The member organisations of Education International in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have collectively informed the public authorities of the six conditions they insist must be met before schools and teaching institutions are reopened.
On 14 May, the Minister of State and Minister for Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) chaired the General Assembly of Partners for its sector.
The premature reopening of schools and educational institutions
While the resumption of classes was decided during this meeting, the national unions affiliated with Education International - The Centrale de l’Education Nationale et de la Recherche Scientifique (CSC-Enseignement), the Fédération nationale des enseignants du Congo (FENECO-UNTC) and the Syndicat des Enseignants du Congo (SYECO) – expressed their opposition to the initiative in a press release of 15 May 2020, saying they believed it to be “premature”.
They are recommending that the government of the DRC and its partners consider the six conditions required by experts, before lifting the suspension measure on face-to-face classes.
The six conditions are as follows:
Transmission of the virus must be under control;
- The national health system must have the capacity to test, isolate and trace every contact;
- Major transmission risks must be reduced to a minimum in vulnerable environments;
- Preventative measures must have been put in place in schools, workplaces and other key spaces;
- It must be possible to manage the risk of importing new cases; and
- School communities must be fully informed, committed and empowered to live according to a new norm.
Considering that these various conditions have not yet been met in the country, CSC-Enseignement, FENECO-UNTC and SYECO are asking the government to:
- Meet these six conditions before reopening schools;
- Pay the arrears owed to teachers and eliminate discrimination in connection with accommodation, transport and medical care allowances; and
- Establish an ongoing and transparent social dialogue during this process regarding the reopening of schools.
The public must be informed of any measures taken for the protection of students and teachers
The General Secretary of FENECO, Augustin Tumba Nzuji, also insisted that the government clearly inform the public of the measures taken to protect students and teachers: “The government must be able to tell us exactly what would happen if we were to discovervthat a student had the virus. Are there provisions in place that would enable us to test, treat then isolate the student, not to mention trace this studentl’s contacts?”
He continued by expressing regret that the public authorities seem to be “fumbling around in the dark” and that the majority of teachers in the DRC are eligible for retirement, i.e. they have health concerns and are vulnerable to the virus.
Coming back to the economic situation, he also highlighted the fact that many parents are struggling to feed their children and pay for their travel costs and are thus finding it financially difficult to send their children to school.