'We’re just children caught in the middle'
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Fiston is just 14 years old. He’s endured violence and displacement, yet is finding a way to keep up his studies even in the midst of the crisis in DRC.
I’m in the sixth grade at Kabeya Kamuanga School. It’s been a few months since my life changed completely and I went from being a normal student to the life of struggle that we have now.
For many months, there has been conflict in my region. It’s a war between adults, but of course it’s affected every child in Kasaï. Instead of letting grownups talk for us, I’m going to write my story so you might understand what’s happened to me and thousands of other children here.
The militias came to my village one day a few months ago. When they came, everybody fled and left everything behind. Filled with fear and running in the rain, I lost sight of my parents so I followed some neighbours into the jungle where I could hide and wait for the fighting to end. I spent two days in the jungle and I was terrified.
When I returned, my parents were no longer there – they had gone elsewhere. So, I walked more than 45km to try to find my parents. I was overjoyed to find them at my uncle’s house. After we were reunited, we went towards Mbuji Mayi to wait for the situation to improve.
I didn’t go to school for more than three months, at a time when I had to pass the National exams at the end of the year. I was worried that I wouldn’t pass and wouldn’t be able to move on to the higher class.
Then I learned that UNICEF was in my hometown of Kabeya Kamuanga. I told my parents that we should try to return home so that I could study and pass the test. They say that education is the future – why shouldn’t I have the right to a future, too? We returned to Kabeya Kamuanga, and my classmates and I were lucky to get support with our studies.
There are thousands of children just like me. I am so lucky that I still have parents, that I wasn’t injured, and that I’m in good health.
My friend wasn’t so lucky. He is only 10, but he’s now blind in his left eye because when he was fleeing from the attacks on his village, he fell and injured his eye. Since then, he hasn’t been able to see and his parents don’t have the money to pay for treatment. How can he study and get a job? I hear so many sad stories like his and it makes me so sad when I think about how things were before the conflict.
I’m so glad that all my work in school was not lost, that I was able to take the exams and move up to the next class. But the whole area has been torn apart. A child shouldn’t be the victim of adult conflicts. We’re just children caught in the middle.
This post was developed with the support of UNICEF staff on the ground in Kasai, DRC who worked with Fiston to share his story.