Our values and actions
Prosper, Abib, Belinda, Kalanga… four smart children aged 9 to 13, all ambitious and imbued with a rosy view of the future. Four children, much like many others around the world. Apart from the fact that we are in Kindu, capital of Maniema province, one of the most deprived provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Belinda is 12 years old, came top of her class in the sixth year of primary school by scoring 96%, loves Maths and French and plays basketball three times a week. Prosper is only nine, but he is second in his class in the fourth year of primary school with marks of 91%, loves history, geography, French and maths, in that order, and plays football five times a week.
These children go to school in Lumbu-Lumbu, the poorest district of Kindu. Their school is exceptional. For in February 2011, it was just an 800 m2 plot of land overgrown with vegetation. In the space of three months, two school buildings were erected, and in September 112 children passed through the entrance for the first time.
Since then work has started on a university, a canteen, a library and a secondary school are up and running, an expanding hospital welcomes patients, and villas enjoying a wonderful view of the river now make up the Giving is also offering quality Mapon complex.
This whole complex is an initiative of Matata Ponyo Mapon, a native son who is passionate about development and who believes there are solutions to the economic underdevelopment of countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. This man became Minister of Finance before being appointed Prime Minister, even as the country was experiencing average growth rates of 8%. He is a great believer in rigorous management of public finances, the rational and efficient use of public money as well as the sustained use of reforms in every sector – all serving as levers to solve the challenge of underdevelopment.
At his initiative the country increased the share of the education budget to 16% of the general budget. He has also called for a strengthening of the Global Partnership for Education’s intervention capabilities. The more resources this fund can gather, the faster disadvantaged children will find new hope. This initiative has one goal: to develop national competences and turn the nation’s geological, energy, tourism and fishing resources into wealth benefiting the people of Congo.
A legal framework was needed to make the Lumbu-Lumbu school project a reality. As a non-governmental organisation, the Mapon Foundation was able to do this. The framework’s introduction notes that farmers are not supported by the government, even though they make a significant contribution to the national economy. However, it does acknowledge that farmers can determine their own future through union, mutual aid and community spirit.
The Mapon Foundation was born on 15 February 2007 and operates nationally. Its goals include creating the resources or capabilities to fight poverty among the working population; to undertake and implement rural and urban development projects; and to support farmers in their diverse activities.
Learning and personal growth at primary school
The primary school, run by Mr Kamango, has expanded greatly since 12 September 2011. For the 2015-2016 academic year, it had 251 pupils including 156 girls; 77% of the children live in Lumbu-Lumbu. However the headmaster says that he now gets approached by parents who live far from Kindu: two pupils even come from Lubumbashi.
The goal for full development of the project is to have 18 primary-level classes, with three classes per base year and two classes for the end of primary education. The school managers are close to reaching their goal, as there are now 11 classes, two per base year and one for the sixth year. Thirteen teachers share the teaching duties, including 11 who are permanent, one ‘support teacher’ who looks after the library and an English and IT teacher who also teaches English in the secondary school. Making up the team is a sport teacher for the primary and secondary pupils.
The children start their day by singing, then prayers, followed by the national anthem and announcements before lessons begin. The main aim is to underline that schooling at Mapon springs from the grace of God. Without God, you struggle.
Ready for secondary school!
The 2015-2016 year was the first in the secondary school under Mr Onema, with a total of 87 pupils, including 35 girls: 60% of the pupils are from further afield, with two from Bukavu, two from Goma, and one from Kinshasa who had asked to be enrolled. The two classes in the primary school and two classes in the secondary school are remarkable for having pupils who came from further afield and didn’t know the Mapon Complex. The first pupils from the sixth year of primary school only moved up to the secondary school at the start of the 2016 academic year. Six teachers look after all the lessons for the four classes.
The school’s success can partly be attributed to the staffing levels. Each secondary class has no more than 25 pupils and each pupil sits alone on their bench, which means they have to work by themselves. The pupils are given 11 books at the start of the year and must hand these back during school holidays.
Sport, library and activities
Each school week also includes an hour devoted to using the library. The way these pupils return to their classes goes against most people’s view of modern teenagers. The day starts at 07.15 with a prayer followed by a pupil reading aloud from a class book for 10 minutes. Pupils are then asked to analyse the reading and correct any mistakes. The goal is to encourage expressive reading and to make children more confident when addressing an audience. Next comes the national anthem and the start of classes at 07.30.
The 2016-2017 school year is notable for focusing on two subjects: maths-physics and industrial electronics. The goal is to train technicians who will later go to the Mapon University without having to do a preparatory year.
A word more on the English taught to all classes in the primary and secondary schools. The governors are committed to educating individuals who will become fully bilingual or trilingual, and who can be part of the modern economy where fluency in English is an asset. Anyone wishing to go the university will need to have a good knowledge of English.
What makes the Mapon school complex so unique? It’s a private school with the motto ‘God, Family, Work’. It is free. It delights in seeing children excel in everything. Teaching is based on an active and participative method, where the teacher puts children at the heart of teaching. Careful monitoring of the activities and subjects included on the programme, through meetings on a weekly, monthly and annual basis, ensures that each child has genuinely learned from the programme. The goal is to achieve excellence.
Something else sets this school apart. The pupils have a recognisable uniform comprising a scarf with the school’s colours, a red tie like that of its founder, a uniform kit and a bag, plus unique exercise books and a school diary. It’s worth mentioning that the red tie is seen by Mr Mapon as a symbol of discipline and good governance for managing public affairs and, in this college, for managing private affairs.
How does one define a model pupil? It’s someone who has the same attitude at home, at school, and when out and about. Someone who watches their words when addressing people, whilst acting wisely. Pupils should be polite, respectful and have a sense of responsibility. In secondary school, pupils should behave well and be self-disciplined, hard-working and single-minded. When recruiting for the secondary as well as the primary schools, social class should never be taken into consideration. What counts here is selection on the basis of merit, through tests of French, maths and general culture. Year one is free, however it is understood that the children at secondary level will make financial contributions in line with their parents’ means.
Pupils enjoy healthy food from a local pilot farm
Last but not least, the school is notable for serving free hot meals every day to all pupils at 12.30 precisely. This is because it was found that meals were not always provided in the first year, and those children who didn’t eat well at home no longer attended classes: only 92 of the 112 pupils enrolled in the class managed to complete their year. Since children from poor backgrounds were being enrolled, it was obvious that the school itself would have to provide balanced meals. The canteen therefore offers a variety of meals with protein from animals or plants, as well as organic and locally sourced food from a farm belonging to the Mapon Complkex. It is home to four cooks who serve up to 400 meals daily, including for the teachers and staff.
The island next to the Mapon Complex, covering a total of 34 hectares, was first cultivated in December 2015. Guided by the agricultural engineer Charles Mendje Uka, 25 people are employed there, including 19 workers. Vegetables and fruit take up two hectares, corn and soya 10 hectares, while manioc and bean crops account for 10 hectares. The farm had a tricky start, especially due to landslides in the wet season. Yet today 65% of the farm’s production goes to the Mapon Foundation, both the school and hospital. Food grown is guaranteed to be organic, fertilised with a mixture of organic and plant materials.
The goal now is to increase production by calling on new farming techniques, to sell seed to small farmers and to train agricultural monitors who will be able to share their know-how with people across the region. Apart from the school children at the Mapon Complex, one of the districts in the town of Kindu also benefits from this food aid. Charles Mendje Uka likes to point out that, from 1975 to 1980, Maniema province was a major farming region. Thanks to the relatively small area under cultivation on the island, prices at the market in Kindu have come down as a result of improved productivity.
Teaching begins at 07.30 from Monday to Saturday and continues until lunch-time. The school also organises extracurricular activities, such as football and basketball, with matches between schools and classes. Moreover there are plans to offer handball, volleyball and tennis. Pupils play sport in the afternoon, as the complex is open for them.
A socially oriented hospital bringing hope
Mapon Foundation pupils are entitled to consultations at the neighbouring hospital, where some 96 medical procedures are performed each month on average. This hospital is a key part of the Mapon Complex. Run by Dr Baron Ngasia, it is an establishment with a social function, providing quality care to the poorest people while those who can afford it make financial contributions through the ‘invoice categorisation’ system. In other words, the needy are offered free care.
Specialities at the hospital are paediatrics, general medicine, surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics, ear, nose and throat doctors and dentistry. There is also an imaging department with a working scanner, a brandnew 4D ultrasound scanner, and traditional radiography which will soon go digital. The hospital also has an automated laboratory for sophisticated bacteriological studies, something rather novel in this province.
Preventive medicine focuses on mothers but also covers vaccination in schools. Medical records are digital and doctors cannot access patients’ financial records.
The hospital has a staff of 18 nurses, three permanent doctors and 12 collaborating doctors for 32 beds, plus four incubators and six baby beds. A building currently under construction will complete the complex, notably in terms of surgery, making up a total of 42 beds. The most common illnesses are malaria, diabetes, typhoid, as well as neonatal and urinary infections. The hospital also typically does eight surgical operations a month. The chief preventive programmes include fighting HIV and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The objective over the next five to 10 years is to extend preventive and school medicine throughout the town.
High tech serving the nation
A key pillar of the school and hospital complex is the university now under construction. This hospital is a natural extension of the Foundation’s goal of having primary and secondary schools, with children taught both intellectual rigour and discipline. Yet this rationale has been carefully thought through, as the aim is still to educate men and women who will one day devote themselves to the nation’s development. There is still much to do here, but the Mapon Foundation intends to form top engineers capable of becoming employees in Congolese economy industries or to educate legions of researchers now needed for Congo’s industrial and technological development.
The university will comprise six departments, covering electricity and electronics, mechanics, mines, economics, computers and mathematics and applied physics. There will be a focus on recruiting top academic and administrative staff, by means of top-class workshops and laboratories, with the power required for their regular operation. More than 6,000 m2, spread over three levels, will host a lecture hall with 400 seats, four halls with 300 seats, 12 halls with 120 seats, five halls with 60 seats and a 500-seat library with more than 30,000 books in a wide range of subjects.
Eventually, these facilities will be home to 3,500 students. There will also be eight practical workshops, two laboratories and two IT centres. Recruitment of the resident teachers, whether Congolese or from abroad, such as the visiting teachers (both French- and Englishspeaking), will be organised according to specific criteria such as no favouritism.
Thinking back to his own education, Mr Mapon is still moved by the aura of his economics teacher, Professor Jean-Jacques Mwalaba Kasangana. He left a lasting impression on his students, thanks to values based on high scientific and moral standards, punctuality and fair treatment, honesty and intellectual honesty. All in all, this teacher was a “fair man”.
The university will offer a sports complex and accommodation for visiting teachers.
Encouraged by his father and with the support of his mother, this native son who grew up in a house built of adobe bricks and with a straw roof, lacking water or electricity, has come a long way. In order to fund his son’s studies, the father had to sell his beloved typewriter. The young man’s five year-long university course was very tough for him. This may explain why his friends called him ‘Iveco’, after the advert for trucks ‘which never get tired, no matter the circumstances’. The Mapon Foundation is living proof that this man, blessed with such a bright future, has continually striven to give back to society by investing in people. Its aim is to take the children of Kindu, and those of his childhood neighbours, right to the very top.