Life in Congo
Kids in Congo do the same kinds of things all kids do. The ways they do some of these things may be different because they live in different circumstances. But kids are kids, wherever they live! Here you can find out what it’s like to be a kid in Congo: playing (hint: they don’t have video games!), going to school, getting sick, going to church, and growing up in a Congolese family.
Boys in Congo like to play soccer. They don’t often have soccer balls, so they use anything that’s big and round. Sometimes they even use a large round fruit, like a grapefruit! (Don’t try that at home!) They’re good at making model trucks and planes out of balsa wood and clay, and even the young ones learn to roll hoops, like old bicycle wheels, with sticks. Boys love to just run around together in the tall grasses, and climb trees, and play tag. They go down to the nearest river to swim and play.
Girls don’t get to play as much as boys because they start helping their mothers when they’re about 5 years old. But they still have fun. They jump rope, talk, dress up and fix each other’s hair. They love to dance and to sing, in choirs or on their own.
Girls have a favorite game they play that’s called Tobeta Maboko. They face each other and jump and clap together to a certain rhythm. Whoever has her feet in the right places on the last beat is the winner. (You can find directions for playing Tobeta Maboko in Ideas for Groups.)
Going to School
There are more boys than girls going to school in Congo, and that’s something we hope will change. Families have to pay a small fee for each child who goes to school. If a family doesn’t have enough to pay for all their kids, they send the boys but not the girls. That’s not fair to the girls, of course, but many families in Congo think it doesn’t matter as much for girls to get an education. Most girls will go to the first few grades, but not beyond that.
Many villages have only a primary school. After that, the kids have to go to another town for school. That means the kids stay in the school town during the week, living with relatives or maybe in a dormitory. On the weekends they walk home, then walk back again when the weekend is over.
When a child in a village in Congo gets sick, it’s not as easy to go to a doctor as it is for us. Many villages are a long ways from a hospital.
If kids are too sick to just get over it at home, their parents take them to a clinic. There are a lot more clinics than hospitals, but even so, it takes a long time to walk there or to carry a child on a bicycle. There’s a nurse at the clinic, and there are some medicines.
If a child is really sick and needs a doctor, the family has to take him or her to a hospital. That takes a long time and is very hard because there are no ambulances in the villages, and people don’t have cars. At the hospital a doctor can examine the child and treat him or her with medicines, or even an operation if needed.
The hospitals aren’t as comfortable as we have in our country. Some of the beds have mats instead of mattresses, and there isn’t as much special equipment as we have here. Also, the hospitals in Congo don’t provide meals, so a patient’s family has to come along and make food for the patient to eat!
Going to Church
Church services are a little different from services here in our country. They are longer, with more singing and some dancing — in fact, there are often several choirs at a church service, some made up of girls and some of adults. Choirs usually dance as well as sing. And when the church takes the offering, instead of passing a basket through the rows, as most of our churches do, in Congo the people stand up and start dancing, and they dance their gifts up to the front where big baskets are waiting. They celebrate giving!
One man from Congo who is living in the U.S. says church is one of the things he misses most about Congo. A church service over there is more active than here. It’s a celebration, even a kind of entertainment. (Remember, there are no movies or TV or iPods in Congo!) Kids look forward to it. They dress up in their good clothes, and they get to see their friends.
Growing Up in a Congolese Family
Families in Congolese villages usually have 4 or 5 children, the same as many North American families. Kids live with parents who love them, make sure they have what they need, and correct them when they do something wrong.
But there is a difference in how it feels to grow up in a Congolese village family. Life in Congo is more open, more shared with the people living around you. Think about it this way:
If your family has ever gone camping, you know that you sleep in a tent and spend lots of time outside. (Let’s magically make the weather beautiful.) You eat outside, you take hikes or climb or swim, you might even sit outside and read a book.
Now imagine you go camping with your aunt and uncle and cousins. They have their own tent, set up near yours. You and your cousins explore the area and do fun things together. Your mom and your aunt probably work together on fixing meals, and you all eat together at a big picnic table. You can be alone by going into your tent, but mostly everybody is outside together. At night, each family sleeps in its own tent.
Growing up in Congo is something like that. The people in the village are all related to each other, and they live more together than apart. If a man goes hunting and brings back some meat, he invites his neighbors to come eat with his family. The women gather food and cook and do other daily chores together, so the little children are together too.
If someone in the village needs help, their neighbors (even the kids) come to help without even being asked. If you do something wrong, any adult who is there will scold you and tell you what’s right. When the mangoes are ripe, anyone can take a mango from anybody’s tree.