Thirteen kilometers was the distance the children of Nkanka had to walk every morning under the hot sun or in heavy rain in order to reach the nearest school and receive education. They walked for hours and hours out of their longing for education, without minding fatigue, as long as they could have access to schooling. What about the children who could not walk, or whose parents could not afford to pay the school fees? Well, in the Congo, there is no such gift as free education, as in Greece. Students have to pay in order to be educated; otherwise they remain illiterate in their mud huts in the forest and spend their time helping their parents cultivate a little orchard or taking down bananas or other forest fruit from the trees. One could easily see the complaint in their eyes, in their expression. «We’ll remain illiterate, while our friends and other children whose parents have money to pay for schooling may walk miles and miles every day, but at least they go to school, they receive education. As for us, alas, we will never be given the chance to learn to read and write; we will remain illiterate.»
Their tearful eyes did not escape the notice of His Eminence Ignatius, Metropolitan of Central Africa at the time, who built the St. Nectarios School next to the Candlemas Church at the edge of the Nnanka village.
However, it was not possible to run the school and afford its maintenance and operation without funding. The parents, poor people themselves, were not able to afford tuition fees. The building was made, but there was no money for its running costs. How could the teachers, the staff, the operational costs be paid? By no chance could the Metropolis respond to so costly a project. The economic crisis in Greece had a devastating impact on church missions as well. Donations have fallen short of our expectations. Our anxiety is increasing; how will this school work?
Then a Greek man from Kinshasa, Congo, along with his son undertook the burden of its operation. Every month they paid the teachers and covered the running costs. In the first year we had 100 children enrolling in the first grade. Some of them, even if they were 15-16 year- olds who had never been to school before, rushed to enroll. The forest children were given the chance to receive free education. They would not have to walk for miles and miles anymore. The number of students was growing, the school was functioning properly, and eventually we had the first graduates from Primary School. The children wanted to further their education, so last year we had the first Middle School classes operating as well.
The children did not have to walk long distances every day. The smile on the faces of the children, particularly those who could not go to school before, flashed. Cheerful voices were heard now, for now they had a school.
A Greek man from Kinshasa with his son helped so many trapped in poverty children study, and made them smile again. These two people gave the poor forest children, the children of Nkanka, the chance to have access to free schooling. These are the Greeks of Kinshasa, the Greeks of the Congo, always by the Church, supporters of the Mission, who love, embrace and sympathize with their indigenous brothers and sisters.
However, one day this great benefactor passed away. Since then, his son has made great efforts and sacrifices to keep the school open by paying its running costs, something extremely difficult since the financial crisis has struck the Congo as well and is on the increase. Naturally, it is becoming more and more difficult for the school operation to be continued without everyone’s support. Every month € 850 must be gathered for salary payment to the teachers and the rest of the staff as well as for the operating costs. The St. Nektarios School, the one next to the forest, the Nkanka school, where the poor indigenous children are given the chance to study and hope for a better future.
Which warm-hearted philanthropist will help these poor underprivileged children to continue going to school every morning and dare dream of a better life? Who will help us save our school from closure?
† Nikiphoros of Kinshasa