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Cablegate: Public School Teacher Strike Enters Third Week

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKI #1123 2621338
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191338Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6913
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF EDUCATION WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001123

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV SOCI CG
SUBJECT: PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER STRIKE ENTERS THIRD WEEK

REF: 06 KINSHASA 1462

1. (U) Public school teachers across the DRC have been on
strike for long-promised salary increases since September 3,
when schools were supposed to open. The national Congolese
teachers union, Syndicat des Enseignants du Congo (SYECO),
and the Catholic teachers union, Syndicat des Enseignants des
coles Catholiques (SYNECAT) also demand that the GDRC close
the salary gap between teachers of different grades, and
between teachers in different provinces. Some public school
teachers are reporting to work, but refusing to teach. Most
parents have kept children at home since the beginning of the
strike, partly in response to perceived threats of violence
against those who attend classes. The strike is now in its
third week with no end in sight.

-------------------
There They Go Again
-------------------

2. (U) The September public school teacher strike has become
an annual ritual, lasting for two weeks in 2005 and for two
weeks in 2006. The GDRC and civil servant unions approved
the 2004 "Mbudi Agreement," named for the location where it
was signed, mandating higher civil servant salaries (reftel).
The government has yet to implement the increases, generally
considered to be unrealistic given current budgetary
constraints. The GDRC has now also banned the practice of
"motivation fees" paid by parents to supplement low public
school teacher incomes. The GDRC and the unions took similar
actions last year, and the teachers were on strike for one
month before the Catholic Church convinced them to go back to
work. (Note: Catholic schools, taken over by government
decree in 1995, represent less than 10 percent of the total,
but wield inordinate influence due to the power of the Church
and their superiority in education. End note.) Many parents
continued paying motivation fees last year and basic salary
levels remained virtually unchanged, despite GDRC promises to
take up the matter in budget discussions once the new
government was in place.

------------------
Kabila on Teachers
------------------

3. (U) During his recent two-hour-long press conference,
President Kabila deflected comparisons of parliamentarians,
salaries (USD 4,000/month) with teachers, salaries (avg. USD
50/month), saying that even if the parliamentary pay was
divided up among all teachers it would only amount to a few
dollars each. (Note: The USD two million per month paid to
500 deputies would cover the monthly salaries of 40,000
teachers. End note.) Kabila has now promised to raise
teachers, wages to the first level of the Mbudi agreement
(approx. USD 70), but has not specified a start date. Kabila
also indicated that the GDRC would not tolerate threats
against schoolchildren. "I am not saying that they
(teachers, union members) will be thrown in the river, but
we will be tough with them." The mayor of Kinshasa this week
authorized USD 300,000 in "transportation fees" for the
estimated 30,000 teachers in the city, but the unions are
promising to continue the strike until the GDRC meets all of
their demands.

4. (U) Comment. The GDRC is unlikely to be able to meet the
teachers, salary demands, considering the strain that this
would place on an already overextended budget. The
International Monetary Fund (IMF) continues to push for a
census to count those teachers actually in the classroom when
they are not on strike. This would allow the GDRC to put its
meager resources dedicated to primary education (estimated at
less than one percent of the national budget) into the hands
of a smaller number of real teachers rather than the inflated
ranks currently on the books. End Comment.
BROCK

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