is setting up a cooperation between UNICEF NL and UNICEF CAR, starting an educational program for released child soldiers, which will include research.
The good news is that they are happy to work together. They gave me tons of very useful practical information, including ways to move around (never go alone, prepare for running into roadblocks, it takes about 5 days to get to another city, walking on the street in Bangui is generally OK), and a lot of information on the current situation of education in CAR. In addition they offered help for my research with contacts in the field. I on the other hand have promised to make videos of their education project on the ground and share all data and information. This is a win-win as for me the most use of my research will come if the data are actually being used to inform advocacy and policy.
Hoping I get to go soon, I will stay in touch with UNICEF and especially these two great women. We all have the mission to spread education and improve the chances of the next generation in CAR and therefore I am so happy to work with them!
I was asked about now that I am postponing the CAR field research, what I will be doing during the coming period. Good question – I will be focussing on field research in the Netherlands (on the right to education), and further developing the theoretical part of the research. So in fact some work I was planning to do later will be done now.