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May 18, 2002

Education....

Lamego School

Students in schoolOn a few separate occasions this week, I got to tour different communities in the area. First, I went into the village surrounding the ADPP school. The local primary school has about 1000 students who attend school in shifts; some in the morning, some in the afternoon. There are 2 buildings with about 4 classrooms each. Last year, a devastating cyclone hit and tore the roofs off of both of the buildings. Luckily, the community was able to afford new roofs for the 2 buildings. And, thanks to the ingenuity of the parents, they used the scrap metal from the roof that blew off as a roof for a new building that they constructed together! It is very simple, straw sides, metal roof, and dirt floors, but it serves its purpose. The school is also using an abandoned warehouse for classrooms. Again, a roof in disrepair. But, it works. The other students have classes under trees. It all sounds simple, romantic almost...that everyone can make do. Not so. Whenever it rains, the majority of the classes have to be cancelled. Only the building with the new roof can be used. The teachers have NO resources other than a chalkboard and chalk. In many cases the teachers do not even have their own education as a resource. The students have no supplies, no desks, no chairs, nothing. They sit on the floor in small groups which is a huge distraction for them all. It is no wonder that so many children end up dropping out or graduate without being able to read and write.

Rural SchoolThe second school I visited was a two-hour bike ride away in a very, very rural village. At that school, there are 571 students and 5 teachers. The ratio of boys to girls was almost 2:1. Throughout Mozambique, there is a problem with student attendance. Surely it does not sound like that is the case with the number of students at each of the schools I visited. But, schools are few and far between. The first and foremost reason for poor attendance is many families need their children to help with the farming, or to sell the produce in the markets. They cannot afford to lose the labor during the school day and during the 2-3 hours it could take their child to walk to school and the 2-3 hours it would take him or her to return. And, if they could afford to lose the labor, they very well might not be able to pay the school fees. There are constant stories of teachers abusing their power with the students. Many parents simply to not want to subject their children, especially their daughters, to what could happen at school. You can hear the statistics about the education in Mozambique....45% illiteracy rate (up to 60% in some areas, including this one!), 100 students per teacher, students taught under trees......and in some ways, it has a surreal glint to it. Simplicity. But, seeing it, seeing how there was little to no learning going on. It is depressing. The children deserve better. All of the reports say that education is a priority and that things are improving; schools are being built, teachers are being trained, etc....it is a painstakingly slow process.