DR CONGO: Staff protest at 'illegal' Open University decrees

Staff at CIDEP-UO, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Development and Continuing Education - Open University, are protesting against what they claim are illegal orders issued by the Minister of Higher and University Education modifying its functions, abolishing courses and annulling the text that created the institution, reports Le Potentiel of Kinshasa.

The Minister, Léonard Mashako Mamba, announced in August the suspension of medical and paramedical courses and of registration for all first, second and third-cycle courses at the CIDEP-UO, reported the Agence Congolaise de Presse. He also announced he had signed a decree modifying the functions of the CIDEP, a decision he said was in line with recommendations of a ministerial council meeting in June to restore the institution's operations to those originally defined.

Mamba said that the CIDEP-UO was scattered over the country on 400 sites and its criteria of viability were "non-existent, notably the lack of buildings, educational materials, facilities and qualified teachers". While waiting for the results of an organisational audit and inquiries into the viability of universities and higher education institutions, he had been authorised by the government to close immediately all the medical science and technology facilities, medical faculties and public health schools in the country.

The association representing CIDEP-UO academic, scientific, administrative, technical and other personnel called a press conference to draw attention to the 'illegality' of the minister's decrees, and their effect on the 45,000 students enrolled throughout the country as well as CIDEP-UO workers and the nation as a whole. It expressed 'astonishment' that Mamba had signed the two orders before the audit and other inquiries had delivered their conclusions.

The association said the two orders changing CIDEP-UO's functions and abolishing courses did not take into account the dynamic concept of continuing education. It said that, even more seriously, fundamental and technical conditions had not been respected regarding the legality of the decrees.

Stressing the desperate higher education needs of the sociologically and geographically disadvantaged levels of society, the association asserted the CIDEP-UO had been introduced at the right time, reported Le Potentiel. The UO was one of the most interesting innovations in continuing education of the century, with examples to be found in many other countries, and was a true instrument of development, said the association. It called for repeal of the contentious decrees.

(Le Potentiel)