Today’s post is a plea… After many MANY debates/comments, I decided to write about it as this needs to be addressed. If you are Congolese and educated, these are the typical sentences you tend to hear
- “Wow, you’re from Congo….so how come were you able to study, and pay for your studies”
- “Wow, and you have a Masters! Most of the Congolese ladies I know only do hair and sell skin lightening products”
- “Wow, you studied that….you must then be clever ”
- “You Congolese? Wow, you do not look that AT ALL! Congolese ladies wear long weaves, and like lots of flamboyant make-up and jewelry”
- “You are very different…most Congolese don’t like studying, they just like expensive clothes, music and dancing”
I could go on and on…but I gather, you have spotted my sarcasm already by now :D. As a student, I would often get very angry and even cried once….nowadays, a very long and silent blank stare has become my default preferred response. As not okay and painful as the above sentences are, We can all forgive the ignorance when it comes to people from different countries (African or not). What I find strange and NOT okay however, is when it comes directly from my own Congolese brothers and sisters.
My problem with these sentences is that I can only imagine what those who actually did not get the opportunity to pursue their studies endure on a daily basis. If you are from Congo, you know the challenges our country faces…e.g. history of war, one of the lowest literacy rates in the world coupled with one of the top 10 lowest human development index (HDIs) in the world(http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/drcongo_statistics.html )…so why this attitude? If people do not study, it is not always because they are lazy, or they chose to…. Sometimes, they simply did not get the opportunity because of a number of reasons (e.g. funds ran out, paperwork did not allow for it in the host country, family emergency, etc etc.).
I have noticed a tendency amongst my educated brothers and sisters…We tend to hold ourselves on some sort of pedestal…and justify this (sometimes rather distasteful) arrogance based on the fact that we belong to this “perceived small group of Congolese with a tertiary degree who work as professionals” (whatever that means). I want to challenge this perception: If I look at my direct circle of friends, both in South Africa (Europe, US) and back home at least ~70% of the people I know have in fact gone to university…and the more I dig, the more I realise just how many are part of this community of educated Congolese both in the DRC and diaspora. Organisations such as Young Congolese Professionals, started a few years ago in the UK is the proof of that (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7419429/profile ).
Furthermore, in South Africa some of the best doctors and engineers are in fact from the DRCongo… Many of those who studied back home, and first work as security guards to put food on the table tend to find themselves back into tertiary education (for either Masters and/or PHDs) a few years later and enter the work force . Being educated and from Congo alone, does not merely make us special especially if these skills are not used to either advance our direct circle (i.e. family) and/or country…. There are many of us out there, and we need to praise/encourage those who make it work whether with a degree or not…especially when under extremely difficult conditions to beat the odds…this is something to celebrate, let’s keep an open mind…talk positively of each other and STOP the bashing already.
I encourage current students to interact with anyone with something positive to bring into your life. Sometimes that person comes with a tertiary degree, but other times not…do not let it limit your social circle but most importantly remain respectful. Apologies if this felt like a bit of a rant…I hope you enjoyed this post & would love to hear from you. Have you experienced similar attitudes from your peers? Are you Congolese, do you have a few Congolese friends? Leave a comment down below and get the debate going;-)
Until my next post 😉