By Bismack Biyombo
The Democratic Republic of Congo often ends up at the bottom of lists that rank countries’ level of education.
And while it is true that the statistics on education in the DRC are not encouraging, I am confident that smart investments can help the country’s youth create a brighter future.
7 million Congolese primary school-age children – or 25% of kids in that age group who could be going to school – are out of school, and millions more are in school without learning.
Girls are particularly suffering from the lack of access to a formal education: According to UNICEF, between 2009-2013, the literacy rate for Congolese girls aged 15-24 was 53%, compared to 79% for boys.
In eastern Congo – where I was born – widespread poverty and a lack of resources make it difficult for children, particularly former child soldiers and at-risk youth, to access education and lead a normal life.
I visited eastern Congo earlier this year to see with my own eyes how investments in local organizations have created new opportunities in the region.
What I saw gave me hope for the future of my country.
I had the chance to meet with kids from Promotion of Youth Basketball that teaches thousands of boys and girls sports while instilling values such as self-confidence, integrity, and leadership.
I saw in these kids qualities that my basketball coaches saw in me when I joined the NBA at the age of 18: Talent, ambition, self-respect, and leadership.
These young adults, much like myself, had to face countless challenges growing up in a region ravaged by 15 years of war, so their determination to make a better future for themselves is incredibly impressive.
Their entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to continue working for a flourishing Congo where all boys and girls can get the education they deserve.
Bismack Biyombo serves on Eastern Congo Initiative’s Advisory Committee and has created the Bismack Biyombo Foundation that empowers kids in his home country to go to school.