In the Democratic Republic of Congo, education comes in 4 phases: first there is primary school which normally takes 6 years, preceded by 2 years of nursery school for those who want it. After primary school is secondary school which takes 6 years. Finally there is higher education which takes 5 years. Beyond, some people complete advanced degrees – a Master or Doctorate. Since primary school is not free, people in the worst poverty don’t have access to education.
At the beginning of primary school, education isn’t very important for the children. They accept to go for a variety of reasons, mostly because they’re scared of getting a spanking! later, certainly when they are studying at the university, their seriousness grows along with the hope of finding a job at the end of their education.
On January 22nd 2014, I was part of a group of students who were finalists at the “College of Rural Development” and who were were questioned about the opportunities students had for finding work after their education. In the end they showed that even in a context where few people have studied, “academic success doesn’t always guarantee success in life. Access to work depends more on the family history, social relations (particularly with the professional world), luck, and , less, abilities and personal experience.”
In March 2013, the provincial police issued a call for finalists in law studies. The candidates had to complete a six month training in the capital (Kinshasa) before taking the job. During the preselection, 20 candidates were selected in Bukavu. After the exam and the final selection, only 5 candidates remained of the 20. Two months later, my friend Junior (one of the 5 remaining candidates) learned that the training had already begin. He hadn’t been invited.
In May 2012, my friend Pascal was the first on the list of four candidates remaining after a final selection for two different organizations. In one, a girl who was last after the exam was recommended by an influential person in the city. In the other, only the candidate in second place was kept, and the second position was filled by someone who hadn’t even passed the exam.
In Bukavu, access to work isn’t easy, but the shock is even greater for parents of families in poverty who go through the greatest trouble for their children’s educations. Even to start private work it takes an initial capital, and sudents don’t have access to credit. I understand now why on the day I handed in my thesis the first friend who shook my hand said, “Welcome to the world of the unemployed.” It’s easier to study than to find a job for many people.
(This post originally appeared in French on the blog Un Monde Autrement Vu)