21/11/2011 - Struggling to overcome a decade of conflict, the DRC faces an education crisis with findings in a new report pointing to up to seven million children across of the country not in school.
The figure of seven million shows how poor access to basic education in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains despite a 2010 government decision to make primary education free.
This high rate of children not attending school is likely related to violent conflicted experienced by the country compounded by continuing violence, and decades of corruption and poor governance.
The figure of seven million children who lack access to education was contained in the preliminary findings of a study conducted by the DRC government with the UK Department for International Development and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
The study reported that 25 percent of the primary school-aged children and 60 percent of adolescents were not enrolled in classes.
Some education on the ground point to the fact that even with free primary education, parents are still bearing much of the costs for education due to delays. Many families face large rates of unemployment, poverty and lack the ability to provide even the basics for their family, and therefore these delays are keeping children from attending school.
There are also issues with many teachers being poorly paid, and therefore the quality of education offered in public schools remains low. The average monthly salary for a primary school teacher was $35-40, and often the teachers' salaries are several months in arrears.
There are reports of the situation getting so desperate that in rural areas, some teachers supplement their earnings by working as casual labourers on farms. Those in urban areas end up begging for money from their pupils' parents just to survive.
Compounding this problem is a severe teacher shortage in public schools. Especially in marginalized or rural areas, there can be more than 100 pupils per class in primary school. As well, according to UNESCO, at least 10 percent of primary teachers are aged over 55, the official retirement age.
Some are pointing out issues with the directive on free primary education, mostly that it remains unrealistic and difficult to implement. As well, the directive was meant to be gradual, but unfortunately not enough of the money that was put aside in the budget has been dispersed.
According to the 2011 budget the allocation of funds for primary education decreased by 28 percent.
According to UNESCO's 2011 global monitoring report on Education For All, the military budget of DRC was twice as much as the education budget.