(2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report) -A young Congolese boy walks to school close to the refugee camp of Kahe in the town of Kitschoro, in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The exodus of Education in DRC

Congolese have been elites for a long period of time. Although the Portuguese decided to take some Congolese to Europe so that they could learn how to speak their native language and adopt European culture, it is said that the real Western education did not begin until 1906  (Democratic Congo – History Background. 2010). This time is when the Roman Catholic Churches established schools in return for government grants and land concession. Under the Belgium supervision, the catholic churches become responsible for the education in DRC like many other countries around the continent, and this was under the term of 1906 agreement between the Vatican and the government of Belgium. Some of the schools that were introduced include Ecoles Libres subsidies which become one of the cornerstones of the education system until 1948.  The education was monopolized through this whole period of time. Also, primary and secondary education schools were introduced and a good number of Congolese attended (Democratic Congo – History Background. 2010).

Mid 1960 the newly independent government removed the Regime Congolese and adopted Regime Metropolitaine for all (Democratic Congo – History Background. 2019). This was considered fair and everyone had access to education. Primary Education was reduced to six years from it being 12 years, and therefore students would easily transition from primary level to secondary level. Education opportunities in DRC, just like any other African country in this period created a shortage of teachers. However, the Peace Corps, Belgium, and France sent volunteer teachers to the DRC to fill the void. By then primary enrollment increased from 1.6million students in 1960 to approximately 3.2 million in 1970 (Democratic Congo – History Background. 2010). Good enough, by 1990 primary enrollment boomed to almost 4.6 million students, of whom 43%  were females. In 1996 the numbers of primary students who were enrollment rose again to 5.4 million (Democratic Congo – History Background. 2010). The secondary was not left behind, the enrollment steeply climbed after independence; from 25, 000 students in 1960 to 266,000 secondary school in 1970. By 1990, the numbers reached 1.1 million, of whom 32% were females. The numbers kept on being impressive; until 1996 where it topped out a little bit more than 1.5 million students, despite the turmoil gripping the DRC had at the time. secondary school for females enrollment also increased to 38% by then. If anyone says that these numbers gave hope for the future in DRC, he/she must not be wrong.

Students in a classroom in DRC, https://images.app.goo.gl/BA4tHm8zeY3gDHB76

Despite having External Aid, It is important to have the Government owning the Education sector

The government report says that in 1990, the national allocation to the education sector was 1% of the national budget and in 1999 only 32 percent of the children were enrolled in primary school (Winthrop, et al, 2019). Since then, there has been a persistent conflict in DRC; social services were slowed or even stopped. Winthrop, et al, (2019) said that more than 2.7 million children have died as a result of the conflict and confrontation in DRC. Apart from this, many others did not go to school because they were working, fighting, or even displaced from their homes due to instabilities in the country. Some people call this generation who are now young adult “ the lost generation” because of the opportunities that passed them. A recent data survey conducted nationally showed explicitly the impact of the persistent conflicts in DRC. It was said that 51% of young women who are between 15-24 years are literate, out of the figure, only 28% for women from the poorest quintile (Winthrop, et al, 2019). Almost 70% of the unemployed population is youth, which becomes a burden to the country. The government and other stakeholders are trying to go about this unemployment by providing employment in the agriculture and social services sector (Winthrop, et al, 2019). 

USAID, 2015. says that the education system in DRC is characterized by a low average and poor quality. More than 3.5 million children of primary school age are not in school, and those who attend, 44% start school late. The national data indicates that only 67% of children who start first grade – meaning primary one – will complete sixth grade or primary six. Also, of those reaching primary six, 75% will pass the exit exams (USAID, 2015). Note that DRC is a country with the third-largest population on the continent; known for its fertile soil and unparalleled hydroelectric potential and the world precious metals. All of the above, articulate that not only does the country need to create jobs, but also ensure the availability of skilled people to fill them, and this cannot be done by the government alone. The country’s labour market lacks strong foundation skills such as literacy and numeracy, non-cognitive attributes such as critical thinking, and interpersonal communication. Furthermore, skills that are relevant, and meet the demands of a growing economy; information and communication technology accuracy, computer literacy and industry precise technology (Winthrop, et al, 2019). 

Fortunately, as mentioned above, the government is doing all it can to meet and overcome the problems. A continuous partnership with private institutions, business sectors and non – government organization is ongoing to establish vocational programs, especially in mechanics and plumbing. This comes after, USAID and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) have joined hands with the government to eradicate illiteracy. They have funded a five -year education program that will be watching on reading outcomes to support the government meet the 2016 – 2015 education and training strategy (USAID, 2015). The expected outcomes are the improvement in terms of reading for 1.5 million grade 1 – 4 students in their local language and French (USAID, 2015). Also, the project will employ professional teachers to facilitate the process. It is anticipated that the program will have an impact on 450.000 out of school children (USAID, 2015). Moreover, the program would contribute to the government of DRC Mission objective, and increase equitable access to education in crisis and conflict environments.

Aside, the above generous act from the USAID and DFID, more kept on coming. USAID proudly allocated $7.7 million to boost children’s access to education and increase the resilience of youth and school communities through education. This was done under the U.S – DRC Privilege Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, and the USAID will work with civil societies and faith-based organization, private schools and international Kivu, Kasai Central and Haut Katanga through school materials and improved classroom reading and math instruction. Not to mention UNICE which provides children with a ladder out of poverty and a part to a promising future. In DRC, it is making a huge impact by reaching to some children out 7 million children aged 5 to 17 who are out of school (UNICEF. 2019). The involvement and the intervention of the aforementioned are helping in DRC Undeniably, but it’s not enough and sustainable. Yes, there is a need for aid, and intervention from outside, because the country is recovering, but the government should do more than what is being done.

Our starting point for writing a Victorious story.

Investing in the education system and accessibility would be one step that can be taken by the government of DRC because it would strengthen economic growth. Brookings institution published one of the articles evidencing that the quality of education for children is low, and this was shown by an independent, nonprofit institute research institute dedicated to improving human condition (lRTI international), in the  2012 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) baseline assessment of Grade 4 and 6 student that 29% of boys and 44% of the females could not read even one word (Winthrop, et al, 2019). Not to mention an undersupport teaching force that affects the learning outcomes. It is said that the minimum students in one class are 37 pupils, however, in a marginalized or rural area, there can be over 100 pupils per class, and this comes with the lack of education material (Winthrop, et al, 2019).

Rebecca Winthrop, a. (2019), presents estimates,  highlight that there are 350,000 and 450,000 teachers; half of these teachers at the primary level. Also, most of them are 50 years old and while almost 74 % of primary teachers are trained, 33% of the teachers at the secondary level are trained. when it comes to the salary, it a different story; generally, the salary expenditure consists of four-fifth of the education budget, yet teachers salary remains among the lowest in the world and declined in real terms by up to 40 percent (Winthrop, et al, 2019). The DRC government has shown willingness to improve the quality and the reliance on education. 

However, there is a gap that persists. Late 2012 the DRC government came with an education plan with the objective: improving access, equity and retention, uplifting the quality and relevance of education and strengthening governance and the increase in the budget. In the same year, the government received $100 million from the Global partnership for education to increase education access, work on the quality and strengthen teacher training (Winthrop, et al, 2019). As smart and hopeful as this sounds, in a presentation by H.E. MR. Maker Mwangu Famba to Brooking institution, he mentioned that there is still a $ 270 Million financing gap for the above objectives to be achieved while announcing the budget for education from 2012 to 2015 which was equivalent to $ 1.2 billion (Winthrop, et al, 2019). Special thanks to UNICEF, other international organization that keeps on being supportive, and willing to help the DRC overcome this problem. We share the same understanding with UNICEF that, in the midst of conflict and disaster, education can be life-sustaining and life-saving.

Reference list

Winthrop, A., Greubel, L., & Ackerman, X., (2015). The New Push for Education Reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Retrieved 13 December 2019, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2013/03/01/the-new-push-for-education-reform-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

USAID. 2015. Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2019). Retrieved 13 December 2019, from https://www.usaid.gov/democratic-republic-congo/education

U.S.A embassy. 2019. Allocates New Funding to Support Education for Congolese Youth and Children Retrieved 14 December 2019, from https://cd.usembassy.gov/usaid-allocates-new-funding-to-support-education-for-congolese-youth-and-children/

UNICEF. 2019. Education. Retrieved 14 December 2019, from https://www.unicef.org/drcongo/en/what-we-do/education

Democratic Congo – History Background. (2019). Retrieved 14 December 2019, from https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/358/Democratic-Congo-HISTORY-BACKGROUND.html