Meet Aclamedie, a determined 14-year-old 6th Grader at Bon Pasteur School in Kanina, near Kolwezi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Aclamedie has defied all odds to pursue an education after escaping the harsh realities of life inside the cobalt mines. Her resilience, along with the support of the GSIF and Bon Pasteur’s Program, has opened doors to a brighter future for her and her family.
Aclamedie recounts her past difficult experiences in the mines, “Life in the mines used to be tough, especially for young girls and women where we used to get constantly abused. I am so sure that if they had not come to rescue me, I would be a prostitute right now. On the other hand, people get hurt seriously all the time. Working at the mines means missing out on getting an education.”
But her life took a hopeful turn when Bon Pasteur’s social workers stepped in. “I’m happy that Bon Pasteur’s social workers got me out of there and took me back to school,” Aclamedie shared with a smile. “They enrolled me in 4th Grade. Before my father died from sickness, I used to go to school and studied until 3rd grade. Then when he died, I remained out of school for three years because it became difficult for my mother to take care of us on her own.”
Her teachers speak highly of her progress, considering her one of the top students in her class. “I love coming to school for different reasons,” Aclamedie explained. “One reason is that because of Bon Pasteur’s teaching and guidance, I am well-behaved and can express myself well. I also now know how to read and write, and with this knowledge, I can either be employed or set up my own business and then earn money to help my family.”
For Aclamedie, school is not just about education; it’s also about proper nutrition and healthcare. “Another thing that I like about school is that they usually give us food,” she expressed gratefully. “At home, most children usually go hungry because their parents cannot afford to buy food for them. By giving us food, they make sure that we come to school. How would we study on an empty stomach? If there were no food, most of us would not be going to school. Thanks too for a dining hall where we can eat well, in peace, and in a clean environment. Another thing that I thank Bon Pasteur for is the clinic. If any of the children fall sick, we are looked after. They give us medicine, and our parents don’t have to pay anything.”
Living on a small piece of land near the city centre, farming to grow food for sale is not a feasible option for Aclamedie’s family. The only possibility would be a small kitchen garden which would not sufficiently feed the family. However, the Bon Pasteur program has empowered her mother with valuable skills in cooking, baking, and selling food by the roadside next to her home. Despite the challenges they still face, Aclamedie holds onto her dreams with unwavering determination, saying, “Even if there are so many problems, I still have hope that I will be able to complete my studies. I’m not sure how I or my mother will afford school fees for secondary school, but I will not give up hope. I will study! I’ve been thinking that I could start a business selling small items. My mother will do the work of going around and selling while I will remain at school – I’ll also never go back to the mines! After secondary school, I hope to go to university and one day open up my own business.”
With her resilience and determination, there’s no doubt that Aclamedie is destined for a future filled with success and possibilities.