Education International
Education International

DRC: Armed conflict puts education in peril

published 24 August 2012 updated 3 September 2012

EI’s affiliates in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have voiced their support for concerns raised about education in DRC by the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Fédération nationale des enseignants du Congo (FENECO-UNTC) and the Syndicat des enseignants du Congo (SYECO) were reacting to a UNICEF report on humanitarian action published on 7 August. In it, UNICEF said it was deeply concerned about the situation of the vulnerable population and education in the country.

Alarming report

In the report entitled “UNICEF Humanitarian action update – Democratic Republic of the Congo,” UNICEF states that over US$133 million are required to meet urgent needs and to limit the consequences of the war still raging in eastern DRC for women and children. Confrontations between the regular army and the militia in North Kivu are subjecting children to rape, massacres, exploitation, kidnapping and forced labour.

The UN agency is also highly critical of the recruitment of minors by the armed groups, and the pillaging and burning of 258 schools in North Kivu. This has jeopardised the education of nearly 60,000 children, triggering a resurgence of epidemics and malnutrition.

It also points out that funds are not yet available to ensure the continuation of the battle against cholera.

FENECO-UNTC: Development and education goals endangered

The FENECO-UNTC has published a statement aimed at “adding the voices of educators to the distress calls emanating from this part of the DRC’s territory against this scourge unfairly imposed to pillage the nation’s wealth”, said its General Secretary, Augustin Tumba Nzuji.

“This scourge has deprived so many survivors of the hope of learning to read, write and do arithmetic,” he said. “Today, in the face of the Millennium Development Goals and Education For All (EFA), more has been destroyed than developed in the DRC.”

Earlier, in a statement issued on 12 July, the union had noted that “the wars in eastern DRC are having serious repercussions on the education of school-age boys and girls, and are daily claiming the lives of our fellow teachers and social educators”.

The union has urged the government to improve the living and working conditions of teachers and others. “In solidarity with our brothers and sisters suffering in the east of the country, we hereby express our solidarity while urging the government of the DRC and the international community to take the necessary measures to ensure that the conflict that is robbing the country of its natural resources is ended urgently and unconditionally,” said the union statement.

SYECO: Peace and decent work conditions for educators needed

SYECO General Secretary Jean Pierre Kimbuya stressed that his union, “in solidarity with the teachers of the eastern provinces, calls on the government to take the necessary measures to restore peace and security in this part of the country”.

In a statement on 4 August(in French), Kimbuya invites the government to do everything it can to correct all the irregularities concerning the July 2012 salaries. He also urges the government to increase the teachers’ pay scale in the 2012 budget, and to put an effective end to parents having to pay for teachers.

EI: Schools must be safe sanctuaries

“Educators throughout the world stand side by side with their colleagues in the DRC in calling on the competent national authorities to do everything possible to ensure that all children throughout the national territory receive a school education,” stated EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “The public authorities have a duty to provide a safe and healthy learning environment to achieve EFA by 2015. Schools must remain havens of peace.”

Van Leeuwen welcomes the support of the DRC education unions for UNICEF and their willingness to support its efforts to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people in the country and to improve education at the national level.

The Comité syndical francophone de l’Education et de la Formation, that represents the EI’s French-speaking affiliates, will hold its 13th Meeting in Kinshasa on 3-4 September next.

It will draw up a list of demands to be handed to the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie at the 14th Francophone Summit to be held on 12-14 October, also in Kinshasa.  The theme of this year’s summit is: “Francophonie: facing the environmental and economic challenges of global governance”.

To see a video by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on education in North Kivu, click here: http://unhcr.org/v-4a1aac841b