, 17 January, 2020 / 9:07 PM
The General Secretariat of the Episcopal Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo – DRC – (CENCO) has denied claims that a bank institution affiliated to the Catholic Church together with other banks in the central African nation are disrupting the payment of money allocated to schools in the country.
The controversy is centered on the claims by Congo Teachers' Union (SYECO) that banks and Caritas DRC have been disrupting the payment of operating costs allocated to schools within the framework of free basic education, mediacongo has reported.
According to SYECO Secretary General, Cécile Tshiyombo, banks require as a prerequisite, the presentation of the decrees for the creation of schools.
“We went to a meeting with the banks where we agreed that schools can even be paid with pay lists. But when you arrive at a bank, the headmaster or the teacher delegate is obliged to present the decree or the decree signed by the head of state creating the school. It's absurd,” Ms. Tshiyombo explained in an interview with Radio Top Congo.
As for Caritas DR Congo, “it simply doesn't pay the running costs to public schools,” she said and continued, “With Caritas it's serious! If we take Boende, Lisala, Mwenga, Caritas doesn't pay the money. It says the Congolese state has its debt. I've never seen anyone take justice into their own hands.”
However, in an attempt to demystify the claims, CENCO said that Caritas was no longer handling teachers’ salaries.
“The General Secretariat of CENCO wishes to clarify the national opinion in terms of the right of reply against the false statements of the General Secretariat of the Union of Congolese Schools (SYECO),” reads in part CENCO’s press statement availed to ACI Africa Wednesday, January 15.
The statement went on to affirm, “As an NGO, Caritas DRC is no longer responsible for directing teachers' salaries. It is the ‘Institution Financière pour les Œuvres de Développement’ (IFOD SA), the microfinance company of the Catholic Church, which carries out this mission, in accordance with the obligations of the parties as set out in the memorandum of understanding of 11 August 2011, between the Government and the Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Caritas Microfinance Bank is a financial institution run by Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of over 160 members working at the grassroots in almost every country of the world.
“IFOD SA acknowledges arrears in the payment of the operating costs of the Schools in this part of the country. The sole cause of these delays is the non-payment by the government of the transfer costs of teachers' salaries in accordance with the 2011 protocol,” CENCO has sought to clarify in its press statement.
The General Secretariat of CENCO clarified that the mishap was not a case of embezzlement of funds but rather of late payment by the Government.
On her part, SYECO Secretary General insists “If the Congolese State has (a Caritas debt), there is continuity of administration, so Caritas can ask the new regime to pay its debts.”
CENCO has recommended to the teachers’ union to contact the Congolese Government if it wants an answer to its approach because “neither Caritas DRC nor the IFOD SA hold the operating costs of the schools.”
“IFOD SA through the General Secretariat of CENCO, reiterates its commitment to serve the Congolese nation by relying on the quality and speed of its services in this teachers' pay exercise,” reads the DRC Bishops’ Statement.
Since the end of August 2019, DRC, through the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education (EPST), has adopted a series of measures to make free basic education effective, a key measure at the beginning of President Felix Tshisekedi's mandate.
Thus, in addition to the payment of salaries in increments, it decided to grant housing and transport allowances to teachers in the city of Kinshasa and the provincial capitals. Public primary schools and management offices benefit from the adjusted operating cost allowances.
In December 2019, CENCO through its Secretary General granted a press conference indicating that free access to primary education is irreversible and that relevant authorities need to give teachers adequate remuneration to avoid the deterioration of national education.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa