A school to train soldiers of about a dozen African countries in peacekeeping operations has been launched in Congo with financial support from the French government.
The National Regional Engineering School (ENVR-GT) was created as part of the Congolese Military Staff Academy in Makabandilou, a suburb in the north of the capital Brazzaville.
"The training is aimed at providing the military with selected skills for their engagement in peacekeeping operations in Africa, including areas like masonry, carpentry, electrical supply and plumbing," said the commander of the ENVR-GT, Colonel John Brice Malonga.
"The school will also engage in the reintegration of soldiers who have finished their active duty and still want to contribute to rebuilding their countries," he added.
The ENVR-GT has already welcomed a pilot course of 30 trainees from 16 sub-Saharan countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gabon, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Chad and Togo.
Officers are trained for nine months whereas non-commissioned officers (NCO) are trained for three, said Malonga.
He told IRIN that soldiers’ entry to the ENVR-GT involved passing an entry test on generic culture, military matters, French and physical education.
The governments of France and Congo have spent several billion CFA francs to set up the school that will train hundreds of students a year, officials said.
The two countries also contribute 150 million CFA Francs (US$300,000) each for the financial support of trainees.
"Creating this school was a rocky road but our main goal is to train soldiers capable of high performances in the missions,” said the director of cooperation, security and defence at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lieutenant General of the Army, Bruno Clement-Bolée.
Corinne Lowa, 29, is a first-class midshipman from Cameroon and the only woman attending the pilot course.
She does not feel intimidated by her 29 male colleagues and introduces herself as the female "pioneer" of the ENVR-GT.
"After my training, I'm ready to serve wherever needed," she said.
"I was fortunate to be selected for this training. I hope in the future more female candidates will have the same opportunity,” she said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions