Spiritan Features

Education in Moçambique

Theory and practice

Connie O’HalloranEarly on a bright Monday morning in downtown Beira, Moçambique's second largest city and largest port, school-age children are washing fruit. They stand beneath the shadow of a statue of the late Samora Machel, the country's founding father (whose widow Graça became Minister for Education & Culture, and who would later marry Nelson Mandela). Placing their fruit in a basket, the children then walk on to the busy, palm tree-lined streets of the city to begin selling. As explained by Nicholas Chendamukanwa C.S.Sp., a Zambian confrère and one of a number of Spiritans whom I met on my recent field trip, they have followed the same routine for the last three years, working six days a week to buy food for their families, support themselves and have a roof over their heads, taking only Sundays off to go to church. They drop out of school.

The education system in the southern African country is slowly being re-built after the civil war (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozambican_Civil_War) which destroyed at least half of primary schools. Officially, education is compulsory for a 7-year period; in practice, most children study for a shorter period, and c.99% of those under 6 get no formal pre-school education (UNESCO, 2010).

School drop-outs
Thousands of children drop out of school for reasons such as inability to pay for uniforms or books. Though the country has one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, it also has one of the world’s highest school drop-out rates with fewer than half of children completing the primary-school cycle.

Despite impressive yearly growth figures, more than half of the population live below the poverty line. Parents facing tough economic conditions will send their children out to work rather than to school. The fact that most of the country's 25 million people live in the countryside exacerbates this.

Since oil and gas were found offshore, the government has invested heavily in education, building hundreds of classrooms annually and training thousands of teachers. However, unless the economic realities change for thousands of families, many children could remain outside the school system.

Cycle of dependency and Spiritan plans
John Kingston C.S.Sp. is based in St. Paulo’s parish in Inhanzonia, a very rural area in the north of the country. The vast majority of children in the parish face extreme difficulties in completing their secondary schooling, thus prolonging the cycle of depending on the land. For those able to attend, serious problems include a lack of textbooks; school libraries are in a very poor state, and students wait for days – at best – to gain access to a book! A Spiritan hostel for mostly orphan boys, which Fr. John manages, provides their only opportunity to attend the (state) school.

Fr. Nicholas Chendamukanwa (centre), Fr. Des Arigh

Fr. NicholasChendamukanwa (centre), Fr. Des Arigho et al

Des Arigho C.S.Sp. is based in Nampula where he coordinates the day-to-day running of the primary school in the parish of São João de Deus, Mutauanha on the city’s outskirts. He also manages the Libermann Technology & Communication Center; this is a computer school that was established by the Spiritans in 2008 with the objective of offering high-quality courses at affordable prices for people in the slum. Though not making a profit, the Center is being run sustainably.

Over the next five years the Spiritans plan to open 2 pre-schools in Beira, a secondary school & computer training centre in Inhanzonia and an extension to Nampula’s São João de Deus school.

*  Connie O’Halloran (pictured above) is the Province’s Overseas Development Officer.