Thanks to support from colleagues around the world, the educational unions in the Democratic Republic of Congo have launched a series of training courses for education sector union trainers.
A trainer training workshop was held in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the capital of Kinshasa, from 27 to 31 March, with the aim of developing the culture of dialogue in the workplace and demonstrating that some challenges can be solved locally. Participants included five activists per union, delegates from the Confédération Syndicale du Congo (CSC-Enseignement), the Fédération Nationale des Enseignants et Educateurs sociaux du Congo-Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Congo (FENECO-UNTC) and the Syndicat des Enseignants du Congo (SYECO), three organisations affiliated to Education International (EI), and members of the Comité syndical francophone de l’éducation et la formation (CSFEF). In addition to EI and Canada's Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), the next steps in the series of newly-launched training courses will have the support of the Swedish Lärarförbundet and other partners.
Training on the training method by study circles
Education International’s Florian Lascroux and Luc Allaire, member of the CSQ and General Secretary of the CSFEF, encouraged the participants to carefully take in the training on the training method by study circles (MEFOCE), with the aim of developing the necessary skills for training union facilitators.
The training was given by Tharsisse Nabu, Executive Secretary responsible for trade union training at the UNTC, national coordinator of the pan-African education programme (PANAFE), and facilitator giving this training using a programme of activities addressing the fact of organizing, social protection, the protection of the rights of elderly teachers and the freedom of association.
When asked about the value of study circles, Nabu stated that "many of our affiliates are highly motivated and have a strong trade union-oriented conscience: they help the unions through actions aimed at companies, because not all companies have trade union representatives, but those who have received training perform the work for those who cannot as regards the defence of workers' rights".
He also stressed that it was the first time that FENECO-UNTC General Secretary Augustin Tumba Nzuji dispatched him to study circles in schools.
According to Mr. Nabu, strengthening unions requires fostering "the desire to work together, as it can often be difficult to make progress when we are not united, when we do not agree with others". He also stressed that "when we stand as one, all three unions, we will produce positive effects".
A three-year project
A three-year contract (2017-2019) will shortly be signed by EI, the EI Regional Office for Africa, the CSQ, the Lärarförbundet, and the three EI-affiliated unions in the DRC. The funding of the 2017 programme of activities will be provided by EI and the CSQ, each contributing 10,000 Euros. In 2018, the Lärarförbundet will also contribute to the funding.
The project is expected to be implemented in schools in Kinshasa, and subsequently in several provinces: Kongo Central, Bandundu, Equateur and Kasaï-central. Deployment in each of these geographic areas will be carried out in three steps: trainer training, facilitator training, and setting up the study circles. The unions in the DRC will closely and regularly monitor the project through reporting forms for the meetings of the study circles, enabling solutions to the problems encountered to be sought immediately. Further deployment of the project to the aforementioned provinces and possible expansion to other regions will depend on the outcomes of the evaluation.
National context for teachers' unions
The political context in the DRC is still marked by an authoritarian power, making it difficult to establish a dialogue between the unions and the Ministry of Education. In addition, the education sector is highly privatised, and the situation of teachers in public establishments is very poor. Financial contributions are sought from the students' families, even in public establishments.
In September 2016, the EI Regional Committee for Africa decided that trade union unity was the top priority. The aim is not to achieve structural unification of the unions, but rather to improve the effectiveness of their action through more common work practices. Faced with a strong need to strengthen African unions and the lack of human and financial resources for the unions in the North, the aim is to extend the reach of development cooperation programmes, and establishing more regular exchanges in order to take advantage of past experiences, whether or not they were successful, in order to achieve improved efficiency.