“School is at the heart of progress”, says the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“We are fighting to place education at the heart of progress”, said the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Augustin Matata Ponyo, when he met the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, on 14 May 2014, on the margin of the Global Meeting on Education for All, held in Muscat, Oman.

Describing himself as a “product of education”, the Prime Minister referred to measures taken by his Government to promote access to education: the construction of 1,000 schools a year, the payment of teachers’ salaries by bank transfer, awareness-raising activities in villages, extension from six to eight years of compulsory education and the increase in the national education budget. He emphasized the importance of strong backing from UNESCO to consolidate that approach.

The Prime Minister addressed the issue regarding the World Heritage site of the Virunga National Park and oil prospecting there, saying that the authorities stood ready to work with UNESCO to take the necessary precautions to protect the environment. Mr Matata Ponyo also emphasized the need to improve the management of public money, and “the obligation to use potential resources in order to derive revenue that could help lift marginalized communities out of poverty while protecting the environment for present and future generations”. The Director-General underlined the need to strike a balance between economic development and protection of biodiversity, and to share government plans and intentions with the World Heritage Committee.

She welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to education, the key to social mobility, inclusion and growth, and shared UNESCO’s vision of the Post-2015 development agenda, which aims to place people at its very centre, through education, culture and science, technology and innovation.