DRC was ruled by Belgium until 1960 when it gained its independence. Health and educational services were provided to Africans who collaborated with the European rules and withheld to those who resisted them. Few High schools were built in DRC but there were no universities built under the Belgium colonial rule. By independence, only 16 people had earned any type of university degree.
Education In the colonial period was provided by the Roman Catholic Church under an agreement between the Vatican and Belgium. They taught religion and other subjects that made the Congolese more useful to the Belgium rule.
After independence, the government adopted a regime metropolitan that was fair and non-discriminatory. The education system in DRC became similar to that of Belgium in that it constituted, six years of primary school followed by six years of secondary education. Educational opportunities expanded on all levels and this leads to a shortage of teachers. France and Belgium sent volunteer teachers to DRC to help fill the void. The primary level enrolment increased from approximately 1.6 million in 1960 to approximately 3.2 million in 1970. By 1990 the primary enrolment rose to 4.6 million 43 percent being females.
In 1996 the female enrolment number dropped to 41 percent but the primary enrolment increased to 5.4 million. Secondary enrolment also rose after independence from 25,000 in 1960 to 266,000 in 1970. At the higher education level/ university level, there were 40,000 students enrolled in 1990 in DRC universities and by 1996 there were more than 93,000 university students.
The education system in DRC is governed by three government ministries: the Ministére de I’Enseignement Sepérieur Primaire, Secondaire et Professionnel(MEPSP), the Ministére de I’Enseignement Supérieur et Universitaire (MESU) and the Ministére des Affaires Sociales (MAS). At the provincial level, the governor is in charge of all administrative control including education. The Secrétaire-Général is represented by the Chef de Division Provinciale who is under the administrative control of the governor, but is responsible for technical matters to the (MEPSP).
The other two entities involved in educational administration are non-governmental, they include, religious organisations and parents’ organisations. In 1977 the state entered an “agreement” with the four main religious organisations (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Kimbanguiste, and Islamic), where the religious institutions were to conform to government guidelines. The guidelines included qualification and salaries of teachers, coverage of curriculum, class sizes, and the system of assessment. Later, a National Council of Education was formed which represented both the government and religious organisations. It was created to undertake coordination on the national level. Provincial bureaus are responsible for managing all Protestant schools in the province. Below the provincial level, their coordination bureaus supervise schools belonging to denominations in the province. The coordinators at the provincial and lower levels are proposed by religious institutes, nominated by the Ministry, and financed by student fees.
Parents also undertake school administrations and are represented from the base to the top by the school-based parent committee, zonal and provincial committee, and the National organisation of parents, the ANAPECO. Although the national committee is responsible for motivating parents to send children to school, and cooperating in school management, school-based committees are now the most important organisations since they consult with school management and decide on the fees that they pay, the majority share comprising of teacher’s earnings. They also finance the construction of buildings.
Three main administrative Councils govern the three main higher education institutions. The three institutes include public Universities, higher teacher training institutes, and higher technological institutes. Members of the council comprised of representatives of institutions and government employers who are nominated by the Central government. Each Institute has a university/institute council, an administrative committee, faculties, and departments. The institute council, administrative council, as well as heads of the universities are selected by the Central government. The Administrative councils decide on overall policies and objectives and, for state-approved programs, on the number of new courses and hours per subject, among other things.
According to the educational law amended on September 6, 1990, requires a right to education ensuring equal access to education and vocational training. Public education is free and basic education is compulsory.
Pre-primary (École Maternelle)
This a three-year program for children from age three-five, which is not compulsory. This level prepares children for primary education.
Primary (École Primaire)
Primary school is compulsory, free, and targets students aged 6-12 years. The program goes for six years and is divided into three levels that comprise of two years each. An elementary level for children six to seven years old, a middle level for children eight to nine years old, and a terminal level for children ten to eleven years old. Ages must be respected to pass from one level to another. A Certificat d’Écol Primaire is awarded upon completion of the six-year program and is necessary to proceed to the secondary level.
Secondary (École Secondaire)
The secondary level is made up of two tracks, the long cycle, and the short cycle. The long cycle is also known as formal secondary education and the short cycle is known as vocational education/training. The long cycle/ formal secondary education goes for six years and allows entry to higher education. The first two years, or tronc comun, provide common education before students split into three streams. These three streams are general, teacher education, and technical and are meant to last four years. The four-year program is divided into literary, scientific, commercial, social, artistic, vocational (for women), agricultural, veterinarian, medical, pedagogical, and professional/technical sections. The minimum percentage to pass from one class to another is 505. The cycle ends in a national public examination, the Examen d’ Etat where a state diploma(Diplome d’tat) is awarded upon passing.
The short cycle or vocational training offers courses of varying lengths. Though most run for 2-3 years, others run as short as 6months. After passing the exam with a minimum of 50% the graduates of these schools are awarded different certifications depending on the courses, they take part in.
Higher education system
The higher education system in DRC is run by the Ministry of Higher and University Education, known by its French appellation Ministere de’l Enseignement Superieur et Universitaire (MESU). In 1990 the government authorised the operation of private higher education and private institutions have since risen significantly.
Access to higher education is determined by bypassing of the secondary school exit exam. In the nineties, the enrolment rate grew from 50% to 65%. There is a wide variation among provinces of higher education capacity. Bas-Congo and Bandundu are the best-endowed provinces, but the Kinshasa area has the most students
Higher education comprises both universities and non-university institutions which have approximately equal enrolment rates. The non-university institutions are professional institutions, which can either be an Institut Supérieur Technique (IST) or an Institut Supérier Pédagogique(ISP). These institutions offer two cycles or degree levels. Completion of the first level lasts three years and is an equivalent undergraduate degree, completion is honoured with a diplome de graduat. The second cycle lasts for two to three years and is honoured with diplomede licence. One can go further and enrol for the third cycle where there is a two-year program that leads to a diplome d’etudes or a doctorate program.
Challenges Facing the Educational System of Congo
The educational system in DRC has been challenged by several factors. Many Congolese, mainly women lack basic education. In 2012 adult literacy rate was 61.2% and the literacy rate for youths aged 15-24 was 65.8% in 2007. According to the World Bank, DRC was one of the top five countries in the world with the largest number of children out of school as of 2003.The national data indicate that only 67 percent of children who enter the first grade will complete the sixth grade, and of those who reach the 6th grade, only 75 percent will pass their exit exam.
The main challenges facing the educational system in DRC are;
While the DRC poverty rate has fallen slightly over the past two decades, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The low economy caused by the fall in raw material costs, the political fragility resulting from the increase of social crises and other natural disasters have not allowed the DRC to achieve universal primary education.
b) Quality of education
In terms of quality of education, analysis shows high repetition rates and dropout, there is a low rate of qualified teachers, most teachers have only a higher secondary qualification and no preservice training, unequal distribution of qualified teachers, poor learning outcomes, teaching is difficult since they use French and neither the students nor the teachers have mastered the language. There are limited textbooks, few or no learning materials in classes only a blackboard and chalk that are universally available. All these factors make providing quality education impossible.
c) Conflict and displacement
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second-largest country and has been in conflict for decades. The country has been filled with political instability, armed clashes, and human rights violations. In 2017 and 2018, 2.1 million people were newly displaced making DRC the African country with the highest number of internally displaced people. Internal displacement interrupts children’s education and separates them from their familiar school environment, teachers and classmates, sometimes for months or years. Displaced children often have lower enrolment and achievement rates than their non-displaced peers.
d) High cost of schooling
Article 43 of the nation’s constitution stipulates that primary education is compulsory and free in public school, the rising fees prevent many children from accessing primary education making DRC one of the nations with the highest out-of-school children in the world. UNICEF says that 70 percent of out-of-school children either never enrol or drop out because their parents cannot afford to pay teacher bonuses, which educators say is necessary because of the low wage’s teachers get from the government.
The FARDC and various non-state armed groups reportedly beat, abducted, and killed several dozen students and teachers during the period from 2013 to 2017.Attacks on schools continued to escalate in 2017, both in eastern DRC and the Greater Kasai region. Non-state armed groups were responsible for most of this attack. A humanitarian organisation reported that there were nearly 100 schools attacked in the east as of October 2017.
f) Early marriages
In South Kivu, east of DRC, child marriage is leading young girls and boys to drop out of school. Child marriage has a direct effect on children’s education. Young brides are pulled out of school depriving them of their basic right to education. Some boys drop out in order to provide for their new brides and families.
a) Investing in free education for all
Introducing free primary education in DRC has reduced school expenses for the poorest households, increase children’s access to primary education, and strengthens the education system. To reach this goal the government has made education a domestic priority and the education budget has increased from almost nothing in the 1980s to 9.5 percent in 2011 and more than 14 percent in 2015.
b) Raise teachers’ salaries
Teachers have been extremely underpaid, receiving approximately US$20 per month, plus an extra US$10 in transport allowance. The government should raise teachers’ salaries so that there is little to no burden on the parents’ side on paying teachers bonuses due to low salaries.
c) Improve on the quality of education
Provide preservice training to teachers before allocating them to their specific schools, provide more learning materials for both students and teachers to use that, in turn, improves the quality of education in the country.
d) Creation of Congolese Anti- Poverty Network (CAPN)
The CAPN works together with grass-root organisations, statutory and non-statutory bodies to eradicate poverty and provide a solid future for Congolese people. These aims and objectives can only be achieved by providing human rights education promoting and supporting formal and informal education, encouraging exchange programs, and empowering people in communities.
- Sajitha Bashir, (2009). Changing the Trajectory: Education and Training for Youth in Democratic Republic of Congo. World Bank.
- World Bank, (2005). Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Priorities and Options for Regeneration. World Bank.
- Ntam Baharanyi, Lila B Karki, Md. Mutaleb. Democratic Republic of the Congo: AET Background Study. Tuskegee University.
- Noella Nyirabihogo, (2017). Democratic Republic of Congo: DRC Students Drop Out as Parents Struggle to Pay Rising Required Teachers’ Bonuses. Global Press Journal. Retrieved from https://globalpressjournal.com/africa/democratic-republic-of-congo/drc-students-drop-parents-struggle-pay-rising-required-teachers-bonuses/
- Odette Asha, (2015). Stark Choice for Congolese Children: Marriage or education. European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/echo/blog/stark-choice-congolese-children-marriage-or-education_en