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Today in the Mission Yearbook

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

Charleston Atlantic Presbytery hosted the in-person and online conference for the Congo Mission Network

April 12, 2024

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), was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Congo Mission Network held in March at the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery Conference Center in Charleston, South Carolina. He and a roster of other speakers, both in person and via video, addressed 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.), also spoke. She brought 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.

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.

Mboyamba, who traveled to Charleston for the conference, used 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.”

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)

Mboyamba discussed the longstanding education ministry of the Presbyterian Community of Congo (CPC) and national education in general, both key concerns of the conference. He described 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.

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.

A new model of funding were 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 then led 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.

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

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

Today’s Focus: Congo Mission Network Conference

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Mike Ferguson, Reporter/Editor, Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Daniel Fernandez, Dishwasher, Stony Point Center, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

Great God, we thank you for giving us the commission to “feed my sheep.” Bless those who hunger for food, for home, for justice and for love. Bless those who serve as your hands and feet with the grace to share your love. Amen.