University’s striking lecturers call on minister to resign

Academic staff of the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have called for the resignation of the minister of higher education because of ongoing problems in the sector. They have embarked on a strike as they wait for a response from the minister.

Professors allege that Minister of Higher and University Education Muhindo Nzangi Butondo has failed to address several concerns brought to his attention earlier in 2022 and cannot, under any circumstances, remain in his position, according to a news release issued after a general staff meeting on 20 July.

In January 2022, the staff of universities and other higher education institutions organised protests about their remuneration and what they call their “mistreatment”. As a result, teaching and learning came to a standstill for about a month.

The protesters claimed their monthly salaries were 120 times less than that of a member of parliament, and that the salary of an assistant lecturer, for instance, was lower than that of a driver or gardener who works for a corporate office.

Teaching resumed in March after the government engaged lecturers and other affected staff members and promised that their concerns would be addressed “soon”.

Subsequently, the minister is also accused of failure to implement several reforms initiated by the government under his leadership.

But, according to the statement: “Nothing has been done since April to address the issues ...”

Problems with vehicle subsidy

Another matter that has irked academic staff members relates to transport. Professors accused the minister of unilateral involvement in a government subsidy system that helps academic staff to purchase vehicles aimed at facilitating the transport of lecturers and academic staff.

The government had availed the facility to allow lecturers and academic staff to buy vehicles but the process was delayed after the minister allegedly got involved in the purchasing and distribution processes.

The minister, staff allege, “blocked the execution of the contract for the sale of vehicles between lecturers and dealers” – something, they said, violates contractual clauses and political ethics.

“We, therefore, decided to immediately halt courses in protest [and] call for his immediate resignation,” the professors said in the statement.

The lecturers proposed that the higher education portfolio should go to a competent person. They said they were ready for dialogue and gave three weeks to allow their requests to be evaluated.

The management of the University of Kinshasa said employees had the right to protest and assured the safety of those who want to continue activities inside the campus.

Efforts by University World News to reach the minister were unsuccessful.