Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Institutional Problems

The quality and status of teachers have long been problems. A 1976 World Bank (see Glossary) report notes that students who complete teacher training prefer to use the credential to seek positions outside their profession. Teachers' salaries are insufficient to live on and are paid irregularly. Popular music reflects the declining esteem in which teachers are held, referring to them as "two shirts," two shirts being all the clothes a teacher can afford.

Schools are often seriously understaffed. One government response has been to require university students to teach as recompense for the cost of their state-subsidized schooling. Unfortunately, large numbers of these teachers-by-decree regularly fail to report to their assigned institutions.

When teachers have organized to protest their salaries and working conditions, they have met with repression. Demoralized and underpaid, many teachers resorted to corruption to make ends meet, accepting and sometimes demanding gifts from their students as the price of advancement from one year to the next. A 1988 poll published in the periodical Za´re-Afrique showed that fully 80 percent of the teachers polled approved of students giving gifts to teachers. There was no significant difference in responses between educators teaching in religious schools and educators teaching in secular ones. Such systemic corruption has systemic causes; in effect, the state's unwillingness and inability to pay teachers a living wage has forced educators to seek income elsewhere in order to survive, whether by moonlighting or through less honorable means.

Students face considerable difficulties within the system. Education is not free, and school fees represent a significant percentage of household budgets; often schooling is cut short for lack of funds. Boys are routinely given priority over girls in household allocations of school fees. Students in rural areas can be required to provide free labor for their schools and teachers, repairing classrooms and teachers' homes, or working for a period each day in a teacher's garden. Gifts are frequently required for academic advancement. Female students often face sexual demands from teachers and staff at the postprimary levels. And successful students, namely those who succeed in passing the state exams at the end of secondary school studies, face the hurdle of a regional "affirmative action admissions policy" for university entry, one that favors applicants from historically underrepresented areas at the expense of those from historically better-schooled regions. In fact, the regional quota system also has created tension and dissatisfaction within regions. Disadvantaged groups regard the quotas as giving those who are ahead in education an unfair proportion of the region's slots at the university.

In the early 1990s, the state-run education system, like all state-funded social services, had deteriorated further. Most staterun schools are reported to have been closed. Nevertheless, at least some children (whose parents could find the means) continue to seek and find education through private schools at all levels (including several private universities reported to exist or be in the making in 1992) that have sprung up to fill the gap--another manifestation of Zaire's informal economic and social systems. The elite continue to send their children abroad to be educated, primarily in Western Europe.

Data as of December 1993