Written by Esther Musau Tshimanga
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest sovereign nation in the African continent with a population of over 84 million inhabitants. The DRC is considered one of the richest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of natural resources, however, its population is further away from experiencing its wealth. According to the World Bank, 64% of the population lived under the poverty threshold with less than 2.15$ a day in 2021 (The World Bank, 2015). The DRC is faced with a wide range of political, socio-economic, and health issues coupled with ongoing armed conflict, and the state of the country continues to experience a steady decline following the Covid-19 pandemic (Pinshi 2020; Sasidharan and Dhillon 2021).
The Education system in the DRC is one of the national structures that has suffered the most from the lack of access to that national wealth. The educational system of the DRC has been reported as weak due to the low prosperity level of the country and plagued by poor quality and deep social inequalities. According to USAID, more the 45% of children begin school later, after the age of 6 which is the recommended year to begin primary school (The Global Economy, 2021), of those who successfully enter the first grade, only 67% will reach the 6th grade (USAID, 2023). The two main challenges hindering the education system in the DRC are poor quality and low coverage on the structural level when national challenges such as war, conflict, gender-based violence, food insecurity, and poverty have major repercussions on accessibility to equal and equitable education.
The following article will explore the current educational challenges and experiences in the DRC. An overall description of the DRC education system will be provided, followed by an exploration of their challenges, and will conclude by mentioning recent educational reform and their potential implication on the education system.
The DRC Education System, an Overview.
Due to poverty, military conflicts, and a lack of infrastructure, the school system in the Republic Democratic of Congo (DRC) suffers several difficulties (Education Cannot Wait 2023). Although, the country’s constitution recognizes the right to an education as a fundamental one, numerous youngsters remain out of school as a result of exorbitant tuition fees and subpar instructional materials (USAID 2023). With limited access to intermediate and university education, primary education in the DRC is free but not mandated (Kingiela 2018). An estimated 77.04% of people are literate, however, there is a large gender gap because women are more likely than males to be illiterate (UNESCO 2020). When compared to other African nations, the government’s expenditure on education is small, which causes teachers shortage and subpar classroom facilities (Kingiela 2018). Additionally, the colonial-based curriculum of the nation’s educational system, which disregards regional contexts and cultures, restricts the level of education that can be provided to children.
The education system of the DRC is mainly organized across ideology and social groups, of which the catholic, protestants and unsubsidized schools form 80% of the country’s educational network, furthermore, urban provinces count the highest number of children enrolled in schools, the highest number of girls enrolled in schools and highest number of educators available as high as 20% for each construct, while predominantly rural and provinces affected by armed conflict represent the lowest number of enrolled children, enrolled girls, as well as available educators (Cellule Technique pour les Statistiques de l’Education (CTSE) 2015)
Challenges in the DRC Education System
Inadequate finance is one of the biggest problems facing the DRC’s educational system (Education Cannot Wait 2023). Only a small portion of the total government expenditure on education is spent on raising standards. The government’s investment in education has decreased over time, which has caused a drop in educational quality (Sasidharan and Dhillon 2021). The lack of finance has led to inadequate teacher preparation, a shortage of classroom supplies, and a lack of school infrastructure. UNESCO reports that the government only devotes 2.3% of its Gross Domestic Product to education, which is much less than the 20% suggested by the Dakar Framework for Action (UNESCO 2000, 2020). Due to little funding, education is of poor quality. There were just 16,500 elementary schools and 2,700 secondary schools in the nation in 2013 (Cellule Technique pour les Statistiques de l’Education (CTSE) 2015).
Corruption is another issue that results in insufficient funding. Officials embezzle funds intended for education because corruption is rampant in the country’s educational system making it challenging for schools to deliver high-quality instruction, particularly in rural areas where schools have few resources (Centre de Recherche sur l’anti-corruption 2022).
In the DRC, it can be difficult for children to get access to education, especially if they live in remote areas. About 3.5 million children of primary school age do not attend, with girls being disproportionately impacted (USAID, 2023). Children in remote locations have a tough time getting to school due to a lack of transportation options, including roads (World Bank, 2005). As a result of many youngsters being obliged to labor to support their families, poverty is another big impediment to schooling (Musarandega et al. 2021).
The fact that many institutions offer low-quality education just makes the lack of access to education worse (Kinsala, 2020). The ineffectiveness of instruction is hampered by the shortage of textbooks and other educational tools (World Vision, 2023). Additionally, many teachers lack the necessary credentials and have poor training (Kinsala, 2020).
Lack of infrastructure
The lack of infrastructure is another issue that has hampered education in the DRC. Most schools lack basic amenities such as water, electricity, and proper sanitation facilities (The World Bank 2015). This lack of infrastructure has contributed to the high dropout rates, particularly for girls who have to walk long distances to attend school (Musarandega et al. 2021). In addition, the lack of infrastructure makes it difficult for teachers to deliver quality education.
Impact of Conflict on Education
The ongoing conflict in the DRC has had a significant impact on education in the country. The conflict has disrupted the education system, with many schools being destroyed or closed down (Jones and Naylor 2014). Children have been forced to flee their homes, and some have been recruited as soldiers, denying them access to education. The conflict has also created a sense of insecurity, making it difficult for children to attend school. Many parents fear for their children’s safety and choose to keep them at home, even if they have access to education (Omaamaka 2015). This has contributed to the low enrollment rates in many parts of the country.
Education is essential for the development of any country. In the DRC, however, education faces many challenges, including inadequate funding, limited access to education, inadequate infrastructure and materials, and the impact of the conflict on education(USAID 2023). Addressing these challenges will require a collective effort by the government, civil society, and the international community. This includes increased funding for education, improving access to education, investing in infrastructure and materials, and promoting peace and security in the country. Only by addressing these challenges can the DRC fulfil its potential and provide quality education for all its citizens.
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