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Results BriefsMay 18, 2023

Empowering Girls and Enhancing Learning in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Primary School Kitembo. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/ World Bank

The World Bank study generated new data and knowledge to increase learning and improve human capital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by addressing girls' education and empowerment; quality of service delivery; and household financing in the context of COVID-19. The study informed the review of the DRC’s Education Sector Strategy through a gender lens and resulted in a new girls and empowerment project. The study was also used as the basis to develop the country’s partnership compact to which the Global Partnership for Education has granted $135 million. The compact will help put in place the basic elements (currently missing in secondary education) to create an effective learning environment and promote knowledge, skills, and behavior changes needed to make teaching more effective and schools safe for all children.

The DRC considers gender issues and women's empowerment as one of its highest priorities. This has been reflected in the EESSE Project which introduced the free primary education policy and continues with the girls' learning and empowerment project.” 

Nicolas Kazadi
Minister of Finance,
Democratic Republic of Congo 

"The report identifies the main challenges children face in accessing quality secondary education, as well as the factors underlying the differences in learning outcomes between girls and boys. The recommendations of this report have helped the government to design targeted interventions that will address these challenges as part of the Girls' Learning and Empowerment Project in the DRC.”

Professor Valère Munsya
Permanent Secretary,
Secrétariat Permanent d'Appui et de Coordination
du Secteur de l'Education (SPACE), Democratic Republic of Congo

$135 million

Global Partnership for Education grants fund to improve access and teaching conditions for girls.


In 2017, the DRC showed significant gender gaps in school attendance, progression, and learning outcomes. According to the 2017-18 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), for every 100 girls aged 14 to 17, 33 were not in school. Of these 33 girls, seven had never attended school, 16 dropped out before reaching lower secondary, six dropped out before reaching upper secondary, and four dropped out during upper secondary. Enrollment rates and gender gaps varied significantly within the DRC: secondary Net Enrollment Rate favored boys in 21 of 26 provinces, and nine of these provinces had a double-digit gender gap. Rural girls were particularly disadvantaged, being 23 percentage points less likely than rural boys, and 46 percentage points less likely than urban boys, to enter grade 12.

Gender-based Violence (GBV) also presented a pervasive societal issue. Girls face elevated risks of violence, sexual exploitation, and abuse/harassment, including at secondary school level. According to the 2013–14 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), among girls aged 15-19, 38.2 percent experienced physical violence by the age of 15 and 16.4 percent experienced acts of sexual violence. This abuse most often occurred at the hands of their husband or partner, or a male family member, but violence was also perpetrated by teachers and police, soldiers, or armed groups. One percent of women who experienced violence reported that the perpetrator was a teacher.

Social norms often encourage girls to discontinue school and marry at an early age. According to the 2017-18 MICS, among women aged 20-24 years:

  • 8.5 percent were married before the age of 15 years
  • 29.1 percent were married before the age of 18 years
  • 25 percent gave birth before the age of 18 years


The study is helping achieve one of the DRC’s Country Partnership Framework’s Focus Areas: Strengthening systems for improved service delivery and human capital development.

The notes and reports produced under the study, used existing and newly collected data, and qualitative assessments to identify the progress, challenges and drivers determining enrollment, transition, and learning outcomes in basic education through a gender lens. They have also identified supply and demand side determinants of gender inequities in education, especially in secondary school, with the goal of supporting an upcoming project on girls’ empowerment. The overall objective was to generate new data and analysis of three critical factors that needed to be addressed to increase learning and ultimately improve DRC’s human capital: girls' education and empowerment; quality of service delivery; and household financing, all in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A combination of innovative analytical solutions through a gender lens for the DRC was applied. For example, phone surveys of households and school principals were carried out to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on learning as well as to shed light on financing education by households, following the launch of the Free Primary Education Policy approved in September 2019. Focus groups were conducted to get feedback from different stakeholders —parents, teachers, school principals, communities, and students— to identify the factors that drive gender disparities, and to formulate policy recommendations to address them.


  • The information from the study has directly spurred the development of project objectives that focus on improving gender disparities and inclusion across sectors, as well as access to primary and secondary education including: increasing the number of students enrolled in secondary school, decreasing gender disparity in gross enrollment rates, and increasing secondary school teacher effectiveness scores.
  • One of this study’s products -the “Snapshot of basic education service delivery in the time of COVID-19 and free schooling: DRC primary school director surveys,”- has shed light on the demand and supply constraints and put the girls’ agenda upfront with the government for focused actions/outcomes in the country’s upcoming education strategies and policies.
  • As a result of this study the Ministry of Primary, Secondary, and Technical Education has prepared a Girls’ Learning and Empowerment Project to improve safe and equitable access, particularly for girls, and teaching-learning conditions at secondary schools in selected provinces. This includes the creation of safe and inclusive school environments and strengthening of the curriculum, textbooks, and teaching-learning materials.
  • The findings of the analytical works served also as a basis to develop the country’s partnership compact to which the Global Partnership for Education has granted $135 million which will help put in place the basic elements (currently missing in secondary education) to create an effective learning environment and promote knowledge, skills and behavior changes needed to make teaching more effective and schools safe.

Bank Group Contribution

The International Development Association (IDA) provided $350,000 for the study.


The results of the study were discussed with the government, civil society organizations focused on women, and development partners in the DRC, and their comments were incorporated into the study.

Looking Ahead

The study provides the critical analytical underpinnings of the design of the Girls’ Learning and Empowerment Project in the DRC. The objective of the project is to improve equitable access and teaching conditions at secondary schools, particularly for girls in the provinces with lowest girls’ enrollment rate and highest gender disparities in lower secondary education.

The project will put in place the fundamentals (currently missing in secondary schooling) to create a learning environment and promote knowledge, skills, and behavior change such that teaching is more effective and the school is safe, inclusive, and free of Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Sexual Harassment (SEA/SH), and provides Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) and Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) education in secondary classrooms and through extracurricular activities.  

Specifically, the project will address constraints on access pertaining to the availability of basic infrastructure and equipment needed for teaching and learning, including the use of digital technology; for sanitary hygiene; and for security.  In the province with the lowest female enrollment rate, the project will address the main demand-side constraint on participation by providing scholarships to girls.

Further, the project will address inadequate education quality through activities to strengthen and broaden the curriculum to incorporate SRH, life skills and female empowerment; increase the availability of textbooks and essential teaching-learning materials including digital resources; and improve the effectiveness of teaching-learning practices. It will also put in place the foundations for citizens to engage with the project and secondary education, and for the creation of a safe, inclusive, and empowering school environment where girls can be free of SEA/SH and learn more about SRH, MHM and life skills.