Public spending on education
In 2015, spending on education was equivalent to 4.56 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) (or USD 396.765 million of a total GDP of USD 8.701 billion).
The education system is the responsibility of:
- the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy (MEPSA in French)
- the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education (METP)
- the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MESRS).
Pursuant to Act No. 25/95 of 17 November 1995 and Order No. 278/MEFB/METP/MEPSA of 20 March 2008, the State is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and vocational training and for providing free and inclusive public education at the primary and secondary level. The State has therefore abolished school fees and made textbooks free of charge. It should be noted that preschool education (for three- to five-year-olds) is neither compulsory nor is enrolment free.
The 2015–2025 Education Sector Strategy aims to improve access and equity. It has three focus areas, described below.
First, the strategy aims to consolidate current practices to reduce disparities. To this end, the Basic Education Support Project, funded by the World Bank, has supported indigenous children’s education by building schools closer to their communities and providing school kits and uniforms. The International Partnership for Human Development (IPHD), with funding from the United States Government, has also implemented a school support programme to introduce school canteens in areas with a high concentration of indigenous populations. Finally, the establishment of “improved rural schools”, modelled on those set up in Niger and Chad, is being considered.
Secondly, the strategy aims to continue the school feeding programme, with technical support from the World Food Programme (WFP), in areas with high levels of extreme poverty, including conflict-affected areas in the subregion and areas with high levels of nutritional deficiency, to boost demand for education.
Finally, the strategy aspires to prioritize the education of rural and disadvantaged populations (including indigenous populations and children with special educational needs) through scholarships or grants or by prioritizing them for boarding school places.
There are nearly 2,000 primary schools in the country, in addition to the secondary schools that require government support. Under the Education Sector Support Project, there are plans to build and renovate classrooms to make them more inclusive and improve the learning environment. USD 10 million will be spent on this project.
The circular asking parents to fund their children’s schooling was repealed by members of parliament in 2018. A new text will set out the obligations of the stakeholders (families and schools) regarding school funding.
WFP has implemented a school feeding programme in the Republic of the Congo and has included the country in its "Share the Meal" campaign. These initiatives affect displaced and indigenous students in particular. WFP provided USD 631,400 in funding for these initiatives for 2019, from which 72,200 children from 362 schools (indigenous students) benefited.
The 2015–2025 Education Sector Strategy aims to provide 10 per cent of secondary school students with a scholarship by 2024 (i.e. 6,500 scholarships).
In 2018, the Minister for Higher and University Education announced that 500 international scholarships would be awarded to help gifted young Congolese students with high potential from low-income families to study in America, Europe and Asia, mainly in scientific fields. In return, scholarship recipients must commit to working for the Congolese public administration for five years.
The strategy also prioritizes the education of rural and disadvantaged populations (including indigenous populations and children with special educational needs) through 63 scholarships or grants or by prioritizing them for boarding school places.
Finally, the State is considering revising the scholarship criteria to reduce the opportunity cost for children from poor families, girls, and students from rural areas. The criteria and conditions for awarding scholarships will also be revised to make science courses attractive, especially for girls taking science and technology courses, starting from the first year of university.
Lastly, the State condemns any discriminatory practices (racketeering, fraud, sexual harassment or abuse, intimidation, blackmail, quid pro quo) in the scholarship award process that might discourage many families and girls from applying for scholarships.
The State provides a range of social welfare benefits, including through the National Social Security Fund. Child benefit payments are made for the first three children from the mother's first marriage, amounting to XAF 1,200 per child per month. The age limit is 16 years for out-of-school children or 20 years for children in education and for children with a disability or an incurable disease. Finally, XAF 2,200 (USD 3.75) and XAF 2,759 (USD 4.75) are paid to families that undertake a series of medical examinations (pre-maternity) and XAF 1,200 is paid per child per month (USD 2) after birth.