Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo : Challenges and tentatives solutions
The education in the Democratic Republic Democratic of Congo is among the most sectors affected by the 32 years crisis faced by the country. From the 1960s until the early 2000s, the Congolese public education budget declined from 7% of GDP and 25% of the national budget to 1% of GDP and 5% of the budget, creating a fall of 96% in spending per pupil per year in primary and secondary schools (from US$109 in 1980 to $4 in 2002). Consequently, many reforms were done and the worst one suggested that parents should finance the education system by themselves without sharing funds with the government. The consequence is the degradation of education quality and infrastructure.
Thus, as of the entire population, 66.6% of adults and 65.3% of youth are literate with a significant difference among gender for adults (77.5% for male and 56.1% for female). 3% of children are enrolled in pre-primary school. The gross enrolment ratios for primary, secondary and tertiary schools are respectively 47%, 18% and 1% for year 1999 (90%, 35% and 5% for year 2008). In the other hand, the net enrolment ratio in primary school is only 32% for 1999. School life expectancy ISCED 1-6 is 7.8 years and the percentage of repeaters in primary schools is 15%. Moreover, the survival rate to grade 5 is only 80% while the gross intake rate to last grade of primary is 53% and the primary to secondary transition rate 80%[i].
Another consequence of the funding reform is that since parents are forced to pay at the school gate for the education of their children, even for primary school, which the constitution provides should be free and compulsory, corruption became endemic, including the exchange of good grades for sexual favors or for cash; the use of funds for purposes other than those they were allocated to; the straightforward theft of funds from the institutions concerned.
The last challenge resides on the education program by itself. Congo’s education system is out of date and doesn’t meet people needs. Based on the Belgium system since independence in 1960s, no reform has aimed to change its contents. Actually, the economy structure has completely changed: more the 70% of the economy is informal. Since there is a lack of formal jobs, university graduates are unemployed or underemployed in the informal sector so that there is a misallocation of resources inside the economy.
The first solution resides in funding education by increasing its budget allocation. Not later than June 30, the IMF and the World Bank decided under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, to support debt relief worth $12.3 billion for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The additional resources released by the debt relief will help create room in the budget for spending on priority programs such as roads, schools, and hospitals. If there is a political willing, a significant push can be made in terms of funding education.
The second solution is to reform the education system per se. This reform will aim to reassert the value of professors (teachers), update to content of curriculum and promote girl education. The first will struggle against corruption and immorality whereas the latter will increase the human capital quality and transform mentality. Actually, corruption, immorality and poverty have destroyed the quality of education in a level that people don’t respect public goods and forgot about culture of respect and tolerance. The need as far as the education program is concerned is to review the class curriculum by including subjects such as Civism and Congo’s tradition.
As for education reform, priority has to be on technical and technological education. This will enhance the elite’s capacity to absorb new technologies, increase productivity and get advantage of increasing return of scale. A push must be made here in R&D. An emphasize must also be made on the non formal education in order to provide skills to farmers and artisans so as to increase their productivity and help them to shift from informal sector to formal, or from substantial agriculture to agro-industries. Empowering women through non formal education will significantly decrease the infant mortality, the rate of malnutrition and increase children education.