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Learning and adaptability in permanently unstable environments: getting to improved education outcomes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront C

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had a variety of local, provincial and international conflicts for over 20 years resulting in the death of over 5.4 million people and the displacement of over 2 million people. It is the deadliest conflict since the Second World War. The majority of the deaths are due to secondary effects of the conflict, such as preventable diseases, and malnutrition. DRC is currently ranked 176 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index.

Even though total government spending on education increased from 9% of the national budget in 2010 to 16% in 2013, which demonstrates the increasing importance that the national government is placing on education, the education systems suffers deep-seated deficiencies. Only 57% of first grade pupils complete their 6th year of schooling, and of these, only 49 % of girls and 65 % of boys will pass the 6th grade exam. In September 2010, the national government (GDRC)launched the policy of Free Primary Education (FPE) which this 2017-2018 school year continues to apply to grades one through five, eliminating official central government fees related to primary school enrollment and attendance for those grades. Despite the institution of this policy, school fees remain prohibitively high.

At the same time, the DRC is currently suffering a profound humanitarian crisis. National elections that should have been held in November 2016 have been delayed. Protests against an extension of the current president have been repressed by security forces, who have fired tear gas and live bullets at peaceful protesters and arrested and prevented opposition leaders from moving freely or re-entering the country. The United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) reports that as recently as January 21, 2018, national security forces violently dispersed anti-government demonstrations in Kinshasa using live ammunition and tear gas resulting in at six deaths, 49 people wounded and over 94 arrests . Across the country, deep divisions between political and civil society actors continue to characterize the political climate, while the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.

The Kasai Provinces, a previously impoverished but stable region, have recently experienced severe security and humanitarian crises due to militia violence. The anti-government militia known as the Kamuina Nsapu ravaged the region in Spring of 2017. Violent ethnic and tribal conflicts broke out just a few days before the 2016-2017 school year and attacked and burned down villages and schools specifically. CARE estimates that 1.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, 2.8 million people do not have enough food to eat, and people are being displaced at a rate never seen in DRC history, with 1.4 million people displaced at the height of the Kasai conflict, including 800,000 women . Violent ethnic and tribal conflicts broke out just a few days before the 2016-2017 school year.

Over the last four decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced eight Ebola outbreaks. In 2018 two Ebola outbreaks were declared –one in the western province of Equateur from April to June, where 38 confirmed Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases were confirmed, of which 33 died with an overall case fatality ratio of 61%. In the eastern, province of North Kivu, a total of 181 confirmed and probable EVD cases, including 115 deaths, have been reported as of October 2018.

It is with this backdrop of deep humanitarian needs and political unrest that USAID and UKAID have co-funded the ACCELERE!1(A!1) project in the DRC (from 2015-2020). This project seeks to improve reading outcomes for boys and girls in select education provinces in the DRC. To contribute to achieving this overarching purpose, ACCELERE! 1 supports access, governance, and reading activities (in French and three national languages in four grades) in public primary and non-formal schools (including écoles conventionnées run by religious networks) in 26 education sub-divisions across eight provinces: Haut-Katanga, Lualaba, Kasaï-Central, Kasaï-Oriental, Equateur, Sud-Ubangi, North Kivu, and South Kivu.

At the outset of the ACCELERE!1 project in 2015, there were no Ebola outbreaks, elections were expected to take place, and the Kasai provinces were considered to be peaceful. And yet by 2017, instability due to significant political, humanitarian, and security threats, had become the “new normal” and were permanent fixtures in the day-to-day operations of ACCELERE!1. Moreover, in spite of these political, security, and health challenges, the ACCELERE!1 project has achieved notable results in the development of teaching and learning materials for three grades in four languages; demonstrated positive gains in reading scores of Grade 2 students; increased access to schooling to vulnerable and out of school children; and increased school/community accountability.
In the three panels that follow we will use USAID’s recommended practices of Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) for improved development effectiveness as a framework to show how the ACCELERE!1 project has adapted, learned, and collaborated to obtain results. The first paper will provide an overview of the political, security and health challenges in the DRC and describe the management tools and collaboration channels used to translate and adapt new information and learning leading to new activities and actions. The second paper will present how the projected has adapted and collaborated in order to address challenges and achieve results. The third paper will present the deep learning that the project has been able to achieve in spite of the permanent state of instability.

The panel will wrap up with an interactive exercise with the audience, as a form of collaboration, to elicit additional CLA best practices to address current ACCELERE!1 learning and challenges.

References: Care, IRC, UNDP, World Bank.

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