Article 43 of the Constitution states that basic and general education are to be universal and free. Article 79 of Framework Law No. 14/004 of 11 February 2014 adds that general secondary education, which covers two years, is not compulsory but is free of charge. These measures cost USD 504.31 million in 2019 compared with a forecast total cost of USD 1.74 billion for 2019 (i.e. 29 per cent of public spending on education under the sector strategy in 2019). These resources relate only to State-funded educational institutions, i.e. public schools, whether they are secular or managed by the church.
In 2014, spending on the education sector reached 17.8 per cent of the State budget. Public spending on education, which accounted for 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, reached 2 per cent in 2014 (USD 718.4 million). It is funded from the general State budget and by external support. There are approximately 18,000 accredited primary, secondary, technical and vocational schools operating in the country.
The 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy provides for the establishment of a "new social pact" that shares the cost between the State and families. The reform will ensure that funds contributed by families remain within the educational institution and are used to improve the learning environment.
The sectoral authorities rely on the support of external partners, including the Global Partnership for Education to the tune of USD 100 million, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, the French Development Agency, Belgian cooperation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and British and American cooperation, among others. Inclusive education, largely handled by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), relies on different financing mechanisms. For example, every year, the UNICEF provincial offices and the heads of the provincial departments for primary, secondary and vocational education meet to identify, cost and plan measures to achieve the projects’ objectives and monitor their expected outcomes. Each province has a costed annual workplan. The heads of the provincial departments for primary, secondary and vocational education prepare and send the documentation detailing the activities contained in the annual workplan to the UNICEF provincial offices to request funding. The heads of the UNICEF provincial offices review and approve this request and transfer the funds. The recipients must provide the provincial offices with evidence that the funds have been used properly.
Universal primary education is the strategy’s top priority.
The 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy starts with a package of measures to set up school canteens in nearly 3,000 primary schools by 2025. To this end, the State is expected to invest USD 2.5 million in 2019 (and a total of USD 7.5 million between 2016 and 2020) in conducting a feasibility study on the introduction of school canteens. There are plans to spend another USD 2.5 million in 2019 on incentives for setting up school canteens (a total of USD 7.5 million between 2016 and 2020). These canteens will be introduced based on the profile of the children or families affected (socioeconomic background). This measure is in line with the objective of making access more equitable to support the education of disadvantaged or marginalized populations.
Other financial measures are also being put in place so that by 2025, 50 per cent of schools will have facilitated access for people with disabilities. In this regard, USD 26,250 was earmarked in 2016 to draw up a national policy for inclusive education. The State is also planning to spend USD 165,000 in 2019 on training school principals and teachers on inclusive education and USD 20 million in 2010 on equipment for special schools.
The 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy allocates additional funds to schools in the three provinces lagging furthest behind on girls' enrolment. By 2025, the strategy aims to give 10 per cent of teachers a bonus for working in remote areas, which will require an investment of USD 5.48 million in 2019 (USD 19.19 million between 2016 and 2020).
Finally, the Education Quality Improvement Project (EQUIP), which has a budget of USD 100 million (2017–2021), seeks to provide direct assistance to 10 million vulnerable students.
Displaced persons and refugees
The State intends to make it easier for displaced persons and refugees to access education by waiving direct fees. To this end, it will draw up an interministerial order exempting displaced pupils and students from direct fees and will identify them and their institutions. However, this measure has not been costed in the 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy, nor does the strategy define the terms "refugee" or "displaced person" or specify the type of direct fees from which they will be exempt.
Direct assistance to families
The 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy plans to provide assistance to the families of 10 per cent of students by 2025. USD 2.5 million was allocated to identifying beneficiary families in 2019 (USD 8.3 million between 2016 and 2020). A further USD 2,510 was allocated to distributing family assistance in 2019 (USD 8,367 between 2016 and 2020). By 2025, 20 per cent of students should receive uniforms and school supplies at reduced prices, with an investment of USD 287,000 in 2019.
By 2025, 300,000 indigenous students should receive assistance, requiring an investment of USD 500,000 in 2019 (USD 1.68 million between 2016 and 2020). This will involve registering families, students and schools and distributing the assistance to the students.
The strategy also provides for the establishment of a new system of university scholarships for students from indigenous populations who cannot access higher education for financial reasons. Criteria such as State examination scores and distance from the host institution will be used to identify students in this category who are eligible for support.
Scholarships are provided for girls from the most disadvantaged backgrounds based on criteria that will be defined and monitored. One thousand scholarships should be granted each year for girls enrolled in priority economic sectors (amounts not specified). For example, the 2016–2025 Education and Training Sector Strategy notes that since 2010, girls enrolled at the Polytechnic Faculty of the University of Kinshasa have been receiving scholarships.