Education International
Education International

No schools, no teachers for millions of children in DRC

published 19 October 2007 updated 19 October 2007

With millions of children out of school and parents unable to pay school fees, EI urges the Democratic Republic of Congo to invest in quality public education and to comply with core labour standards.

Assibi Napoe and Samuel Ngoua Ngou from Education International stand in front of a painted “advertisement” encouraging girls to go to school

More than 4,700,000 children in the DRC are denied their right to education because there are neither schools for them to attend, nor teachers to teach them.

The DRC, one of the world’s least developed nations, is lagging seriously behind in achieving its Education For All targets. Child labour is rampant throughout the country. In the eastern region, where rebel forces regularly clash with government troops, school-aged children are forcibly recruited into the military.

Deeply concerned about the lack of quality public education in the DRC, Education International sent a delegation to the capital city of Kinshasa. In a meeting on 18 October, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen expressed his concerns to the Vice Minister of Education, Dr. Modeste Omba Sakatolo.

Van Leeuwen urged the government to increase the proportion of the national budget spent on public education, and to revoke the expensive school fees parents are required to pay. Hundreds of thousands of children are dropping out of school simply because their parents cannot afford to pay the fees, which sometimes amount to as much as $300 per semester.

Fred van Leeuwen and CSC General Secretary Valery Nsumpi at a storage facility where CSC-Enseignement sells rice to its members at reduced prices

The EI delegation, which also included Chief Regional Coordinator Assibi Napoe and Regional Coordinator Samuel Ngoua Ngou, also addressed the poor terms and conditions of employment for teachers. The Vice Minister assured EI that the government is determined to honour the agreement reached with the teachers’ unions a few years ago, and that the salary system will be adjusted to end unequal pay and wage discrimination.

While the government says that it attaches great importance to a constructive relationship with the teachers’ unions, the authorities are not always in compliance with international labour standards. In the past few months, SYECO and FENECO, member organizations of EI, have been prohibited from holding union meetings. Police have also infiltrated a meeting of another EI member union, CSC.

The Vice Minister of Education said he does not support this interference, and that his country is working hard to establish democratic rule and return to normality after many years of violent conflict.