Teachers’ strike in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: students invade parliament to demand the resumption of classes

The image is striking. A long disciplined procession of students in uniform entered the building of the National Assembly in Kinshasa, to demand the resumption of classes. They will then listen in peace to Jean-Marc Kabunda, the first vice-president of the Assembly for whom these students are “the victims of a disagreement between the Congolese government and (their) teachers”.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, since the start of the school year on October 4, only private schools have been operating and lessons are effectively given there. Public and approved schools are on strike. Teachers demand an increase in their salaries. Talks between the unions and the government are expected to resume. An interministerial decree has already been signed for the resumption of discussions between the two parties.

Meanwhile, students dissatisfied and tired of the strike movement are increasing demonstrations across the country to demand the resumption of classes. “Manipulation”, reacted the Minister of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education (EPST), Tony Mwaba, the day after the students’ march. According to him, the instigators of these demonstrations have only one objective: to sabotage free education! This free service was included in the Constitution in 2006, but never applied. ! When he came to power in 2019, FĂ©lix Tshisekedi made it effective. “It has thus been estimated that 4 million children have returned to school”, explained Minister Tony Mwaba to Vatican News in June.

But, negative effect, this generated an overstaffing: between 45 and 50 students per class, recognizes the minister. Many children have come from private education which still pays off. Moreover, according to the minister, officials of these private schools want to cede them to the State, “because they no longer manage to take charge of the teachers and to bear the running costs of the schools, for lack of pupils”.

For parents, paying for school meant above all paying for teachers’ salaries. “Today, we have challenges, but the State has agreed to take charge of all the teachers in the Congo”, specifies the Minister. And that’s where it hurts. Teachers’ incomes have been significantly reduced since they were paid by the State.

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Once again, the public authorities will have to clean up their administration to free up new resources. The discovery of fictitious establishments and teachers has already saved four billion Congolese francs (1.6 million euros). Another scandal, that of the 87,000 teachers eligible for retirement. Some are 95 years old, 105 years old … For 35 years in the DRC, no teacher has been retired, which says a lot about the lack of interest the state showed in education.

Those responsible for Catholic education (National Episcopal Conference of Congo, Cenco) support striking teachers and highlight the “underfunding of education”. The strike is not directed against free education, but “it is out of the question that free basic education is based on the exploitation of teachers”. La Cenco also highlights the “decline of our education system (…) in infrastructure, manuals, teaching and assessment methods and in the quality of the training provided. “

The teachers’ strike at least has the merit of taking stock of the catastrophic state of Congolese national education.

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