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Deborah Alongi (’14): Using Education to Build Communities in Kinshasa, DRC

When ALA alumnus Deborah Alongi (’14) boarded a plane home to Kinshasa after completing her two-year diploma at African Leadership Academy, she was not sure what awaited her as she began her gap year.

But that changed the moment she witnessed something during a church service that would stir her to action. “A 16-year-old boy was called to the altar to read scripture, and he couldn’t do it because he could not read,” says Deborah.

Puzzled, Deborah began asking questions, only to unearth a startling illiteracy issue amongst the youth in her community. That’s when she decided to use her year at home to teach children how to read.

That was back in 2016.

Today, Deborah Alongi is the founder of Manasse School in the Mont-Amba district of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, a school with an aim to transform communities. The school currently has over 150 students across nursery and primary school levels.

Founded officially in 2017, Manasse School seeks to equip young people from ages three and up with education in order to break the cycle of poverty in their communities. How does the school do this? By offering a unique curriculum that combines entrepreneurial studies, technical skills, and academics with the official state curriculum in order for students to become active members of society.

A transformative curriculum

Subjects are split into four main streams. The Intellectual stream covers subjects such as science, literature, environmental studies and computer studies; the Communications stream takes learners through French and English literacy; while the Entrepreneurial stream equips learners with critical thinking and problem-solving skills; and finally, the Technical Skills stream empowers students with hands-on skills such as masonry, carpentry, sewing, baking, and farming – to name a few.

A community effort

Another element that makes Manasse unique is that its existence has been made possible through collaboration. The curriculum was designed by Deborah’s mother, a seasoned teacher; the administration was handled by her father, a pastor; and teachers are volunteers who have been trained rigorously through various programs. Students from across Kinshasa are volunteering at Manasse too. “One of the things I am proud of is that we have gotten much of the community engaged in Manasse,” says Deborah. “People even refer it to ‘our school’ because it belongs to all of us.”

Deborah and her team have built something that people want to be a part of, and that, for the young founder, is the epitome of success. “Success, to me, is about people valuing what you are doing, resulting in them wanting to be part of the process. Because if people are not committed to what you do, then how successful are you?”

Addressing a core need

Perhaps Manasse’s greatest achievement so far is changing the lives of 150 students by seeking to address a communal problem. When Deborah investigated the root cause of the illiteracy rates in Mont-Amba, she found that the problem was a result of the high number of illegitimate schools in the neighborhood. So while children were attending school and parents were paying exorbitant fees to give their young ones a shot at education, it was all being done in vain.

Thankfully, Manasse provides quality education at affordable rates. Not only does the school offer comprehensive payment plans to meet parents where they are, but the fees are also all-inclusive. Students receive a uniform, stationery, and other material, as well as food during school hours.

“Seeing children stand up confidently in class, and sometimes challenging each other for the opportunity to read for the rest of the class, makes me so happy,” says Deborah. “It’s an even better feeling when parents, during Manasse school events, are so proud of their kids and their progress when they see all that they can do.”

While the school is still in its infancy, it has some big goals. One of them is to be “recognized at a global scale for the work that we are doing”. Deborah wants to see the school in a place to offer exchange programs so that people learn from diversity, just as she had during her time at ALA. “I would love for Manasse to become a place where students from all over Africa and beyond come to contribute to the learning here.”

About Deborah Alongi

Born and raised in Kinshasa, DRC, Deborah Alongi is an entrepreneur and Business Management student at Africa University under the Mastercard Foundation Scholar program.

At the age of 13, she decided to start selling goods at her school and neighborhood in order to assist her family with school fees during extremely difficult financial circumstances. Not only was that endeavor successful and profitable, but it enabled Deborah to cover her siblings’ school fees as well as build a supermarket in the heart of Kinshasa that still exists today.

Her entrepreneurial spirit and interests are what drew her to African Leadership Academy. Forming part of the 2016 cohort, Deborah preserved through the diploma program despite coming from a francophone background. Some of the invaluable lessons she learned at ALA include the Academy’s BUILD approach to problem-solving, entrepreneurial studies as a transformative learning experience and exposure to diversity as a catalyst for personal growth.

Today, she runs a number of successful businesses in Kinshasa and is on track to receive her Business Management qualification at Africa University in Zimbabwe, as a full-time student.

Want to get involved?

If you align with Manasse’s mission and vision, the school would love to hear from you! Manasse is always seeking ways to collaborate with likeminded individuals.

For more information, contact Deborah Alongi on the following:

Email: dkalala14{at}gmail{dot}com

Mobile number: +263 782 722677