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Cordaid NL
Education Health care Democratic Republic of Congo

Better education for half a million girls and boys

Until 2021, Cordaid will play a major implementing role in improving the educational system in 12 of the 26 provinces of DR Congo. As Technical Assistance Agency we will assist the DRC Education Ministry in applying a Performance-Based Financing (PBF) approach. “1350 primary schools and half a million young girls and boys will benefit from this”, says Cordaid PBF expert Paula Mommers.

(photo: Walungu Primary school, South Kivu. Bienfait (in the middle) is 12 years old. He only started going to primary school at the age of 10, because his parents couldn’t afford paying for his education. Walking to school from his house takes some 30 minutes. © Cordaid / Ilvy Njiokiktjien)

Contracts between the DRC ministry of Education and Cordaid were signed on May 13th. As Paula Mommers explains, “Cordaid’s role is part of a more comprehensive program to improve the DRC educational system, financed by the World Bank. This is the PAQUE program, or Projet d’Amélioration de la Qualité d’Éducation.”

Introducing PBF in all levels of the educational system

DR Congo substantially improved it’s educational sector in the last two decades. Nevertheless, almost 27% of primary age children are still estimated to be out-of-school. Most of them live in rural areas.

Schools have the freedom – and the responsibility – to spend PBF money according to their own priorities, as long as they keep on track with the agreed upon goals and indicators.

Paula Mommers, Cordaid PBF expert

Cordaid wishes to contribute to a more equitable education system in DR Congo. To do this, Cordaid’s team in Kinshasa as well as experts in The Hague, will assist in introducing a performance-based financing method in all levels of the DRC educational system: national, provincial as well as on individual primary school levels.

Linking payments to performance

“Performance-based contracts with all key stakeholders in the educational chain – from the ministry, to the school inspectors and the primary schools, are the backbone of the program”, Mommers says. “PBF links payments directly to previously agreed quality and quantity performance indicators.  For school inspectors for example, one indicator could be the number of schools inspected per month. For schools it could be the number of girls that have enrolled and been retained during one school year. Or the number of girls that have successfully finished their primary education. Other indicators could be the availability of qualified teachers, of teaching material. Or the cleanliness of classrooms.”

Continuous monitoring and verification mechanisms will be put in place. For this purpose, independent PBF Verification Agencies will be recruited, contracted and instructed by Cordaid.

Focus on girls’ school attendance

Girls’ enrolment and school retention is particularly important in this program. “One of the ways to make sure that schools do their utmost to keep girls in their classes,” Mommers continues, “is that we pay the school more for an enrolled girl than for a boy.”

Monitoring and verification

Continuous monitoring and verification mechanisms will be put in place, to make sure that all parties are payed correctly, for the achieved improvements on the ground. For this purpose, independent PBF Verification Agencies will be recruited, contracted and instructed by Cordaid. They will work in close collaboration with the DRC government and local authorities. “They will cover  12 provinces, using PBF tools, manuals and contract formats developed by Cordaid”, explains Mommers.

For a lot of parents, school meals, school uniforms or books, are a financial barrier that forces them to keep their kids at home.

Paula Mommers, Cordaid PBF Expert

Regular community surveys among pupils and their parents are part and parcel of the PBF verification method. “This way we can measure community satisfaction. How often do the kids actually go to school? Do all classes have teachers? How do they perform? Are kids on track? Negative replies will be fed back to schools and authorities and will impact our payments to the schools.”

All indicator progress and payment administration of the thousands of stakeholders involved, will continuously be fed into an online portal. “This allows our PBF experts and partners in the field to keep a constant finger on the pulse of the program”, Mommers maintains.

Giving schools autonomy and making education more affordable

“One of the PBF principles is autonomy”, she continues. “This means that schools will have the freedom – and the responsibility – to spend PBF money according to their own priorities, as long as they keep on track with the agreed upon goals and indicators, and as long as they respect national education policy. For some schools this might mean that they spend it for example on clean and separate sanitation facilities. This is very important to prevent dropout of school girls who have reached puberty, to name just one example. Other schools might spend it on providing free meals. For a lot of parents, food, just like school uniforms or books, are a financial barrier that forces them to keep their kids at home.”

In a lot of cases, schools currently ask parents or caretakers to pay more than the bare minimum they are legally required. “PBF earnings will allow the schools to find their money elsewhere, and spare the parents”, Mommers explains.

Looking ahead, she hopes – and thinks – that Cordaid’s PBF approach, with its thorough verification mechanisms, its online database and its proven track record in health system strengthening, will detectably improve DR Congo’s education system in a large part of this massive country. “And above all, for me personally, it will be an achievement if in 34 months’ time, significantly more girls go to school and finish their primary education in DR Congo. Then we will have done something to be proud of”, she concludes.

(Cordaid manages its education programs in the Health Care Unit. This is why we tagged this article to our Health Care topic page.)

Read more

Read more news about our work in DR Congo, or go to our DR Congo page.