The Central African Republic is second worst country in the world for children to live and grown up being ranked in 188th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and the living standards of a country and second only to Niger. Life expectancy for a children there is just 53.28 years (2019) ~ although an improvement on 2002 when life expectancy was only 44.29 years ~ and CAR has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world running at 110.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019. Despite being rich in natural resources including diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil, around 71% of the Central African Republic's population live below the international poverty line and, due to the ongoing conflicts, as of 30th June 2021, 2.8 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and over 717,000 people had been internally displaced in the country, based on the UN Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict's figures.
Children in CAR will belong to one of a number of ethnic groups with Gbaya, also known as the Gbeya or Baya, being the largest at around a third of the overall population. They live in the western region of Central African Republic and also east-central Cameroon, the north of the Republic of Congo, and the north-west of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Banda people are the second largest group at 27% of the population who are also found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and South Sudan. Other groups include the Mandjia (13%), Sara (10%), Mbum (7%), Baka (4%, known in the Congo as Bayaka) whilst others including the Zande, Kresh, Yakoma, Ngbandi, Runga, Yulu, Mongo, Aka, Vidiri and Sango make up around 6% of the population. 61% in the Central republic are Protestant, 28% Catholic, 9% Muslim and those with no religious beliefs or in traditional religious groups make up an estimated 2% of the population.
Children in the Central African Republic typically, at least in rural areas, live in homes made from sundried brick and thatched with grass (below), however these homes are in need of constant state of repair because of termites. Floors are traditionaly formed using pounded earth, on which children sleep on mats with their parents normally using home-made beds. Often the inside will be just one room however some will be divided and few rural homes have a latrine, practising open defecation. The home in CAR is rarely used as a place to live and socialise, rather somewhere to sleep with children in particular preferring to sleep on the veranda during the hot season. Nearby will be a goat pen and food is prepared at a family hearth situated in the front of the dwelling. Children traditionally live in family units comprising biological parents, siblings and sometimes other close relatives with aunts and uncles taking an active part of the childrens upbringing and it is not uncommon for rural children to be sent away to live with and serve adult kin in exchange for receiving an education in a larger town or village.
The positioning and layout of homes in the country is very open so that passers-by can be seen, greeted, and engaged in conversation in a society where concealment and secrecy violate cultural norms. Although access to safe water is improving in the Central African Republic, insufficient infrastructure development and financial and political instability has slowed that development with a recent study by in the Advanced in Social Sciences Research Journal, noting water quality was subject to "contamination of fecal microorganisms, excessive use of agrochemicals, uncontrolled discharges from industries and solid and liquid waste from households and municipal". Unsuprisingly, gastrointestinal diseases and infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, polio and shigellosis are prevalent and access to safe drinking water is even more difficult for those displaced by the violence.
Children in the Central African Republic have eight years of compulsory, but free, education between the ages of ages of 6 to 14, with an educational system comprising nursery (which caters for 4-6 year olds in preparation for their formal education) , primary, secondary, and then higher education. Because of the chronic lack of school buildings, classes are often held outside. As such, during the May to October rainy season, schooling can be severely disrupted. In the north of the country, facilities are often referred to as 'bush schools' with furniture made from tree trunks and no or few educational materials with up to five children sharing a makeshift desk. These are effectively 'pop-up' schools (below) which can be quickly fled if armed rebels groups start opertaing in the area so children are not trapped inside and there is little to destroy.
Primary education itself is split in two; Primary One and Primary two with Primary One beginning at six years old and lasting for five years with students who pass their exams being promoted to Primary Two (Middle Education sometimes called Lower secondary) around the age of 11 which continues for a further four years. Students who fail to progress to Primary Two can instead undertake vocational training which is highly practical, focussing on teaching how to grow their own food and sell any surlus or helping children caught up in the conflict readjust to 'normal' life. Students who satisfactorily complete both primary levels are eligible for secondary education that lasts for three years until about the age of 18 with students opting for either technical or academic streams.
The former offers training for various trades for which proficiency certificates are awarded whilst the academic stream offers the school secondary baccalaureate which can be used as an entry to university. That is the plan. The reality is less impressive, especially for girls, with only 65% of them starting their primary eduaction and just 23% completing the full period as ever because work and domestic chores are considered more important and parents prefer their older girls to marry and have children. Overall boys attend school for an average 5.6 years out of the compulsory eight, whilst girls achieve an average of 3 years. Little wonder the country's literacy rate is a desultory 37.4 % (2018) with overal education being impacted by the destruction of schools during the conflict, displacement of the population, poverty and the number of qualified teachers who died as a result of AIDS (together with those who walk out due to non-payment of wages). The latest value of spending on education in the Central African Republic is 1.77% (2019) of GDP. For comparison, it is 3.1043% in Tanzania, 5.08% in Kenya, 7.375% in Lesotho and 4.4652% in Zambia. The world average in that year based on 101 countries is 4.18%.
There are approximately 1.85 million children in the Central African Republic, and 350,000 of them are orphans, some reports estimate that 72,000 of these are orphaned through AIDS, others double that figure. Many of these orphans will end up on the streets where they will be at increased risk of child trafficking and abducted for forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation with a number being sold abroad to Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The video below shows aspects of life in the Central African Republic however because the country is considered such a dangerous place following decades of internal conflict particularly around the neighbouring nations of Chad, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there are few charities who are able to operate there as the government is unable to ensure their security. One charity, as ever, is SOS Children's Villages who run a number of facilities in the Central African Republic so, if you are interested in supporting children in the country, why not pay their website (below) a visit?
Children in the Central African Republic (CAR): SOS Children's Villages
Children in the Central African Republic (CAR): Central African Republic Street Children
Sponsor Children in the Central African Republic
Children in the Central African Republic (CAR): Volunteer in Central African Republic
Central African Republic Profile
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