The longue durée of Alternative Education in DRC

Several hours of gunfire would keep us awake that night but the evening was for good food and insight from the Catholic fathers. We were a small (five Congolese, one English) team commissioned by USAID ECCN to spend November 2015 in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ‘gather, build, and consolidate evidence for the field’. We were looking at Alternative Education (AE), especially Accelerated Learning Programs (ALPs); how they operate in North Kivu; how they have developed historically; the role of local and international, governmental and non-governmental actors; and youth experience with and their views on the value of these programs.

Sitting in the parochial house, I was struck by the high culture and learning (and cuisine) that persists even as North Kivu remains highly militarized. The region hosts the largest UN peace-keeping force in history, many areas are controlled by rebel groups rather than the national government, and a new offensive by the DRC military (FARDC) grinds on against Rwandan Hutu armed groups or FDLR (Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda).

From 1994 onwards, North Kivu has seen an enormous influx of international aid, relief and development organizations – many of whom make valiant efforts to provide the training believed essential to address youth unemployment. However, training and employment must be appropriate to the local situation, and in DRC ill-suited employment-generating interventions have been shown to exacerbate poverty and instability (Iyenda 2005). ALPs are introduced to provide catch-up education for young people who have missed periods of schooling, with other AE programs, especially TVET, trying to link directly into livelihood pathways.

These approaches have been developed through decades of education interventions in conflict and crisis situations. The local roots of AE though are longer and deeper than any of us expected. AE in DRC still retains influences (and institutions) that can be traced back to the 1950s, and “Foyers sociaux, or social homes,” which “were Belgian domestic training institutions for African women, founded for married women living in colonial urban centers” (Hunt,1990: 447).

Of course, these institutions were formed in an exploitative colonial environment and their evolution has not been without challenges. They are one element to unpack as we work to generate and share deep, evidence-based knowledge that brings together local expertise and experience, with international funding and capacity. Watch this space for a contextualized demand-side assessment, through youth eyes, on the need and appropriateness of AE, as well as the policy questions that arise from our methodology and findings.

References and Further Reading:

De Vries, Hugo, and Leontine Specker (2009). Early Economic Recovery in Fragile States. Priority Areas and Operational Challenges. The Hague: Clingendael Institute.

Essama-Nssah, Boniface, and Léandre Bassolé (2010) A counterfactual analysis of the poverty impact of economic growth in Cameroon. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series.

Hunt, Nancy Rose (1990). Domesticity and Colonialism in Belgian Africa: Usumbura’s Foyer Social, 1946-1960. Signs (15)3: 447-474.

Iyenda, Guillaume (2005). Street enterprises, urban livelihoods and poverty in Kinshasa. Environment and Urbanization 17(2): 55-67.

Leibbrandt, Murray, and Ingrid Woolard (2001). The labour market and household income inequality in South Africa: existing evidence and new panel data. Journal of International Development 13(6): 671-689.

Greg Deacon was commissioned by USAID ECCN to conduct research on Alternative Education programs in North Kivu, DRC to further advance USAID ECCN’s primary objectives to ‘gather, build and consolidate evidence from the field.’ This primary research will serve two purposes; to add to the body of evidence in specific content areas and regions, and to inform development of research tools and guidance that can be used by USAID Missions and Implementing Partners going forward. Research findings, research tools, and guidance will be made available in the coming months on this blog and at the upcoming CIES conference. We look forward to your engagement on this important research both here and in other forums as they are made available.

Posted in Alternative Education: Livelihoods / Vocational Programming, Understand and Strive for Equity

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