SPOTLIGHT: Meet Léonard, the Chadian bracing the odds to give nomadic children education

 SPOTLIGHT: Meet Léonard, the Chadian bracing the odds to give nomadic children education

In November 2019, Gamaïgué Watouing Léonard stumbled upon a nomad camp in Chad, where he witnessed children playing under the shade of trees instead of attending school. Touched by the sight, he made a decision that would change the lives of these marginalized children forever – he would voluntarily teach them.

In this report CrispNG’s Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga would take you through how and what motivated Gamaïgué Watouing Léonard, a Chadian to embark on this humanitarian gesture.

CrispNG: Can you tell us about how your initiative to educate nomadic children in Chad began?

The initiative started in November 2019 when I was passing near a nomad camp and witnessed children playing under the trees instead of going to school. It really touched me, and I decided to come and teach them voluntarily. After meeting the parents, I made a small painting which I placed under the trees, and the children came out. That’s how it all began.

CrispNG: What motivated you to start this initiative?

In this 21st century, all children should have access to education. However, in Chad, the children of nomadic herders face discrimination when it comes to school. Shockingly, over 98% of nomadic children in Chad do not have the opportunity to go to school, even though they make up around 6 to 8% of the population.

On top of that, nomads face other hardships such as long walks, lack of identity documents, lack of land access, and limited educational opportunities, which only exacerbates the injustices they face. These factors were a great source of motivation for me to help these children build their dreams.

CrispNG: How has the initiative progressed over the years?

Today, we have just completed four years of lessons. Next school year, we will already have five primary levels, and everything is going well. We make sure that the school takes into account the realities of nomadic life.

CrispNG: What is the ultimate goal of your initiative?

The goal is to accompany these children as far as possible and to potentially transform them into actors of change within the nomadic environment, Chad, and even serve humanity in a broader sense. In the weeks to come, a group of my students will engage in a fight against climate change, which I consider a significant step towards our objectives.

CrispNG: How many children have you been able to unite through your initiative, and what impact has education had on them?

Over the course of four years, I have managed to unite at least 200 children from Chad around the school. They have come to understand the importance of learning. Today, they have built skills that I hope will accompany them throughout their lives.

CrispNG: Could you share a particularly touching story from your journey?

The story that touched me the most occurred in 2021. One day, during an opposition demonstration, I was blocked by tear gas fired by the police while on my way to class.

Thankfully, my teaching partner managed to cross over and reach the camp. He informed the students that I could potentially be arrested. In their anger, the students spontaneously decided to march into the city to free me. They didn’t even know where they were going. 

When the movement stopped at around 9 am, I left to go to the camp, and there I met a large group of students who saw me and ran towards me, explaining that they had learned of my potential arrest and were there to free me. I was deeply moved by their affection and shed tears on the spot. Their act of love and loyalty will forever remain in my heart.

Léonard’s initiative is not only providing education to nomadic children in Chad but also inspiring hope, change, and unity within their community. Through his selfless dedication, he has opened doors for these children, empowering them to create a better future for themselves and their environment.

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Thanks to Léonard’s unwavering commitment, hundreds of nomadic children in Chad have been given the opportunity to learn and transform their lives.

Through education, they are cultivating their dreams and aspirations, equipped with the skills necessary to make a lasting impact not only within their nomadic community but also in Chad and the world.

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