MUSCAT, Oman — Matata Ponyo Mapon, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, also known as the DRC, talked about the issue of Congolese education at the Global Education for All meeting hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
During his speech, Mapon emphasized the growing rate of school attendance and literacy in the DRC. Gross attendance rate in primary schools increased from 83.7 percent in 2007 to 101 percent in 2012. The number of students attending school regularly rose as well – 8.8 million to 12.6 million. Mapon declared that the DRC’s advancements in education are important for the nation as a whole, ensuring the “transformation of society.” Given the necessity of augmenting the government’s role in the education sector, the DRC’s expenditures on education purposes have increased from 6 percent of the national budget in 2007 to 16.04 percent in 2014.
In an effort to revamp the Congolese education system, the government devoted 100 million dollars to launch the Reconstruction and Renovation of School Infrastructure Program in April 2013. The goal of the program was to build and renovate approximately 1,000 schools across the DRC. As of now, 580 schools are being constructed or renovated. Other initiatives include offering free primary school education, giving study grants to young girls, issuing 18 million new schoolbooks and building the Educational Resource Centers to help train instructors. Conditions for teachers have improved as well; the Mutual Healthcare Insurance Organization was enacted in February 2014, establishing a banking system to pay civil servants (which includes the teaching staff).
The French Development Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development have been longtime supporters of the DRC’s efforts to make education a clear priority across the nation. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has congratulated the DRC and Mapon for the growing commitment to build a “more effective and inclusive education system.” Mapon credited the DRC’s advancements in education—improved faculty living conditions, new classrooms and teacher training programs as well as more young girls participating in the education system—to the support of the Head of State, Joseph Kabila Kabange.
Before the government focused on improving the Congolese education system, local grassroots organizations were already making great strides in education—like the Association of Christian Mothers for Assistance to the Vulnerable (AMCAV), a small Congolese nonprofit. AMCAV’s story is unique because of its difficult backdrop. Since 1996, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been embroiled in extreme violence and civil unrest. Along with continual inter-ethnic conflicts, sexual violence remains a major issue in the area today, causing women who have been raped to be disowned by their husbands.
Since the Congolese government is still working to provide enough funding for school facilities and materials, children born of rape are often denied an education and forced to endure lifelong stigmatization at home. After personally seeing the prevalence of this problem in South Kivu, AMCAV members started an initiative in 2011 to help these children attain a quality education by raising money to cover the cost of their tuition. With its recent emphasis on education, the DRC may hopefully be able to begin supporting similar nonprofits and NGOs that are working to help young children in the area get the education they deserve.
Sources: African Brains, Givology, OSISA
Photo: Rescue UK