“We believe the best gift you can give to children is education.”
So says Fahamu Phanuel, a social innovator who is quietly transforming his nation from the inside out.
Fahamu, who lives and works in the Democratic Republic of Congo, began starting preschools in rural villages in 2015. Trying to use what resources these communities already had, he and his small team trained Sunday School teachers to open preschools in church buildings during the week.
“We grew very fast,” Fahamu says, “in those 16 villages everyone wanted to have a preschool. The first year we had 700 children. The second year 1,100. The third year, 1,700 children.” They now oversee 53 preschools in these 16 communities.
During the DRC’s recent civil war, these villages lost everything to rebel groups. Now, they want to rebuild and give their children the opportunity of education. Fahamu sees great opportunity in providing education and job skill training to older youth as well, who never had the chance of education. In the past few years, they have begun offering microloans to widows to begin their own small businesses. Because teachers currently volunteer their time instead of receiving a salary, they hope to begin a pig project soon that would start a small herd for each community, giving them a source of income and autonomy. As you can see, their vision is holistic and large enough to engage the whole community in sustainable change.
We met Fahamu for the first time during our meetings last month in Tanzania. When we asked Fahamu what has kept these children out of school until now, he had one word: “Poverty.” Transport from their remote villages, school uniforms, and enrollment fees are all costly. However, it is encouraging for him to see how highly these communities value education, and welcome their beginning efforts with open arms.
As part of the newly formed East Africa Educational Alliance, Fahamu will be part of a working group to collaborate on teacher training resources. He also attended our meetings around sustainable social enterprise, connecting with other leaders who are finding creative solutions to fund their growing initiatives. We look forward to continue our partnership with Fahamu in building sustainable solutions to the lack of education in rural DRC.
When asked why he began training teachers three and a half years ago, Fahamu explains,“We saw we could invest in these children something valuable.”
“There is no basic gift you can give to a child, if it’s not education.”