“I want to finish my education so I be President of the country and I can stop the war!” she said excitedly. “Well Madame President,” I said, “I think that sounds like an excellent idea.”

I was sitting with a group of girls and their mothers in Eastern, Democratic Republic of the Congo talking about education. None of the girls are currently in school and their mothers have no education themselves; over 50 percent of women aged 15-24 are illiterate. More than 7.5 million children are out of school in the DRC with an estimated 31 percent of children never having seen the inside of a classroom.

The girls I’m currently speaking with left school within the last three years because their families simply couldn’t afford the $5/month cost. They now spend their days at home, cooking and cleaning, and in the fields alongside their mothers cultivating groundnuts, cassava, beans and maize. The girls are worried about being forced into marriage at a young age. “When girls are not in school, they are married,” they say.

War Child Canada is working to change that.

The organization is offering radio-based school programs for the girls. The girls listen to lessons on radio, in groups with the supervision of an education assistant. The goal is to get the girls caught up on their education so that they can re-enter the formal secondary school system. And it’s a goal that is critical to the girls and to the country. On average, only 46% of girls complete primary school with only 28% enrolling in secondary school.

Our time together finishes with me asking the girls why they want to study. “An education is important,” they say, “because when we study we have the chance to work and help others, our families and our future children.”

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