Rzeszów monk sets up music school in war-torn African state to teach child soldiers to take up music instead of weapons
A missionary from Rzeszów has set up the first ever music school in the war-torn Republic of Central Africa, to promote peace by giving refugee children the chance to take up instruments instead of weapons.
Capuchin monk Brother Benedykt Pączka came up with the idea after seeing how important music, song and dance were to the local community in the market town of Bouar.
Inspired, he decided to offer the children an alternative to a life of being child soldiers and try to sow the seeds of future peace in the country by teaching them to prefer a guitar over a Kalashnikov.
He said: “The joyful music lessons allow the youngest to forget, if only for a moment, their daily traumatic reality and give them hope for a normal life.
“They will be the musicians of the future and be able to provide for their families.”
The Republic of Central Africa is one of the poorest in the world and 65 per cent of children are forced to do manual labour or join the army. In some cases children have been kidnapped and forced to join rebel forces as child soldiers, whilst there have also been cases of children voluntarily going to join armed conflicts.
The school, which is located in the west of the Republic, is already operational, and there are currently 80 students, who have access to a wide variety of instruments and professional music teachers.
Alongside Brother Benedykt, The African Music School project is helped by a group of Polish volunteers who help coordinate, fundraise and recruit musicians from Poland to help teach students music.
Dawid Studziżba, co-ordinator of the school said: “It’s like a normal primary school, where apart from normal lessons, youngsters take lessons with music professionals who come to Africa on 6 month missions.”
Though already open, the school currently operates in makeshift conditions and Brother Pączka has recently launched a fundraising mission for the building of a proper school building.
He said: “Once finished, it will include 10 classrooms, a recording studio, concert hall, library and 5 residential rooms for visiting teachers to stay in. So far, three classrooms have been built.”
An architectural design has been produced by the Polish division of Architects Sans Frontieres and fundraising for the project is being run by the Kraków based AKEDA Foundation.