The Coalition Nationale de l’Education Pour Tous en République Démocratique du Congo (CONEPT-DRC) operates through 50 member organisations, which represent an array of stakeholders, such as teachers’ unions, parents’ associations, NGOs, children’s and women’s rights groups, and researchers, and are located across all provinces in the country. DRC is the fourth most populous nation on the African continent, with over 71 million inhabitants. Among these, over 7 million children and young people of between 7 and 15 years are out of school, most of them girls. This is partly a result of extreme poverty and long-term political conflict and violence, which has underpinned a lack of social services, infrastructure and poor governance. In this context, CONEPT has spent the past ten years at the forefront of campaigning for the right to education in DRC, and through CSEF we have worked to influence policy dialogue and holding the government accountable for efforts to overcome these immense challenges.
Towards citizen accountability
The education sector in DRC has been governed by different education sector plans, and supported since 2013 through funding from the Global Partnership for Education. Domestic financial commitments have previously been poor; however, the share of the total budget for education increased from 9% in 2010 to 16% in 2013. Yet, the government has experienced challenges in terms of implementing the sector plans, and there has been limited engagement with relevant stakeholders, including civil society, in planning and policy processes. This is despite the emphasis of the current Interim Plan for Education (PIE, 2012-2015) on improving the governance of the education system.
In response to these challenges, CONEPT has been working to ensure broad public outreach on key education issues, to bolster citizen dialogue and enhance government attention to education. An important tactic we have employed has been to build a collaborative relationship with the media, in order to raise awareness among citizens and communities. We have produced a variety of newspaper articles and radio programmes focusing on issues such as early childhood, quality and inclusive education. In September 2013 I participated, on behalf of the coalition, in a television debate with the Minister for Education, Mr. Maker Mwangu Famba, to discuss the education reforms. Here I emphasised that political will is needed to ensure that the necessary domestic resources, services and infrastructure are mobilised under governmental efforts to achieve agreed education goals. It was also an opportunity to reinforce the message that education sector plans should be developed through dialogue with civil society, as is highlighted in the Dakar Framework for Action 2000.
Influencing education sector planning
CONEPT has also engaged in data collection, monitoring and research, in order to gather evidence to feed into policy debate around key education challenges in DRC. To ensure inclusive and participatory consultations, we have established a system to facilitate civil society review of policy documents, with a particular emphasis on incorporating inputs from marginalized groups. Based on these contributions, key findings and positions are submitted to the government in oral or written forms. This has helped to increase civil society’s profile and credibility, and led to enhanced recognition from decision-makers and more opportunity for civil society to engage.
At present, the government is preparing a new Education and Training Sector Plan (ETSP, 2016-2025), which is to replace the current PIE. In light of this, the government has asked CONEPT to coordinate inputs and feedback from civil society. In March this year we organised a National Forum on Education Policy and Financing to analyse the draft plan. As the official government-organised reviews were only conducted in the capital, Kinshasa, we also made sure to host five consultations in the provinces of Equateur, Bas Congo, Bandundu and Katanga as well as Kinshasa, ahead of the National Forum in March to capture inputs from grassroots level. In these processes we made use of GCE’s Planning Matters toolkit, which helped to build understanding around the various entry points civil society can use to engage with sector planning. The civil society consultations resulted in a submission advocating for enhanced domestic resources to education, with an emphasis on ensuring equity, and alignment of the full SDG 4 agenda to the national context. The proposal also argued for the government to support and strengthen Parents’ Committees (COPAS) and Schools’ Management Councils (COGES), which exist in almost all schools, in order to improve local school governance and accountability through citizen-driven monitoring activities.
As the elaboration of the new education plan is still under way CONEPT will be monitoring the process closely. We are hopeful that the meaningful participation of civil society will result in a responsive and relevant Education and Training Sector Plan for DRC that is implemented effectively and can help bring us closer to ensuring quality education for all.