In 2008, in the National Education Development Report, inclusive education is defined as an educational process that aims to increase participation and reduce exclusion from mainstream school or traditional education by effectively addressing the diverse needs of all learners. It addresses the individual educational and learning needs of all marginalized and vulnerable children and young people: street children, girls, children from ethnic minority groups, children from financially deprived families, children from nomadic, refugee or displaced families, children living with HIV or AIDS, exceptional learners and children with disabilities.
Article 33 of Framework Act 14/004 of 11 February 2014 targets the following categories in the "fight against discrimination and inequality in education": girls and women, orphans, displaced persons, Pygmy people, children who are older than the standard age set by school regulations and people of all ages living with a disability.
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 discusses developing a programme to promote inclusive and special education for vulnerable children. However, the Education and Training Sector Strategy does not define these terms and combines "activities related to the reception of students with special needs" with those for "students with disabilities".
Specialized or integrated education was initiated by Framework Act 086-005 of 22 September 1986. National non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious denominations and philanthropic institutions have taken charge of facilities. Since then, articles 107 and 108 of Framework Act 14/004 of 11 February 2014 stipulate that "special education is organized for vulnerable groups and specific socio-professional categories, according to their particular needs. [It] is provided either in specialized schools, or in special classes incorporated in schools, or by integrating learners with disabilities into existing classes in mainstream schools at all levels of education." Articles 109 and 110 add that "the State undertakes to create favourable conditions for gifted children to thrive by developing a special curriculum at the various levels of national education." For example, deaf children are educated by the Association of Centres for Persons with Disabilities in Central Africa (ACHAC in French), or in other integrated schools.
Congolese primary school remains inaccessible to the majority of persons with disabilities; approximately 45 per cent of students with motor disabilities and 75 per cent of those with learning disabilities aged between 6 and 11 years old are out of school (compared with 28.7 per cent of their peers without disabilities). The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 aims to "promote the development of specialized schools for children living with severe disabilities for whom access to a mainstream school is not foreseeable in the short and medium term." The schooling of deaf children is largely undertaken by the Association of Centres for Persons with Disabilities in Central Africa. One hundred and fifteen special education centres in the country are affiliated with the Association of Centres for Persons with Disabilities in Central Africa.
Actions to establish inclusive schools are mainly carried out by Handicap International. For example, the pilot project funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID in Spanish) aims to increase access to mainstream schools for children with disabilities and to promote better quality primary education in Kinshasa. After an initial phase of awareness-raising and training on inclusive education, Handicap International has worked in partnership with 12 schools spread over four communes of the capital.
The country has still not signed/ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education. Article 13 of the Constitution states, however, that "no Congolese person may, in regard to education and access to public services or any other matter, be subjected to discrimination." Articles 43 and 45 both specify that "everyone has the right to school education [...] provided by the national education system." To this end, primary education is compulsory and free of charge in public schools. In addition, everyone has the right to access national educational institutions, "without discrimination as to place of origin, race, religion, sex, political or philosophical opinions, or physical, learning or sensory condition, and according to their capabilities."
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 sets out the State's vision for "building an inclusive, quality education system". The programme to promote inclusive and special education for vulnerable children targets orphans, children in the care system, children from families that have broken down, children living with disabilities and particular social groups such as the Twa (indigenous peoples) or those in riverside settlements.
Article 12 of Framework Act 14/004 of 11 February 2014 ensures "the democratization of education by guaranteeing the right to quality education, equal opportunities for access and success for all, including people living with disabilities". The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 announces a policy to improve school access for children with disabilities with a two-pronged approach:
- the establishment of partnerships with community organizations and the construction of health institutions and specialized schools for students with disabilities
- preparatory measures for the widespread inclusion of children with disabilities, such as: collecting data on the prevalence of disabilities and the living conditions and access to care for the children concerned, establishing relations between school authorities and civil society organizations dedicated to disability and between school authorities and health authorities
As the State does not have the explicit legal means, nor the financial, material, technological and human resources for "inclusive schools", Handicap International is working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that this inclusion policy is extended throughout the country, notably with the project for inclusive education for children with disabilities, and in particular girls, in Kinshasa. The aim of this project is to ensure an active policy and changes to inclusion practices for children with disabilities in the education sector. In 2007, Handicap International started by providing support to the Bon départ and Kikesa centres which practise inclusive education in Kinshasa. In 2009, a pilot project from these two inclusive schools was extended to 12 other mainstream primary schools.
A programme for the education of women and girls with disabilities started by the World Bank in 2018 aims to build a database for the development of public policies and guidance strategies.
With regard to early pregnancies, the act of 1 August 2015 establishes that it is the responsibility of the Government to implement specific programmes to ensure that single or pregnant mothers can continue their education.
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 identifies other strategies that will be implemented, including the construction of sufficient separate latrines and water points. It also mentions other measures to increase the number of female teachers and to provide scholarships to girls from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Communication and social mobilization actions will be carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender to raise awareness about girls' education rights.
Ethnicity and languages
The language of instruction policy of the Department of Primary, Secondary and Citizenship Education includes the following elements:
- From first grade to fourth grade, one of the four designated national languages is both an independent subject and the language of instruction. French is also an independent subject.
- Third grade and fourth grade are considered transition years, where French will be used more as a language of oral instruction in the classroom.
- In fifth grade and sixth grade, French is both a subject and the principal language of instruction. However, national languages remain independent subjects.
The ELAN programme for the teaching of national languages allows national or local languages to be used as a language of teaching and learning at the elementary and junior primary levels and as a subject at the secondary and higher levels.
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 also outlines pilot activities to improve schooling for particular social groups such as the Twa or those in riverside settlements. The strategy plans to introduce affirmative action measures to promote access to higher education for indigenous and the most disadvantaged populations. It also oversees the drafting of curricula in national and local languages and intends to continue testing the approach of "learning to read and write in a first African language and in French".
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 will prioritize rural areas for equipping libraries, laboratories, workshops and rooms in schools, drawing on support from partnerships with communities. The strategy also aims to create five-year preparatory (or pre-primary) classes in primary schools. Therefore, preschool education will be a priority for rural schools, which are lagging far behind in this area (the strategy aims to reach 15 per cent by 2025, compared with 4.7 per cent in 2014). The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 aims to have 20 per cent of preschool students in community-based early learning spaces by 2025, targeting rural areas and indigenous populations. A pilot phase started in 2016. These activities will be led through NGOs or local implementing agencies.
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 aims to ensure that by 2025, 20 per cent of students will receive discounted uniforms and school supplies, 3,000 schools will have a subsidized school canteen, and 10 per cent of students’ families will receive an allowance.
Albinism and education in emergencies
Children with albinism are primarily supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), which works with the Government to implement social protection measures in about 5,000 schools across the country. The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 plans to introduce a national policy for education in emergencies and in post-conflict and post-disaster situations.
Four ministries are entrusted with (inclusive) education:
- Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Initiation to New Citizenship (MEPS-INC)
- Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education (METP)
- Ministry of Higher and University Education (MESU)
- Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Action and National Solidarity (MASAHSN)
The MASAHSN had to propose a sectoral plan for inclusive education by 2018 (with a view to implementation in 2021). This plan will aim for capacity-building in sign language instruction, writing in Braille, and differentiated psychology in order to optimize school supervision of children with disabilities and to formulate guidelines on school building standards in order to promote schools’ accessibility.
That being said, the Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 maintains that the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education and the Directorate of Studies and Planning will be responsible for proposing a national policy for inclusive education. In addition, the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education and the National Training Service will provide training in inclusive education for school principals and teachers. Finally, the National Training Service and the Directorate of Curricula and Teaching Materials will be responsible for integrating training modules on inclusive education into initial teacher training.
Partnerships will be developed between the State and specialized NGOs to promote the development of specialized schools for children living with severe disabilities. The State will finance the training of teachers within the framework of these partnerships. As there is not yet an inclusive education policy, this training is mainly coordinated by Handicap International. There is currently no other coordinating agent.
Infrastructure and services
Article 111 of Framework Act 14/004 provides that "the development of infrastructure, special schools and special classes shall take into account the specific physical condition of pupils and students living with disabilities or with special educational needs. The State is committed to assisting people living with disabilities." The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 aims for 50 per cent of schools to have facilitated access by 2025.
The State has embarked on a programme to renovate around 50,000 classrooms by 2025. This will improve school coverage; neighbourhoods that are more than 5 km from the nearest school will be prioritized. In addition, the Education and Training Sector Strategy plans to ensure that by 2025, 50 per cent of schools will have facilitated access for persons with disabilities.
Curriculum, teaching materials and information and communications technology (ICT)
A scientific committee will be responsible for reviewing curricula and teaching methods (Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025). The revision of curricula will focus on learning to read, mastery of the language of instruction (French), the use of national languages as a vehicle for teaching and learning, teacher training, basic education programmes and vocational training. Thus, validation workshops to endorse manuals and guides in the four local languages are planned. Gender concerns are taken into account when revising curricula and textbooks.
The Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 affirms that the problems regarding training, professionalization, qualification and competencies of the teaching staff are present at all levels of the education system, and more particularly in the special education and inclusive education sector. It notes educational professionals’ lack of comprehensive understanding of the psychological aspects of inclusion. With this in mind, it plans for the development of a teacher training curriculum that takes into account learning in national languages, and the revision of curricula and certification mechanisms taking into account the necessary mastery of a national language. Finally, it identifies two strategies related to inclusive education, namely training principals and teachers in inclusive education and integrating inclusive education training modules into initial teacher training.
Resource centres for teachers will also be created to train qualified teachers for the new education system. One such centre was inaugurated in Kinshasa thanks to financial support from the United States Government.
The country does not have a monitoring report on education. As the State does not yet have a policy on inclusive education, it does not appear to have identified indicators to monitor the achievement of inclusive education goals. However, indicators related to academic processes and outcomes were selected for equity monitoring in the Education and Training Sector Strategy 2016–2025 (p. 127).