Democratic Republic of the Congo and the LCL
For more than 20 years, the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been torn apart by conflict, sexual violence, corruption, and chaos. It has been dubbed “the worst place in the world to be a woman” and “the deadliest conflict since world war two.” It is mired at the very bottom of most international development indexes.
Since 1996, millions of people in eastern DR Congo have died and millions more have been displaced because of ongoing violence. What little infrastructure remained from the brutal regime of Mobutu Sese Seko has been mostly destroyed. Hospitals, schools, and roads have disappeared or have fallen into hopeless disrepair. In a cruel irony, the DR Congolese constitution guarantees all children a free education but in eastern DR Congo there is no such thing. Since the average person earns around two dollars a day, few can afford the mandatory school fees, uniforms, and supplies. This means another generation of young people will be denied a basic education. With no newspapers and no libraries, access to information by young people is impossible. But they are thirsty for it.
The development of a modern, democratic society depends on quality education as well as free, unlimited access to information. The Lumumba Children’s Library and Learning Center (LCL), in the provincial capitol of Goma, will be a beacon of hope and knowledge for young people. The LCL aims to be a grassroots gateway to the basic conditions for lifelong learning habits for Goma’s youth. By increasing access to reading materials, including opportunities for reading groups, reading instruction, English language learning programs, and a space to share ideas and experiences, boys and girls can begin to cultivate independent decision-making and critical thinking whether they are in school or not. Ultimately, the project will give youth access to tens of thousands of books, from beginning readers to young adults, including textbooks, e-books, books in different languages, and learning programs using the latest technology.
For the first time ever in eastern DR Congo, disenfranchised young girls and boys who would otherwise have no access to books or information will begin to know what it is like to fall in love with learning. The effect on youth, their families, and DR Congolese society, will be profound and lasting.
Patrice Lumumba, our namesake
Patrice Lumumba was the first ever democratically-elected leader of the DRC. He led the country as prime minister for only a short time, before he was deposed and later assassinated. Elected after the DRC won their independence from Belgium, his vision for an educated and politically-active public inspires citizens of the DRC to this day.