Bringing education to Mozambique’s children

 By Simonetta Sandri

The province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, with its crystal clear waters and lush greenery, has significant issues in terms of access to education, particularly in the city of Pemba, where the quality of teaching and education infrastructure is among the major challenges. Within this context, Eni embarked on an assistance programme, which has already seen results in 2017. Let’s have a look at one school in particular, where spinning the wooden globe is a source of great fun…

We are in a country, Mozambique, where a Millennium Goal was assigned to primary education (divided into two levels: first (grades 1-5) and second (grades 6-7)) of 100% access to primary education in 2015 (MDG 2 “universal primary education, now SDG 4 “Quality of Education”). In 2014 (latest available official information), according to the data in the Development Goals Indicators Booklet of the Mozambique Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Net Enrolment Rate (NER) for primary schools (6-12 years) in the country increased by around 3% between 2010 and 2014, without significant changes between boys and girls. With the lowest level seen in the province of Tete, with around 84.5% in absolute terms, primary education saw an increase in the number of students between 6 and 12 years old, up from 4,213,418 in 2010 to 4,767,782 in 2014.

The Gross Completion Rate (GCR) in the 7th grade (final grade of primary school) , on the other hand, has a less positive trend. The rate decreased from 68.4% in 2010 to 55.3% in 2014, and girls showed lower rates than boys for the whole period of analysis, with a high dropout rate. The GCR saw a significant drop in all provinces between 2010 and 2014 with significant differences, ranging from 41.3% (province of Tete) to 101.4% (city of Maputo) for the 2014 school year. Five provinces were below the national average: Cabo Delgado (42.1%), Nampula (44.6%), Niassa (42.4%), Tete (41.3%) and Zambesia (44.8%), revealing a worrying performance in the education system, still a long way off from achieving universal primary education. So the challenges remain.

Within this context, being aware of the situation, Eni turned its attention to education, in conjunction with the Provincial Department for Education, Pemba Municipality, and representatives of the Paquitequete community, including community and religious leaders. The Paquitequete school project was launched to offer educational materials and facilities to disadvantaged children: the neighbourhood is the oldest in the city of Pemba, a fishing centre and, at the same time, the most run down. Here, school attendance is poor, and the lack of an actual centre as a uniting factor prevents real and effective progress.
The first stage of the project related to infrastructure with the construction of a brand new school covering the entire course of primary studies, from 1st to 7th grade: 7 classrooms, an administration block, a library, a recreational-sports area, a garden, toilet facilities for students and teachers, plumbing and electricity. With 2,000 direct beneficiaries (the students, with close to 60% girls), 13,000 indirect beneficiaries (the entire neighbourhood community), 40 teachers, a commitment of more than one million euros, and a handover to the Pemba municipal authority in December 2014.

The second phase of the project consisted in an important programme to support the teaching capabilities in conjunction with AVSI: the supply of educational materials and tools and the development of extra-curricular activities such as sport, gardening, poetry and theatre. Fun, games and culture as tools.
The aspect of teachers required special attention. It was difficult to retain teaching staff, above all due to the school organization itself: lessons over several shifts and a large influx of students, but without any control over entry. There was a risk of failing to provide “interesting” material if sufficient human resources were not available. Since it is human feelings, which are always the most important. Therefore, the aspect of optimization could only be that of working with a group of people selected from outside the school, answering to Eni for the project, identified by intermediate bodies based in the city and therefore with knowledge of the school. The involvement of local authorities and regional associations, the NGO Khandhelo first and foremost, was to be essential for this selection. The four selected “teachers of teachers”, followed by a coordinator and integrated into the teaching staff, would soon initiate “Aprendemos brincando”, that is to say, learning through playing, which is so important to children, stimulating the ability to learn through play. With 8 classes per phase (grades 1-2) of around 500 students and 8 teachers (a total of approx. 1000 pupils beneficiaries). An educational programme, materials and tools to help children discover beauty and encourage reflection on similar cultures and environments between their own local situation and the world, guiding them, in the classroom, with a globe. In order to discover, learn, dream and travel with the mind.

The role of the facilitators, who treaded lightly into the environment while introducing different ways of working, was found to be very important, including during the holiday period and in breaks, when they continued to provide activities for and with the children.
Learning through play, with a smile, should not be taken for granted. It is not always easy to make teachers and pupils understand this. The important thing is the result: the project led to a rise in school attendance, with an increased interest in the child as an individual. Knowing their names and surnames, and knowing how to find out and make the most of the needs, individuality and ability of each one was the true objective. Sitting comfortably at a desk but with their heads in another part of the world.


READ MORE: Teaching the teachers by Luisa Cogo

about the author
Simonetta Sandri