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Ambitious school growth, new funding models the focus for Congo conference speakers

Charleston Atlantic Presbytery is hosting the in-person and online conference for the Congo Mission Network March 14-16

by Kelly Norrell, Communications Coordinator for the Congo Mission Network | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Zacharie Mboyamba Kabala, keynote speaker at the Congo Mission Network conference, will call for more ambitious public education in Congo. Here he is teaching a Sunday school class at the church he pastors in Kananga. (Photo by Jeff Boyd)

The Rev. Zacharie Mboyamba Kabala of Kananga, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), will be keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Congo Mission Network March 14-16 at the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery Conference Center in Charleston, South Carolina. He and a roster of other speakers, both in person and via video, will address the challenges raised in the conference theme, “Education for Transformation: Equipping Congolese Youth for the Future.”

The Rev. Cheryl Barnes, Africa Area Coordinator for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), will also speak. She brings extensive experience in education in Africa to the conference, having served as a mission co-worker in Malawi and Zambia and Zimbabwe as an education facilitator with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.

Registration is free for online attendees outside the United States; otherwise there is a $25 fee. PC(USA) staff, mission co-workers, Congolese and college students can also register for free. In-person registration is $100.

To register, go here. A full conference schedule will be available soon.

American and Congolese partners’ stated goals in the conference are to increase employment prospects for youth and young adults in the DRC. In line with the Congolese government’s current 10-year plan for education, they want free access to primary education for all Congolese children, better quality of teaching in the schools, better management of schools, improved education of girls and a focus on skills training so that students can develop business for themselves.

Hands-on vocational training to teach students marketable skills is needed in Congo schools. Here are young woman learning sewing at the Maman Mesu Kamba Women’s Center in Kinshasa. (Photo by Bill Reinhold)

The live event will be available by videoconference across 10 time zones, as participants from California to the Kasai region of Congo participate both in person and via Zoom. Session times are scheduled to be accessible for both Congolese and U.S. viewers. CMN has purchased projectors so that sessions can be projected onto screens at seven viewing sites in four Congolese cities, enabling simultaneous viewing and group discussions as the conference progresses.

Mboyamba, who will travel to Charleston for the conference, will use his address to set out educational goals. They include robust vocational education programs in Congolese schools in such areas as masonry, carpentry, mechanics, animal husbandry, agriculture and sewing, as well as technical education in girls’ schools. “The main aim of this training program,” he said, “is to get the population out of unemployment by offering them practical tools for the personal creation of income-generating activities, so that they can take charge of their own lives and influence society towards collective development.”

Mboyamba will discuss the longstanding education ministry of the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) and national education in general, both key concerns of the conference. He will describe the CPC education ministry’s long partnership with the PC(USA), which he said has contributed greatly to raising the quality of its schools. Joint objectives and accomplishments of the CPC/ PC(USA) partnership, he said, have included building and rehabilitating schools, equipping schools with textbooks and teaching materials, training staff, improving girls’ education, and supplying transportation such as motorcycles for mobile staff.

Transportation is needed for shared staff members to travel among schools. Elder Ilunga Puni Andre, Coordinator of CPC Kananga Schools, and the Rev. Zacharie Mboyamba Kabala admire the sort of motorcycle that they would like for the coordination offices. (Photo by Bill Reinhold)

Mboyamba is legal representative and director of the Department of Evangelism and Church Life of the Presbyterian Community of Congo. That denomination administers more than 400 primary and secondary Congolese schools, three pastoral institutes, a seminary, and hospitals and clinics. Both the CPC and the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK), the other Congo Mission Network partner church in DRC, operate primary and secondary schools under a convention with the Congolese government. The CPK also administers about 400 schools.

Dr. Larry Sthreshley

A new model of funding will be the focus of presentations by Dr. Larry Sthreshley, senior advisor for Innovation, Localization, and Partnerships at Corus International, a humanitarian organization. Sthreshley will present an overview of a new model of localized planning and control of major grants offered by the U.S. Agency for International Development and other international donors. Sthreshley will then lead a discussion via Zoom, involving participants in both Congo and the U.S., on how members of the Congo Mission Network can work together to access this new stream of funding.  These funds could be a game-changer for schools in the DRC, with its disproportionately youthful, rapidly growing population.

Sthreshley, a former PC(USA) mission co-worker and former country director of IMA World Health, has been a recognized leader in global public health for more than 30 years, focusing primarily on the Democratic Republic of Congo. His work now includes preparing church bodies across Africa to take advantage of the emerging system of localization. Corus International is a family of organizations including Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health.

Stronger teacher training in Congo is a stated Congo Mission Network goal. Here 15 teacher participants from the Presbyterian-run Anunga Institute in Kinshasa learn how mobile phone technology and Google Suite programs are accessible to sub-Saharan African classrooms and teaching. (Photo by José LaMont Jones)

Mission co-workers Jeff and Christi Boyd and José LaMont Jones will speak on other aspects of education and life in Congo.

Presentations via video will include:

  • History of Education in Congo — Prof. Muenyi Kamuinga of the Protestant University of Congo will outline the history of education in Congo from colonial days through the latest 10-year plan. The Rev. Dr. Muenyi is a Presbyterian minister with the CPC and brings both personal and professional experience in church-based education to his presentation.
  • Overview of Education in the CPC and CPK — Both Congo Mission Network partner churches in Congo — the Presbyterian Community of the Congo (CPC) and Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) — operate primary and secondary schools under a convention with the Congolese government. Leaders of the two churches will explain how the system works with details on students, teachers, schools, and the church’s role in education.
  • Educational Goals of the Congolese Government — Freddy Nsapu, Coordinator of Schools for the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa, will give an overview of the 10-year goals of the Congolese government concerning educational policy. He will discuss how this policy is being worked out within the schools of the CPK. Since education in Congo is a national program, these reflections also apply to the schools operated by the CPC.
  • The Church and Girls/Women’s Health — Adolescent girls face particular challenges in attending school. Dr. Samy Ntumba Mukendi, director of the Department of Health of the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK), will describe how CPK is addressing the HIV issue among high school girls. He will also report on the Congolese government’s new initiative of free prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care for mothers and babies.

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