Religion and Education in Democratic Republic of the Congo

By | April 20, 2021


The cathedral in Bukavu, Eastern DR Congo

The cathedral in Bukavu, Eastern DR Congo

The vast majority of the Congolese are very religious. Life with the ancestors and God determines life in all its facets. Even if Christian worldviews are dominant, the connection to the ancestors is the most important thing in the Congolese religious practice. In the remote rural areas and in the large forests, it is the various natural religions that determine life. In rural areas, and especially in urban areas, Christianity and ancestral beliefs mix.

More than 80% of the population profess Christian religions. With 50% the Catholic Church is the most influential denominational community; 20% are Protestant and 10% belong to the indigenous Christian church of the Kimbanguists.

Since the beginning of 2020, jihadists have been appearing in central and southern Africa and carrying out aggressive attacks on the civilian population. The ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), coming from Uganda, has been known as a rebel group since 1914. According to the Congo Research Group, there have been up to 1,000 civilian casualties in North Kivu alone in recent years, which can be directly traced back to ADF fighting. The weak Congolese army (FARDC) and a cautiously operating MONUSCO do not manage to pacify the region.

There is also a growing Muslim community that encompasses up to 10% of the population in urban areas. In recent years, African free churches have also gained increasing importance.

Curses, superstition and so-called witchcraft are a particular burden on the daily life of the poor in the DR Congo, a major country in African continent according to watchtutorials. Outcast children are repeatedly accused of witchcraft and then have to grow up in slave-like circumstances. Violence and attacks are unfortunately part of their everyday life, because there is no shortage of false prophets and self-serving healers in the Congo.

The 47 Catholic dioceses still offer the best functioning structures in the country. 60% of the health facilities and almost all of the important secondary schools are run by Catholics. The Catholic universities determine the Congolese higher education system.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference is an important voice when it comes to human rights and the observance of social and political rights.

Even if the political influence of the Catholic Church is losing importance, it is still the main force of civil society after the state. This became clearly visible when representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference successfully moderated the agreement on the successor to President Joseph Kabila with representatives of the upcoming presidential election on December 31, 2016.

Since the beginning of 2018, the Catholic Church has been increasingly on the side of civil society. Not only in the capital, Kinshasa, but also inland, people expressed their anger over massive human rights violations and the unbearable poverty.

In January 2018, the Catholic Church’s lay movement called for direct resistance to President Kabila. On January 21, 2018, after the church had invited to a “procession” after going to church on Sunday, an open conflict broke out. The army and police reacted extremely brutally, with five dead.

As a curiosity: the rural postal system is maintained by the Catholic Church.


274,000 teachers were teaching in primary schools

274,000 teachers were teaching in primary schools

It was the concept of the Belgian colonial rulers to keep the level of education in the country as low as possible. Six years of primary school should be enough. Perhaps this is the reason for the great thirst for education of the Congolese children and young people, which is opposed to wars, corruption, a lack of infrastructure and absolute poverty.

The education system is in a desolate state. Corruption is widespread and grades and degrees are often sold. In rural areas in particular, there is a lack of basic infrastructure: classrooms, trained teachers, school books and mundane things such as a functional blackboard or chalk. Teacher salaries are extremely low at $ 40 to $ 80 for a primary school teacher. Many teachers have no pedagogical training.

On the other hand, parents have great potential for self-help. Schools are often built in self-help and the teachers’ salaries are topped up or paid by the parents. This creates a minimum educational offer, but unfortunately the results are hardly sufficient for attending a secondary school. To make matters worse, development aid organizations prefer to support projects with a one-off investment, such as buildings, books, etc. In the long term, the state has to finance the running costs of the educational institutions.

UNESCO has identified a need for 450,000 teachers by 2030. There are currently around 280,000 primary and secondary school teachers. More than 3.5 million children do not go to school.

Anyone who can somehow afford it sends their child to one of the many private schools. In the cities it is the church private schools that guarantee a standard of education.

Vocational training is limited to a few church and state institutions that – due to a lack of finances – have to get by without tools, machines and other utensils.

There are 113 colleges in DR Congo, including four state universities, 147 polytechnic colleges, two technical colleges and 227 private colleges. Of these, eight Catholic institutions and eleven institutions are of national importance. There are higher education institutions for the following disciplines: medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, law and engineering. In addition, there are a large number of qualitatively very different teacher training and further education institutions.

The financial equipment of all institutions is very poor and there is a lack of didactic and pedagogical materials. The study results often cannot be compared with European standards. In addition, the ubiquitous corruption riddles the system here too.

However, through international cooperation with European, North American and Asian universities, there are now improvements in teaching and research in the university sector.

Universities from the USA, Great Britain, China, France, Belgium, Russia, Japan and other countries cooperate with Congolese institutions.

Germany is active in the DR Congo through the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).