All first years may soon study military courses, patriotism

First-year students in all universities and higher learning institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will, starting from the next academic year, in January 2023, study compulsory military courses in order to acquire skills to defend their country whenever it is deemed necessary.

The announcement by the DRC’s Ministry of Higher and University Education stressed in November that the country is caught up in ongoing conflicts and has become a stronghold for various armed groups waging a war on it. The DRC hosts armed groups from Rwanda and Uganda as well as Congolese groups that formed to fight the government.

For that reason, the country, which has abundant natural resources, has been facing security threats and conflict for close on 30 years.

Speaking during a meeting held in the capital, Kinshasa, Muhindo Nzangi Butondo, the minister of higher and university education, said the role of higher learning institutions to train people who can defend their country militarily was long overdue.

The meeting brought together heads of both public and private universities and universities board members and decided that integrating military courses in all universities was of paramount importance.

“After examining the current worrying situation in our country, we propose the integration of military training in education, starting in the next academic year, to train the youth who can respond to the worrying situation,” Professor Jean-Marie Kayembe, the rector of the University of Kinshasa, said in a statement.

Experts with academic backgrounds from different universities and military experts have committed to working together to draft civic, patriotic and military training modules that will be used to equip university students with the required skills.

Officials also committed to creating a joint commission, which will include the higher education ministry, that can, in addition to working on the content of the course material, also be tasked with mobilising more youths to embrace patriotism and defend their homeland, according to the officials.

Moving forward, Butondo held a meeting with Major General Augustin Mubiayi Mamba, the commandant of the College of Advanced Studies in Strategy and Defence, on 22 November to give a clear orientation to the planned military courses to be offered in universities.

“The meeting sought to discuss with the minister the orientation to be taken on the modules which can be offered to university students and instil them with values to defend their country,” said Mamba.

“At defence level, we have welcomed this proposal and we are ready to support its successful implementation,” he added.

Students speak out

Students have received the information with mixed reactions. Some are saying that it was long overdue, while others said it was not necessary to include military studies in the courses offered at mainstream academic institutions.

Napoleon Kasereka, a student from the Adventist University of Goma’s computer science department, said that every citizen should be trained on how to defend his homeland.

“Every citizen has the obligation to defend the country against both internal and external threats. This is a very good initiative that I support and which I think every university student should embrace,” he said.

But Nadia Sibo, from the same university, disagrees.

“I do not think we need to mix politics with academic affairs. These are two different fields and they don’t have to be mixed up. Those who seek military [knowledge] can join military institutions,” she said.

The DRC has about 200 accredited universities and higher learning institutions, both private and public.

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