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Dan Torsiello (right) with students, their teacher (left) and a guide (center) at the current primary school in Mushaki.

NJEA member works to build school in Africa

By Dan Torsiello 

Despite having taught in some very economically disadvantaged school districts in my career, nothing prepared me for what I saw in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this past summer. 

I visited the DRC in hopes of accomplishing the lifelong goal of trekking into the mountains and visiting with the endangered mountain gorilla. My guide, Christian Aganze of Congo Local Guides in Goma, DRC asked if I would also be willing to visit some of Goma’s overflowing orphanages. Goma is the capital of North Kivu province of the DRC. 

Aganze recommended I make a $100 donation to help provide food to these children, many of whom live on daily diet of congee, a rice gruel. I agreed, and in an attempt to make a slightly larger impact, began an impromptu fundraising campaign. Despite little time and even less fundraising experience, I was able to raise $1,400, which was enough to purchase nearly 3,000 pounds of food to be split among three of the Goma’s orphanages. 

Aganze also arranged for me to visit the rural village of Mushaki. Well within territory that is home to some of the 120 rebel groups currently operating within the DRC, Mushaki is a rural farming and herding village high in the hills.  

Part of my time in Mushaki was spent visiting a local school—“school” being used in the most basic sense. A lack of supplies, missing walls, and far fewer seats than students are just some of the challenges facing the school. I decided to try and make a positive impact. 

After discussions with Aganze and engineers back in Africa, we drew up plans to build a modern wood and concrete school with six classrooms, two offices, and four toilets. Because of the comparatively inexpensive nature of supplies and labor in the DRC, such a school would cost just over $8,300 to build. It is this cost, plus an additional $1,700 to cover any overages in cost are what I am hoping to raise to build this much-needed school. Any funds that are not spent on the construction of the school will be used to purchase school supplies for the students and teachers of Mushaki. 

According to UNICEF’s education report on the DRC, the nation “has made significant strides toward universal access to primary education over the past few decades. The net attendance rate has increased from 52% in 2001 to 78% in 2018, but 7.6 million children aged 5-17 are still out of school.” 

I hope to do my small part to help change that statistic, so that, at least in Mushaki, children can get the education they need to gain admission to a secondary school in a larger and safer area within the DRC. 

To follow Torsiello’s progress in helping build the school, visit

Dan Torsiello is a social studies teacher at Central Regional High School in Bayville. He can be reached at