Chad: Youth programs extend beyond school – Chad

Salesian missionaries have been living and working with poor youth in Chad in central Africa since 1995. They established their first programs in Sarh, the third largest city in the country, which has more than 120,000 inhabitants. Three years later, the missionaries began other programs in the capital of N’Djamena and, in 2013, in the city of Doba.

In Sarh, the Salesian missionaries run a kindergarten, a school for older youth, a youth center and a parish church. The Salesian work also takes them to more than 116 surrounding villages. The goal is to provide people with their most basic needs, such as food, clothing and medical assistance, while encouraging young people to attend the local Salesian school.

Education has proven to be an effective means of breaking the cycle of poverty while providing the most vulnerable youth with a sense of personal dignity and self-esteem. Salesian primary and secondary schools lay the foundation for future education, while Salesian vocational, technical, professional and agricultural schools provide practical skills so that young people have the opportunity to become contributing adults in their communities, rebuilding communities and ending to the cycle of poverty.

“Education is always our main focus,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco in the United States. “We know, however, that young people in Chad are dealing with much more than just having access to education. Salesian programs are designed to meet the needs of young people in the communities they serve. Homeless and malnourished youth are simply unable to focus effectively on their studies as they struggle to meet their basic needs. Our services provide food and shelter so that young people can focus on the education provided.”

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Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Food Program, 42 percent of its population lives below the poverty line. Chad is a low-income country with limited income-generating opportunities and restricted access to social services. The Human Development Index ranks it 187th out of 189 countries in 2020.

Most of Chad is covered by desert and this presents a significant challenge for a developing country that relies heavily on subsistence farming. The most successful practice is shifting cultivation, where herds are able to move and adapt to changing climatic conditions, but even this practice is severely limited by resources.

Frequent droughts have also aggravated already difficult conditions. Recent climate changes have decreased rainfall and constant overuse has led to soil erosion and land degradation. As a result, farmers lack the infrastructure, support, and resources to grow enough food to adequately feed the country.

The World Food Program has pointed out that there are 3 million vulnerable people affected by chronic food insecurity and climate-related disasters in 2022. In addition, 37.8% of children under the age of 5 are stunted, according to the World Nutrition Report, with short height for age caused by chronic malnutrition.

Women in Chad also face significant gender discrimination. They often must work outside the home, in addition to raising a family, tending farms, collecting water, and cooking. However, they are culturally limited in terms of access to education or training, and are marginalized by society. These women are especially vulnerable to the psychological and physical effects of poverty.

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