A young mother returns to school in Mozambique

24 May 2007

Back to school for young mother, Joana, in Inhambane For too long in Mozambique, children from poor households missed out on school because fees blocked their way. Without a basic education, these children would set out into the world ill-equipped to grasp its opportunities or stand up to its challenges. As a result, millions of poor Mozambicans failed to make the most of their lives.

Now, thanks to the work of DFID and other donors, the situation is changing. The Government has taken decisive action, abolishing primary school fees and revamping the education system. Over ten years, the number of pupils in primary education has tripledadobe pdf(57 kb), and those who once missed out are now back in class, acquiring the knowledge and skills essential for life.

Back to class for Joana

Joana lives with her young family in a rural village in the southern province of Inhambane. At the age of 16, she was forced to drop Joana ouside her local primary schoolout of school in the middle of the seventh grade due to family circumstances. “My parents were sick for a long time,” she explains shyly in Portuguese, Mozambique's official language. “I could not afford to go to school. When my parents died, I got married and then got pregnant.”

Two years later, when the Government abolished fees, Joana was able to return to her local primary school. Talking after the end of the school day, she describes how she now splits her time between attending classes and helping her husband to sell reeds, which are used locally to build homes. Although money is tight and getting by is a struggle, Joana is enthusiastic about the new prospects that an education will open up for her and her family.

With another day over at school, Joana will now embark on her one hour trek home under the sweltering midday heat, carrying with her a new bag full of books. On the way, she will fetch her two-year-old toddler, Vitoria, and join her husband on the roadside selling the reeds he has collected from a nearby river. In the evenings, she will do her homework by the light of a Kerosene lamp, since there is no electricity in the family's one-room reed home. Joana is typical of many pupils who, having been given a chance to study, do so eagerly despite difficult conditions both at home and at school. “I like to study, I want to know many things,” she says.

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More people given a chance to learn

The number of pupils in Mozambique has tripled from 1.3 million in 1995 to 3.8 million in 2005. This achievement has been all the more notable in a country where, during 16 years of civil war, many schools were reduced to rubble. But as considerable as this expansion has been, there is still a need to deliver vital primary education to more of Mozambique's poor. “The system was originally built for only a small number of children,” says Paul Wafer, DFID’s Education adviser. “There has been a rapid increase in enrolment; now the system needs to catch up.”

DFID is one of 20 donors that directly support education in Mozambique. We have committed an annual 4.5 million for the period 2007 to 2009, which will go towards reaching the 1 million children who are still not in school and improving conditions for teachers and pupils. It is crucial for the future of Mozambique that more of its people are given the chance that Joana was given: a decent education and therefore a decent start in life.

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Key facts

  • The primary school population more than tripled in Mozambique from 1.3 million in 1995 to 3.8 million in 2005.
  • The first seven years of school are now free.
  • One million children still do not go to school, most of them from poor rural families.
  • Girls’ enrolment increased from 3 million in 2002 to 4.1 million in 2006 while the completion rate increased from 31,000 to 90,000.
  • Almost half of all teachers in Mozambique are still unqualified.

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