KINSHASA (Reuters) – Hundreds of schoolchildren stormed the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament on Thursday, demanding that the government increase teachers’ salaries and end a strike that has interrupted classes for more than two weeks .
Students in uniform waved branches and chanted “We want to study” and “If we don’t study, we will resort to drugs.”
Teachers went on strike at the start of the school year on October 4 over salaries, bonuses, retirement age and other issues that have arisen since President Felix Tshisekedi launched a flagship program of free primary school in 2019.
“We haven’t been studying for two weeks now. Our teachers are on strike. When we ask them to teach us, they say no, they won’t teach us until next year,” said young protester Emerod Eraza.
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“So we marched here to complain to the authorities.”
The children were received by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jean-Marc Kabund-a-Kabund, who told them: âYour place is not in the street, but at school or at home.
The government accused the leaders of religious groups, which run around 80% of public primary schools, of being behind the strike, claims they deny.
“It is worrying when politicians and churches think they are settling scores (…) by turning schools into political football,” CÃ©cile Tshiyombo, head of the teachers’ union SYECO, told Reuters.
Costing more than $ 1 billion per year, the free primary school initiative kicked off in September 2019 with financial support from the World Bank.
In August, the lender said it was too early to say whether the program was a success, but said enrolling 3 million more children was a sign of progress.
(Reporting by Stanis Bujakera and Benoit Byemba; writing by Hereward Holland; editing by Andrew Heavens)
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