Hundreds of secondary school pupils demonstrated outside the Democratic Republic of Congo’s parliament on Thursday, calling for lessons to resume three weeks into a teachers’ strike.
“We want to study,” the children chanted as they stormed up the steps and into the debating chamber.
Videos shared by journalists on social media showed them being met by the parliament’s deputy speaker.
Congolese schools officially reopened on October 4, but lessons are yet to begin in many institutions as teachers have been striking for higher wages.
Schools minister Tony Mwaba has warned those participating in walkouts that they could be struck off the payroll altogether.
He has so far not responded to an opposition senator’s proposal to replace strikers with new teachers.
President Felix Tshisekedi has made free primary-school education central to his policy since September 2019, at an estimated cost of $2.6 billion per year — compared with a total government budget of almost $7.0 billion in 2021.
Pressure group Fight For Change (Lucha) said that “free education is suffering from a lack of planning,” and called on the government to find “appropriate temporary measures to save the new school year”.