Le Professeur Crispin Mabika interroge des élèves en dernière année du cycle primaire dans une école de Kinshasa. Crédits IIEP -2015
School grants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: field notebook
From 2015 to 2016, the IIEP, with the support of the Global Partnership for Education, has coordinated research on the use and usefulness of school grants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and also in Haiti, Madagascar and Togo.
What were the research issues in the DRC? Answers from Professor Crispin Mabika, head of the Population and Development Sciences department of the Kinshasa Faculty of Economic Sciences, who lead the national Congolese research team in the field.
Prof. Crispin Mabika explains:
"For a long time, national education was governed by a law which established financial participation by the parents. The high average number of school age children in households prevented the parents from adequately covering their schooling. In the context of a soaring demography and the paradoxical disengagement of the State, a drop was observed, with an impressive number of children not in school. So, several incentivizing measures, such as grants, were adopted."
The school grants policy was launched in 2010 in the DRC to support the progressive implementation of fee-free education. The goal was to lessen the parents’ contributions by compensating the loss of the schools' budget revenue, and to improve the quality of education in the schools.
The policy also makes it possible for the schools to have a greater autonomy in managing their financial resources, in order that they may respond in a more relevant way to their real needs.
A mixed approach
In the field, the research was led by a team of national researchers. The project’s methodology was first of all qualitative, relying on interviews with school stakeholders and local administrations. The researchers visited 15 public primary schools in 3 administrative provinces (Kinshasa, Kongo-central and Kwango) and conducted interviews with around 200 stakeholders.
The second phase of the research focused on a statistical analysis of data covering 110 schools in the country. This data was also an indicator of schooling (workforce, repeating of years, dropouts, exam results), as well as financial data on school budgets.
Teachers of a school in the Kwango region consulted during the survey. Credit: IIEP - 2015
The obstacles encountered
The researchers were confronted with two obstacles.
The reticence of stakeholders consulted was the first difficulty, as Professor Crispin Mabika explains:
"There was a sort of reticence during the interviews of some of the school principals, especially those in the capital, Kinshasa. The sensitivity and delicateness of the question justified their attitude."
The research team worked hard to establish a relationship of trust with the stakeholders interviewed in order to reassure them of the confidential nature of the answers given.
The other obstacle that was met concerned the difficulty in accessing financial reports and the use of grants held by schools. Not all the schools and local education offices were able to provide them.
"Within the schools, the financial data is not organized in a systematic way, though financial forms can be found," he explained to us.
Improvement of quality in the schools
The grants contribute to improving teaching and learning conditions by providing schools with educational and teaching material, with a larger budget.
"Thanks to grants, basic material is no longer lacking in the classes of many schools", Prof. Mabika explained to us.
Maintaining parental contributions
The grants have not been able to fully achieve their objective of replacing parental contributions, which still constitute an important part of schools’ budgets.
Parental contributions remain necessary for the schools’ operations. One part is used as additional revenue for the teachers; the other part contributes to the budget of local educational structures. In this context, the parental contributions continue to support the "grass roots" financing of the educational system.
“Due to the financial dependence on parental contributions which make up for the low salaries of teachers, the latter are opposed to an effective fee-free education which would bring about a large shortfall in their revenue.” Prof. Mabika explained to us.
A weak appropriation at the local level
The school stakeholders have not been involved in the process of elaborating the grant policy. It is a policy little known at the local level, due to a lack of communication and awareness concerning it.
“It is a very centralized policy coming from the educational hierarchy and the State. There is not a real appropriation of this policy by the educational stakeholders in the school environment.”, Prof. Crispin Mabika underlined.
Despite the obstacles brought to light by the research in the DRC, school grants may constitute a promising strategy to increase access to education, improve teaching and learning conditions and reduce disparities among students and schools.
From 10 to 12 October 2016, IIEP-UNESCO hosted in Paris a policy seminar on the use and usefulness of school grants. It helped identify suggestions for improving the formulation and implementation of school grants policies.
Contributed by : Crispin Mabika