19 December 2017
Broken childhoods, small dreams
After living through years of violence, children in the Central African Republic (CAR) dream of a normal life.
After suffering so much, teenagers in the Central African Republic are struggling to dream big. Through these children’s testimonies, we understand their dreams are of normality, hoping to live with food on the table, with functioning schools and healthcare, and maybe, when they grow up, a job that can support their family.
“When the war came to my village, we all fled to the bush. I then decided to go to Bouar, 150 km from home, because I remembered that I had an uncle there. I walked for so long that my feet were swollen. But at least now I feel safe, and I go to school, for the first time in my life,” said Prosper, 13.
“I missed three years of school because of violence. Last year, although my school was open, we lost many days, because whenever we would hear gunfire, we were too scared to go to school. So far, this year has been much more peaceful in Bouar. I love geography and looking at the globe, “ said Maryam, 14.
“I love maths, I really do. But school is difficult because I missed most of the school year last year. After my village was attacked, I fled in one direction and my parents in another, and I spent a long time in the bush. After walking for days, I finally met an uncle who is now taking care of me,” said Hilaire, 14.
“I was only a little girl when the armed group took me. I used to cook for them, but one day one of the group members raped me, he was so violent that he broke one of my teeth, “ said [NAME CHANGED] Elodie, 13.
“My war name was Merciless. The members of the armed group made me do a lot of things. I do not even want to remember… Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I had not been part of the UNICEF rehabilitation programme, “ said [NAME CHANGED] Junior, 16.
“I am so happy that I can go to school in a peaceful environment. I love grammar and history classes. I try to forget the day my village was attacked, with the houses looted and burnt down, “ said Myriam, 10.
“I used to live with my auntie in a village name Pende. When my aunt was killed by gunmen, I ran away to Bocaranga. But then Bocaranga was also attacked. I ran away again and came to Bouar. I feel safer here, but it is hard to catch up at school, “ said Heritier, 13.
“My mother died when I was smaller. Every morning, I have to do the house chores for the family before going to school. And when I come back from school, I have to cook for my little brothers. It is difficult to study, “ said Rita Gracia, 13.
“I joined an armed group because my father and cousin were killed by gunmen, and it made me very angry. Now I am back in school, but it’s difficult with eight children in the house, and my father is dead. I hope that one day I will own a little shop so I can support my family, “ said [NAME CHANGED] Gertrude, 15.
“My mother was killed by the selekas armed group, so I joined the anti balaka as revenge. I was just ten years old, and they used me to alert them when the selekas were coming. Now I love school so much, I want to become a teacher, so I can spend my whole life in a classroom, “ said [NAME CHANGED] Leon, 13.
“I used to be a member of an armed group. But now all I want is to become a civil servant. I want to have a salary and be able to support my family because we are very poor. I know there are no civil servants here in the region, but I will go to Bangui to become one, “ said [NAME CHANGED] François, 14.
“I think I am 14, but I am not sure because my birth certificate was destroyed. I used to live on the opposite side of the bridge that divides Kaga Bandoro. In 2014, we were attacked and fled to the church. Then in October 2016, we were attacked again, so we ran to the MINUSCA site, “ said Jasmine, 14.
“I am soon to give birth to my second child. I hope it will be a boy because I already have a girl. I have not seen my husband in a long time. I hope my children can go to school when they grow up because I never did,” said Gilberte, 15.
“My son Romio is two years old. I was 12 when he was born. I was just a little girl. I take care of him on my own, with my mother. He is a very good baby, and he has just started to call me “mama” and I love that. Maybe I will marry one day, but not now, I am too young, and men are no good, “ said Belvia, 14.
“I started school for the first time on the IDP site, and I love it. I am in third grade now. I have decided to become a doctor because once I was sick and I went to the hospital and this big man, the doctor, treated me. He was very kind. I want to help my people one day, “ said Jospin, 13.
“In 2014, we fled to Chad with my family. Chad was tough, I lived in a refugee camp, it was hot and we did not have much to eat. Then one day my father said we were going back to CAR, I was scared at first because I had seen bad things here, but now I am OK,” said Daoud, 13.