Save The Children Pushes Congolese Teens To Keep Their Babies

A 12-year-old from Goma, DRC, recounts how the international NGO persuaded her to keep her baby.

In Goma, DRC
In Goma, DRC
Cosmas Mungazi

GOMA — The girls, all of them under 18 and all pregnant, are taking the courtyard outside the Murara Hospital by storm.

The mothers-to-be are here in the eastern Congolese city of Goma to attend a course on the importance of seeing their pregnancies through, and then keeping the children once they are born. They are also being encourage to deliver their babies at the hospital.

"This will reduce the number of children thrown in the gutters and in the lake, a situation that spiralled out of control in 2012," says Joseph Makundi, a sociologist in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who notes that authorities find as many as five dead babies a week.

The course is overseen and sponsored by the NGO Save the Children. The classes, as well as maternity fees and medication, are provided free of charge.

Deborah Kavira, 15, was considering abortion after she was told that her pelvis was too narrow to give birth "the natural way." In the end, with the hospital's help, her delivery took place just as she had hoped. "I didn't know I could give birth without an operation," she says.

Since the classes began in October, six out of the 30 girls who attended have already had their babies.

Makundi points to data available since 1995 showing high levels of sexual activity among 15 to 19-year-olds. Among those who end up pregnant, 38% have a voluntary abortion and 13% have a miscarriage.

The girls attending the class come from all over the city. Among them is a 12-year-old who proudly explains that she would have had an abortion if it were not for the hospital and the NGO's intervention and help.

Moïse Lokoto, field manager at Save The Children, says abortions can be caused by various factors. Some do it because they don't know who the father is. Others because their partner doesn't want to accept the responsibility for fear of being accused of sexual assault on the young mother.

"Besides the medication and maternity fees, Save The Children provides these girls with a complete package for the child, with a blanket, soap and diapers," explains Mugole Muhindo, a nurse at the hospital.

But not all of the girls are happy about this type of support. Some say that what they really need is money. "It would be better for us if we were given a certain sum to support us and the child for the first few months," says Bora Salima, who was transferred to hospital after her baby's birth following complications.

The transfer left her with a $41 bill that Save The Children didn't cover. "They said they'd take care of everything," she says.

A source at the NGO denies that the organization ever made such a promise. The Save the Children official says they makes it clear that it does not pay for surgical interventions or complications that would require a longer stay in hospital.

Either way, Salima's case demonstrates the limits — or even the opposite effects — of this kind of targeted support.

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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