“Teaching in Bangui is like cultivating a good tree”

Meet Samson Ngaibona, 39, the director of Benz-Vi School in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic. The school of more than 1000 students had to close its doors due to the massive violent eruptions from December 5, 2013, to March 19 this year. Despite the conflict and unpaid salaries, the enthusiastic teacher has been able to keep the school functioning since then, with rehabilitation support by Finn Church Aid.

How many students do you now have in the school?

“Now, after the rehabilitation work done by Finn Church Aid, the school population is back to the average of 1579 students, which it had before the escalation of the conflict. We now have between 50 and 60 people per classroom. Thanks to the rehabilitation, classrooms are now less crowded, and teachers feel more comfortable and professional in their duties.”

How does the ongoing conflict affect your staff and students? How about the school functions?

“In the spring, the first problem was security, so schools were not accessible. Then, the reality was that many children had witnessed the death of one or both parents and kept their trauma inside. Also, the lack of materials, such as pencils and textbooks were a big impediment to good pedagogy.” “In fact, with the collapse of the state authority, Benz-Vi missed teh state’s essential contribution in order to allow the school to function.“

How is it possible to guarantee the quality of education in difficult circumstances?

“Teachers, despite having their salaries resumed, are still waiting for their salaries from previous months. Nevertheless, most of them came to school to teach during the violence, even for just a few children present, as they were driven by a strong sense of patriotism and affection for the children, and respect for the school institution.”

How did you, yourself came to work in the field of education?

“I was born in Koumra, Chad, where my parents emigrated in order to find a living. I had a vocation there when I was 12 years old. I followed the example of my own teachers in Chad, who pushed and motivated me to become a teacher myself. Since then, I always praised the God for that moment and now I am happy and thankful.” “I came back to Bangui in 1990, and since September 2008 I’ve become a director at Benz-Vi School. I’m really proud of being a good example for the children.”

What is the main thing that you hope children learn in your school?

“Around 10 of my previous students have now become good state officials in different fields. For me, it is like cultivating a good tree, to prepare future state officers with a great sense of dignity, love for the people, sense of loyalty and values with solid integrity. So that one day they can replace me in my position and participate in the development of CAR.” “To teach children how to read and write is my duty, I am sad, when I see children that do not come to school, and I do my best to encourage as many of them as possible to attend.”

Originally published at ReliefWeb 11.8.2014