Raissa Malu

What if we were wrong?

In secondary school, there are more students in the scientific section than in the literary section, but overall, the optional subjects chosen are not adapted to the needs of the labour market.

Our exploration of the Congolese education system began with women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We then had an overview of the secondary education supply in this country. I would like to end this "trilogy" with the last opus, the choices of the students (and their parents).

Since I started promoting STEM in the Democratic Republic of Congo, my focus has been on increasing the number of students in these fields. In higher and university education, this is a very topical issue. At the Polytechnic Faculty of the University of Kinshasa, for example, only about fifty engineers graduate each year.

Prof. Dr. Ir. Sandrine Mubenga, reacting to this information, told me in a moment of complicity that at the University of Toledo in the USA where she teaches, 200 engineers graduate each semester! We still have some work to do. On the secondary education side, the problem may not be as we had imagined. See for yourself!

A national survey

The data presented here are taken from the geolocation of secondary schools carried out between October and November 2018 (school year 2018-2019) by the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education with the Education for Quality and Relevance of Secondary and University Education Project (PEQPESU). About 80% of secondary schools have been geolocated for the distribution of 18,000 science kits in support of the modernization of the science and mathematics programmes.

Every year during Science and Technology Week, I ask a few students about the branch they are in. When they are in Secondary 5 or 6, I ask what they will do next. I then probe their eyes looking for the flame that would betray a devouring passion or a choice dictated by reason...

We have geolocated 25,114 secondary schools throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo. About 4,752,709 students are enrolled, 42% of whom are in the Terminal Cycle of Basic Education (CTEB), i.e. in the first and second general secondary years. See how the other 58% are distributed among the different sections:

Eleves par types denseignement et sections

More students in science than in litterature

No, you're not dreaming! 16% of secondary school students in D. R. Congo are in the Science section! Our literary friends will be "green with jealousy or red with anger" when they discover that their section attracts only 5% of the students. And it is the Pedagogy section that I addressed in my previous article, which has the lion's share with 42% of the students enrolled. Unbelievable!

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is "serious" for a school to offer the Scientific section and for a parent to enrol their child. This is a matter of prestige. And of the two options, Math-Physics and Bio-Chemistry, the first is perceived as "very serious" ("Math-Physics is for the tough") and the second as "more affordable" so that it is here that the vast majority of "budding scientists" are registered. Or not.

Because why, when there are so many of them in secondary school, do they not choose STEM courses in higher education? Is this really the section they would have chosen if, for example, the others did not have a "bad reputation"? Or, do you have to wait until you become an engineer to be a good mechanic?

Technical and vocational education

This brings us to technical and vocational education, where there are 37.5% of secondary school students! This teaching is divided into 5 sections: Technical, Agricultural Technique, Artistic Technique, Industrial Technique and Professional Technique. The latter lasts 2 years after CTEB, the others are in 4 years after CTEB.

Kinshasa is the province that is the champion of technical education in terms of the number of students enrolled in this section. But, I choose to present you the data of the province of Kwilu, the 2nd province of this ranking. In Kwilu, out of 67,694 students enrolled in the Technical section, 48% are in the Cut and Sewing option, compared to only 7% in the Computer option! For the socio-economic development of the region, further strategic orientations may be necessary.

Gaps between training and economic needs

I will give you an example. The city of Kikwit is a stopover town for merchants travelling to or from the Kasai to Kinshasa. How, in this context, can we explain that there are only 0.1% of students in the Hotels and Restaurants section? I'm not an expert in this sector, but I think there's something we can do about it...

Repartition eleves Sections techniques Kwilu

Let's move to the Agricultural Technology section and to the east of the country in North Kivu province, one of the granary provinces of the DRC. There are 41,483 students enrolled in this section in this province, broken down as follows:

Repartition eleves techniques agricoles Nord Kivu

Here, I note that in the Food Industry, we have only 5% of students enrolled and in Agricultural Mechanics, 0.02%! To develop the region's industrial fabric, there are efforts to be made.

Let's talk about the Industrial Technology section and move south to the province of Haut-Katanga. We have 29,261 students enrolled in the Industrial Technology section. With only 0.1% enrolled in the Civil Aviation option, my friend, Mamitsho Pontshi, co-pilot on Airbus 320 with Congo Airways, the national airline, will wait before she is overwhelmed by take over troops. And it's incredible that there is only 0.5% in Industrial Chemicals. However, the applications are so interesting and create wealth.

Repartition eleves Techniques industrielles Haut Katanga

A glaring lack of equipment

Unfortunately, overall, behind these beautiful names, there is a lot of misery. Schools are not equipped. Buildings, if they exist, are falling apart. Teachers are too few, poorly trained and/or poorly paid. The schools that offer the Pedagogy section are the most numerous because this section does not require as much material investment as the Scientific and Technical sections. As for the Literary section, the lack of teachers of Latin, Greek and philosophy probably explains its under-representation.

What would it take to change? Perhaps declare a "state of emergency in the education sector" as advocated by Congolese economist Dandy Matata. In the meantime, it would help if the provinces remembered that it is up to them to develop, regulate and improve educational provision and learning conditions. Let the private sector know that it is with them that we can develop technical and vocational education. That parents take into account their children's choices.

And that we all remember that the school is a full member of the community. Endogenous and ancestral knowledge contribute to the training of our children in the same way as learned knowledge.

With regard to the modernization of the programmes of the scientific and technical sectors of the so-called priority sectors, agriculture, extractive industries and public buildings and works, you should know that the Ministries concerned are dealing with them.

Science is fun, join us !

This post has first been published on LinkedIn. It has been translated in English by Afriscitech.

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