After UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay’s visit this Thursday to Democratic Republic of Congo, she states that around eleven million girls will be unable to return to school even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted around the world. “We worry that in many countries the closure of schools has unfortunately led to losses,” Azoulay said as she visited a high school in the capital Kinshasa, three days after the country’s 2020-21 school year began.
According to Azoulay, education “unfortunately remains very unequal for girls”, noting that their access to school is a priority for the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Congolese Education Minister Willy Bakonga, accompanying Azoulay, urged her to support the country’s programme of free public primary education launched in September last year. According to him, the programme allowed more than four million children to join or rejoin the education system in the poor. Azoulay recognised the “enormous challenges” which included infrastructure, teacher training and budgeting said she would support the Congolese authorities in the “massive effort that must be made for the quality of teaching”.
The experts estimate the annual cost of free primary education at $2.64 billion, a colossal sum for the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, as of 11 September, total state revenue was no more than $2.5 billion, according to the Central Bank of Congo. But the World Bank has pledged $800 million to help pay for education in sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest nation, where 73 percent of the population live in extreme poverty.