The country's Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 is based on the principle of an inclusive education that "takes into account the various geographical or gender disparities and inequalities, and vulnerable and marginalized populations." Inclusive education takes into account vulnerable groups or populations with specific needs, namely "rural communities, girls, indigenous populations, peri-urban populations and children with special educational needs."
Special educational needs
The country does not propose a conclusive definition of specific or special educational needs in its official documents.
Article 3 of Act No. 4-2010 on child protection states that "special schools must be created for certain categories of persons with disabilities who require special education and treatment." These schools are intended for people with a physical, sensory or learning disability or who are experiencing personal adjustment and social integration challenges. They aim to facilitate the social adjustment and integration of these people. The country has two institutes for all children with hearing impairments in the Republic. In 2011, the net enrolment rate of children with disabilities in primary school education was estimated at 52.2 per cent.
The Catholic special school in Brazzaville was authorized by the Ministry of National Education in 1980 and welcomes those excluded from the official school system due to age, poverty, disability and learning difficulties. It welcomes people living with a disability, children and young people being reintegrated into education, teenagers for literacy and vocational training, and adults wishing to learn. Most of the courses on offer for children and teenagers allow them to continue in the mainstream public sector to obtain diplomas or professional certifications. These various students are educated in the same school, which brings together "a diverse range of students distinguished by their social backgrounds, level of schooling, intellectual challenges, and disability, divided into four teaching groups." Today, Brazzaville special school has about 2,000 students.
A designated "inclusive" school established by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Viens et vois [Come and See] was also opened in September 2019 in the commune of Kintélé to the north of Brazzaville. In November 2019, it welcomed 450 sighted, blind and visually impaired students ranging from preschool through to secondary school.
Article 29 of the Constitution guarantees the right to education and equal access to education and training. It states that schooling is compulsory until the age of 16. The Education Act No. 32/65 of 12 August 1965 promises a "democratic, compulsory and free school that promotes access to education for all." Moreover, Act No. 25/95 of 17 November 1995 on the organization of the education system in the Congo emphasizes the importance of education and social and economic integration to an individual’s overall development. This act states that "everyone has the right to education" (article 1). In addition, article 2 of this act states that "every child living in the territory of the Republic of the Congo has the right, irrespective of origin, nationality, sex, creed, opinion or wealth, to an education that ensures the full development of his or her intellectual, artistic, oral, physical and moral capacities, as well as his or her civic and vocational training." Finally, article 3 states that "special schools should be created for certain categories of people living with disabilities who require special teaching and treatment." Lastly, Act No. 4-2010 reiterates the right to education for children and stipulates in article 27 that "every child living in the territory of the Republic of Congo has the right, irrespective of origin, nationality, sex, creed or wealth, to an education that ensures the full development of his or her intellectual, artistic, moral and physical capacities, as well as his or her civic and vocational training."
The Republic of the Congo developed an Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 which enabled it to join the Education for All Fast-Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) and the Global Partnership for Education in 2015 as the sixty-first member country. The Education Sector Strategy is structured around three areas: providing quality basic education for all (10-year foundation); meeting the human resource needs of an emerging economy; and making the steering and management of the education system effective.
Act No. 009-92 of 22 April 1992 on the status, protection and advancement of persons with disabilities is still in force. The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 provides for the development and implementation of an action plan to address the educational needs of students with disabilities. It should be noted that the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for children living with a disability. That said, children with disabilities "are not integrated into schools as much as they could be." In 2014, Congo ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which it signed in 2007.
In 1982, Congo ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In this regard, article 17 of the country's Constitution states that women have the same rights as men. Accordingly, Act No. 25-95 ensures equal access for girls and boys to education and training (which includes access to curricula, examinations, facilities and equipment of equal quality). The act also guarantees pregnant girls the right to continue their education and to resume their studies after childbirth. Act No. 19-64 of 13 July 1994 also aims to protect pregnant minors against exclusion from school.
In November 2016, a new national gender policy covering the 2017–2021 period was introduced. A meeting to raise awareness about this policy as well as its related programmes was organized by the Congolese Government in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Congo in June 2017. This policy aims to achieve gender equality and the social, economic and political empowerment of women and girls in the Congo. It is developed around five strategic areas: consolidating gender equality and women's empowerment; strengthening the role and place of women and girls in the economy and employment; increasing women's and girls' access to decision-making spaces; tackling the forms of sexual violence; and strengthening the institutional mechanism for implementing the national gender policy. At the same time, 11 programmes and 24 subprogrammes have been selected which cover several areas, including education. The issue of girls' education falls within the framework of subprogramme one, "Education", of programme one, "Increased access for women and girls to basic social services", which aims to achieve parity between boys and girls at all levels of the education system. A series of actions accompany this programme, such as:
- consolidating measures to move towards parity between boys and girls
- tackling violence in schools and eliminating gender stereotypes in curricula, textbooks and teaching practices, through in-service training for teachers, inspectors and school heads
- raising awareness among parents, the local community and opinion leaders about the need to guarantee the conditions for girls to succeed and to stay in school and training
- improving data and information collection, as well as gender-disaggregated statistics.
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 also provides for the creation of community education centres for indigenous girls and scholarships for girls from remote areas.
Various initiatives have been put in place by the Government and civil society to reduce girls' dropout rates, notably through setting up programmes for girls and women who have left school early. In addition, it appears that the literacy rate among women has improved thanks to the national policy of creating literacy centres (which offer evening classes) throughout the country, including in rural areas.
During 2016, a strategy for the education of girls was also developed and submitted to the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy. This strategy is the result of work involving several national and international actors such as the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF). "It opts in favour of an egalitarian and safe education, while targeting the current key problems related to the school environment for girls and taking into account all of their development and overall integration concerns." The strategy is focused on the following three areas of intervention: improving girls' access to and retention in school; improving girls' participation in school at all levels of the education system; building institutional capacity so support girls' education.
Ethnicity and languages
The population of the Congo is made up mainly of Bantu people and a minority of Pygmy people. There are about 60 ethnic groups. Under article 4 of Act No. 20/80 of 11 September 1980 on the reorganization of the education system, the two national languages (Lingala and Munukutuba) are taught in school. In reality, these subjects are taught in only a certain number of schools. French has remained the only language of instruction throughout the school and university curriculum.
Act No. 5/2011 on the promotion and protection of indigenous people aims to develop and implement specific literacy programmes for indigenous people. It also provides a framework for the civil registration of indigenous populations.
Observer, Réflechir, Agir [Observe, Reflect, Act – ORA] schools are an experiment in educating indigenous children in forest zones. Unlike the official system, they use mother tongues and national languages.
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 provides for the development of ORA schools for indigenous children. Unlike in the formal system, these students learn using mother tongues and national languages and their teachers are from the indigenous community. These schools aim to integrate students into the mainstream system after two or three years of teaching. In the past, the construction of these schools has resulted in an increase in schooling. Indeed, in 2011–2012, out of 3,500 beneficiary children, 3,274 children had attended classes regularly, a 90 per cent retention rate, and 59 per cent had passed exams.
Lastly, organizations are heavily involved. The U.S. Government-funded International Partnership for Human Development (IPHD) is setting up school canteens in areas with a high concentration of indigenous people. The World Bank, through the Indigenous People's Plan and the Support to Basic Education Programme, is also helping build nearby schools and is providing school kits and uniforms.
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 prioritizes the education of rural and disadvantaged populations, by granting them scholarships or assistance or by giving them priority in boarding schools.
In 2012, the country adopted a Poverty Reduction Strategy which identifies activities to support education development (including improved transport in cities, better access to schools in rural areas, equipping libraries and Internet connectivity).
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 also provides for the support of the national school canteen programme and the school feeding policy. It prioritizes girls from low-income families and other disadvantaged children when allocating university places. In the absence of a coordinated policy framework, several NGOs (supported by United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP)) are involved in school canteen programmes.
The national education system is under the authority of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy (MEPSA), the Ministry of Technical and Professional Education, Skills Training and Employment (METPFQE) and the Ministry of Higher and University Education (MESU). These three ministries are assisted by a local education group composed of education partners (UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Bank, WFP, French Development Agency) and by education associations (Forum for African Women Educationalists, Association of Parents of Pupils and Students in Congo, National Union of Parents of Pupils and Students in Congo, Free Union of Congolese Pupils and Students, Pupils and Students of the Congo Movement, Federation of Community Management and Development Committees in Schools, teachers' unions, etc.). Four other ministries – namely the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education, the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education, the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and the Integration of Women into Development, and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and Solidarity – also participate in education sector activities.
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for children living with a disability.
Finally, the institutional mechanism that handles "gender" issues is under the authority of the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and the Integration of Women into Development. However, the issues specific to girls' education are the responsibility of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Technical and Professional Education, Skills Training and Employment and the Ministry of Higher Education (MES). Within this framework, a "gender" focal point has been appointed in each of the three ministries responsible for education.
In the Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025, the Government considers that the low inclusion of students with disabilities is "attributable to the insufficient capacity of special education establishments (which are almost all concentrated in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire) and the unsuitability of mainstream schools for the particular needs of children with disabilities, not to mention the qualitative and quantitative inadequacy of human resources" (p. 45).
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 identifies the actions to be taken to ensure that school buildings that foster inclusion are built. These include a focus on rural areas and girls and the installation of latrines with separate blocks for girls.
Finally, the last time textbooks were revised to eliminate stereotypes was in 2014–2015.
Initial training programmes for primary and secondary school teachers in the country are offered through the École Normale d'Instituteurs [Teacher Training College] and the École Normale Supérieure [Advanced Teacher Training College].
The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 aims for a stronger presence of specialist teachers in technical colleges, with a view to them making up 60 per cent of permanent teachers by 2020. In addition, it provides for the creation of a specialized technical teacher training institute to ensure initial and in-service teacher training. In July 2019, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy officially launched a training programme for teachers at the inclusive school of Kintélé.
The country does not have an education monitoring report or indicators on inclusive education (other than the percentage of schools and children receiving school kits and the number of children with disabilities enrolled in school). The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 notes, in this regard, the "non-existence" of recent and reliable data on the education of children with special educational needs. The Education Sector Strategy 2015–2025 mentions that there have been no systematic statistical surveys at the establishment level of the Ministry of Technical and Professional Education, Skills Training and Employment for several years, due to a lack of funding. The data available are those partially collected by the pedagogical advisers.