Comprehensive Sexuality Education
1. Context and background
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is Africa's second-largest country and one of the most populated countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with a primarily young population (about two-thirds of the population are under the age of 25). The country has made progress in improving access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care, investing in family planning, and reforming its legal framework. This comes after more than a decade of civil war and major political turbulence, which has had disastrous consequences for the health system and family planning efforts. However, a number SRH-related issues are a source of concern. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has one of the world's highest fertility and maternal death rates, a high percentage of newborn and infant mortality, and high levels of sexual violence, early and unintended pregnancies, early marriages, and STIs.
Established in 1970, The Service Central Education à la Vie, is a non-governmental organization that provides a foundation of curricula and resources to be applied in schools. These were updated in 2005, 2009, and 2015, and have been widely adopted in selected schools. In 1989 the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education created the National Commission for Education and Family Life to develop the curriculum. In 2014, the Government introduced the Family Life Education course (Education à la vie, sometimes known as Education à la vie familiale et population).
No formal definition was found. In school-based education, components of comprehensive sexuality education are incorporated into the subject of Family Life Education.
3. Laws and policies
3.1. Relevant international/regional agreements to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a signatory
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
Ratification date: 1986
Acknowledges the need to guarantee sexuality education free from discrimination and stereotypes, conveying gender equality values.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Ratification date: 1990
Commits to the right to access appropriate health-related information.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Ratification date: 2015
Commits to the highest attainable standard of health for persons with disabilities.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Ratification date: 1976
Acknowledges that the right to sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of the right to health.
The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action
Calls for sexuality education, counselling and support mechanisms for adolescents, and identifies essential topics.
At the regional level, the DRC ratified the Maputo Protocol (2008), and it is part of the African Union Agenda 2063, which makes several calls for investment in youth and women.
3.2. Relevant national laws and policies mandating comprehensive sexuality education
Between 2003 and 2013, the country engaged in several internal legislative reforms. These included the adoption of a new Constitution of the Republic Democratic of the Congo in 2005 that formalizes gender parity and mandates the public authorities to protect the youth against any attack on their health, education or overall development, and includes two laws against sexual violence.
The Law on National Education establishes that national education should provide initial and continuous training in the fight against sexual violence and endemic and epidemic diseases, in particular HIV & AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
Sexuality education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is supported by a number of policies and strategies. As one of its strategies in the field of education, the National Development Strategy 2019-2023 proposes the integration of cross-cutting thematic programmes into the national programme, particularly on HIV & AIDS. The Strategy also mentions: i) the need to improve access to health care for mothers, newborns, children, and adolescents, and the need to establish mechanisms to reduce barriers to access to health care; ii) the provision of support for free prenatal and maternity check-ups as well as investment in the family planning programme. According to the National Education Sector Strategy of Education and Training 2016-2025, the Ministry of Primary Secondary and Technical Education will ensure the integration of cross-cutting thematic programmes into the national programme. This includes education for management, peace and citizenship, HIV & AIDS, gender, and the environment.
The Integrated Strategic Plan of Reproductive Health, Mother, Newborn, Child, Adolescent and Nutrition 2019-2022 aims to: reduce HIV-related mortality among adolescents; develop and update the national strategy for health problems of adolescents and young people in school, non-school settings, and university environments; train teachers, care providers, and young peer educators on adolescent issues; and strengthen hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition.
The National Strategic Plan with a Multisectoral Vision for Family Planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2014-2020) identifies insufficient integration of CSE in primary and secondary schools as a critical challenge. To address this issue, the Strategic Plan includes CSE activities designed to promote demand by the youth for family planning services; integrating family planning into secondary school, college, and university curricula; and extending teacher training in CSE for teenagers and adolescents.
The Ministry of Health, National Strategic Plan for Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health and Wellness 2016-2020 included the strategy to improve the level of knowledge and skills of adolescents and young people in relation to their specific and differentiated health problems, including their rights. In addition, it states that: the Ministries of Primary and Secondary Education and Initiation to New Citizenship and Vocational Education (now the Ministry of Primary, Secondary, and Technical Education) are required to include CSE themes in their curriculum. It is the responsibility of the ministries to incorporate and institutionalize Family Life Education and CSE into their respective school curricula. With the technical assistance of the Ministry of Health, they are to develop a training curriculum, trainer training, and incorporate Family Life Education and CSE into their different programmes. Parents' committees are responsible for promoting intergenerational dialogue on these issues and how they arise in the family context.
Mandatory or optional
While the inclusion of sexual and reproductive education is recommended at the policy level, neither the National Curriculum Guides nor school policies mandate the teaching of sexuality education programmes. There was no information available on the requirement to teach Family Life Education.
Model of delivery
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, education on SRH is provided through the Family Life Education course. The curriculum for this is prepared by the family life education directorate of the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education. The current Family Life Education programme is designed to be implemented in high schools across the country. Certain components of CSE are incorporated within the required curriculum. The 2011 National Curriculum For Primary Education includes the Social Universe and the Environment as basic-level programme areas. Social Universe and the Environment includes geography, history, education for health and the environment, as well as civic and moral education. Furthermore, the 2016 Global Educational Guide complements the 2011 National Curriculum for Primary Education. As transversal themes, the Guide includes social education, gender equality, and children's rights, including gender equity and issues related to the prevention of sexual assault.
Comprehensiveness of content
The government's curricula on family life education address interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence, consent, privacy and bodily integrity, media literacy and sexuality, body and human development, the stigma associated with HIV & AIDS; treatment, care, and support; and understanding and minimizing the risk of STIs, including HIV. According to the 2011 National Curriculum For Primary Education, health and environment education includes topics such as STIs and HIV & AIDS. Civic and moral education focuses on topics such as the rights and responsibilities of citizens; respect for human rights; and the internalization of moral, democratic, and republican social norms. Beyond the hour-long session, the civic and moral education curriculum involves promoting the understanding and practice of respect for gender equality between men and women and respecting children's rights.
The Director of the Cabinet of the Minister of Primary, Secondary, and Technical Education has issued manuals and guidelines for the Family Life Education course (Module de recyclage de formateurs des enseignants à l’utilisation du programme national d’éducation à la vie familiale (2018), Guide de l’enseignant sur les nouveaux programmes d’éducation à la vie familiale, Cycles primaire et secondaire (2014), and Programme national d’éducation à la vie familiale (2014)).
No information was found on the existence of teachers' training in CSE. At the policy level, the National Strategic Plan with a Multisectoral Vision for Family Planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2014-2020) aims to integrate family planning into college and university curricula and teacher training in CSE for young people and adolescents.
Article 168 of the Framework Act 14/004 of 11 February 2014 states that national education should provide the learner with the necessary medico-psycho-social assistance. It makes educational and vocational information and guidance services available to them in order to ensure their autonomy and encourage and facilitate the emergence of their creativity. A mandatory preventative medicine service is organized within national educational establishments.
4.1 Responsible ministries
The Ministry of Primary, Secondary, and Technical Education is responsible for developing the curricula for the Family Life Education course in high school. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children, are key stakeholders in relation to reproductive health education and CSE.
4.2. Level of responsibility/decentralization and autonomy
At the school level, schools are responsible for incorporating sexuality education programmes.
4.3. Government budget allocation
No information was found on allocating a budget for implementing CSE in schools.
5. Monitoring and reporting
There is no official monitoring or data collection tool for sexuality education. However, at the policy level, the Integrated Strategic Plan of Reproductive Health, Mother, Newborn, Child, Adolescent and Nutrition 2019-2022 proposes organizing public health surveillance, including fatalities HIV-, maternal-, perinatal-, and neonatal-related fatalities.