NARRATOR: Life is precarious in a number of ways in the Congo. About 2/3 of Congolese natives live below the poverty line, earning less than $1.90/day. The average yearly salary in the DRC is $400. Many don’t have enough money to rent let alone buy an apartment. Although the government is supposed to pay for basic education, it does not, and many families can’t afford it. Millions of children are in the labor force. They comprise about 40% of miners (scrim lights up on child with a shovel), working in dangerous, even lethal conditions. Two of the primary minerals are cobalt and coltan, which are core ingredients in cell phones and other electronic devices. (MASON enters happily texting). Some of the workers are essentially slaves and forced to work at gunpoint. (MASON exits.)
MINER: (voiceover) My father died and had debts to pay, so I had to go to work in the mines. I’m 10 years old and work a 12-hour shift to make $2. I wish I could go back to school and get an education, but there’s no way to pay for my schooling.
(Crossfade to Doctor examining several patients behind scrim.)
DOCTOR: (voiceover) We are making good money in comparison to others, but our healthcare system collapsed during many years of war here in the Congo . . . We have not received money from the government in years, and there are hardly any doctors left. People are sick, and we don’t have enough money for equipment or supplies to treat them with.
We are out-numbered. There are not enough of us to care for our people. We are some of the best doctors out there—the most ef cient—and all we want is to help, but we have so little.
(Crossfade to Teacher behind scrim writing on a chalkboard with students sitting around watching.)
TEACHER: (voiceover) As a teacher in the Congo, I have goals. My main goal is to give students knowledge that they can use not only at school, but also in the outside world
in everyday life. We want the best for all of our students. I wanted to learn what I could from America, to bring back more to them. But it wasn’t what I thought it would be. The worst part of coming to the U.S was the rst day, when I meet for my rst time American people. I mean, I thought I knew how to speak to them, you know. But they speak very fast. Your language, English, is different. We learn English when we were in Africa. But, it is different. Now I’m the student . . .
This scene originally appeared in Congolese Immigrant Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.