Eighteen trucks with 1500 teachers on board leave the capital Bangui today to return to their schools and start teaching again.  Credit: Cordaid

Eighteen trucks with 1500 teachers on board leave the capital Bangui to return to their schools and start teaching again. Credit: Cordaid

In March 2013, school abruptly came to an end for thousands of children when Seleka rebels seized power. Armed troops ransacked government buildings, hospitals and schools. Teachers fled to the capital; pupils and their families hid in the fields.

In co-operation with Unicef, Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) has set up a 6-month program to re-open schools. Apart from organising transport for the teachers we will also make sure salaries are paid again. New books and materials provided by Unicef will be distributed and parents will be encouraged to send their children back to school.

Cordaid’s Piet van Gils is in Bangui to arrange the transport of the teachers. “It took quite some effort to get everyone registered on time, to provide them with money for the trip and to get them on to a truck. It will take some of the teachers a week to reach their villages. Once they get there they have to re-equip the school, clean it, or find a temporary building in case their school has been damaged beyond repair. School should resume the second week of September.”

The situation in Bangui is now relatively safe, according to Van Gils. “By day, everyone tries to get on with normal life. By night, however, I have to stay in my hotel. There are regular shooting incidents caused by rebels searching for supporters of the banished president. These cause a lot of damage and force people to flee their homes.

Earlier this week, people from the Boieng district of Bangui sought cover from fighting and plundering Seleka rebels by taking over the runway of the international airport. They refused to leave the runway until police and army had promised to secure the area. The airport is now clear, but they are still blocking the road to the airport. French armed forces are guarding the airport.