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Want To Teach In This Congolese City? Better Get Baptized

There is a religious litmus test for teachers in schools in this eastern stretch of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Praying at a church in Goma, DRC
Praying at a church in Goma, DRC
Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange

BENI — During a recent morning mass at a church in this northeast Congolese city, the pastor had a sort of job announcement for his congregants: The local school was looking for a biochemistry teacher and someone who speaks English to look after middle school children. But, he added: "The first condition is to be a fervent Christian and available to fill in for pastoral duties."

Over the past few years, identifying yourself as religious has become the first selection criteria for teachers in many contract schools in this city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Math teacher E.K., for instance, had to get baptized in August 2010, shortly before the end of summer vacation. "When I applied for the job, I was advised to change religion if I wanted to improve my chances of getting the job," he says. Together with another colleague who teaches Latin and philosophy, he says a large number of teachers in their school are from church-going families.

Religion, whether it's Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam or Kimbanguism, plays an important role in education in Beni. Three of every four schools are "contract schools' run according to education ministry guidelines.

Kibonge Kambale, who works for the ministry in Beni, says legal representatives from churches name the principals for these contract schools.

At a church in Goma, DRC — Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/ZUMA

These principals, who are often pastors or former religious leaders, in turn recruit teachers.

"Religious leaders demand that principals consider first and foremost the teacher's religion. They say you need to employ people who share your Biblical view," says Jérémie Kasereka, the local head of the national teachers union, who opposes the practice.

A pastor of the Kimbanguist Church, however, finds this system "normal."

"It's difficult to take on a teacher who won't respect the day of Sabbath or any other religious celebration in a contract school that follows the religion's doctrine," says the pastor.

It can indeed be observed that, in some schools, the teachers are asked to fully participate in their Church's religious life. Sometimes, they're even part of the pastor's staff.

church service religion drc worldcrunch

Service at a church in DRC — Photo: Julien Harneis

"Every month in my school, the pastor hands teachers envelopes for them to pay the tithe," says Michel, who teaches in a Protestant school. All teachers take part in the Church meeting on the first and last Friday of every month. They're also required to attend French-language mass on Saturdays.

A psychologist in an NGO that fights for accountability in Beni, Alphonse Kakule, rejects this system, which he says lets religion precede a teacher's competence. He observes that professionals who should be valued in education "flee to other sectors that bring in more money at the end of the month."

The local teacher's union, which fears that children's education would be negatively affected, is urging the government to intervene against these religious requirements.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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