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Every year, the teacher training college at our center sends 4 groups of students on a 10-day investigation in separate locations throughout the Sofala province. Each of the four groups breaks down into 4 'micro-groups'. Each micro-group investigates one specific area: Health, Education, Agriculture, or Commerce. The students spend their day s talking with both local officials and chiefs, but also extensively with community members. They identify problems, identify strengths, and ascertain the hopes of the community.
At the completion of the 10-day period, the students return to our center full of information. They discuss what they learned and create realistic and applicable community development plans. The entire objective of the investigation is to provide the students with skills they WILL use. Teachers here are a powerful force within the community. It is not unrealistic to think that a teacher will be involved in all areas of health, agriculture, or commerce.
Our future teachers are now equipped to effectively create positive development within the community in which they will work.
I had the opportunity to accompany one group on their investigation. We spent the 10 days in Muxungue. Muxungue is located along the īmajorī North-South road that stretches from the capital of Maputo to the northernmost border. I split my time equally between the 4 micro-groups and in the process learned an enormous amount about the lives of the people within the community.
Since Muxungue is located along a trade corridor, there is quite a bit of truck traffic, and following, there are a number of sex workers. As a result of this, and a host of other contributing factors, the HIV/AIDS rate is high, astronomically high, some figures place the number of those infected at 40%. It is affecting everyone, either directly or indirectly: countless children are orphaned leaving an even greater burden on extended family members, the workforce is literally dying, the hospital, with just 4 employees, has more patients than it can possibly handle. The bright note in a very dismal reality is that the community members HAVE identifies a problem and have accurately labeled it as AIDS. Many other communities have yet to reach that point.
The extended bellied of many of the young children prove the existence of malnutrition in the area due to, especially, a lack of protein and the lack of variety of foods and nutrients. Immune systems already weakened by malnutrition struggle to fight diarrheas and common ailments, thus, child mortality is high.
The local hospital, with just 2 nurses and no doctors, always seems to have long lines of people waiting for treatment. As a result of the workload, and perhaps, in insufficient education, the nurses frequently misdiagnose illnesses or do not prescribe adequate or appropriate treatment. It seems as if people give the hospital one chance and if the hospital fails, they turn to the traditional healers despite the higher costs (1,000MT for the hospital and up to 30,000MT for the traditional healer. $1=24,000MT). The traditional healers mainly work to expel bad spirits, which are thought to provoke illnesses. While many of the practices of traditional healers borders on witchcraft, there is a great deal of knowledge held by them. More research is being done into the traditional practices and methods with the hope of a closer connection between doctors and healers and hospitals.
We heard the same mantra from nearly every family we visited: There are not enough schools and there are not enough teachers. One school that we visited had 2 classrooms, 2 teachers and over 300 students. The same school has children walking distances up to 26 kilometers just to get to school. The problem is most evident in the most rural areas. In the village center of Muxungue, there is a complete primary school where all levels up to the 7th level are taught. School children must pay a fee of 55,000MT (less than $2) a year to attend school and pay for school supplies. Despite the seemingly affordable cost, and despite the social programs that exist which allow children to attend for free, many families do not send their children to school. Many families need their children to sell cashews or pineapples at the roadside to help support the family.
Throughout Mozambique and most of the developing world, there is a great disparity between the number of boys in school and the number of girls in school. There are many reasons for this, the first being that girls often work right alongside of their mothers for household chores and for the agriculture work. Second, if a family has enough money for one child to attend school, invariably, they will send the oldest boy as he has the greatest 'earning' potential for the family. In rural areas, such as Muxungue, girls frequently marry as young as 14 years old. Education is not seen as necessary for them. Lastly, there is the very real threat of sexual abuse of girls by their male teachers. Many parents want to protect their daughters from this blatant abuse of power. There are more and more community campaigns to promote the education of girls.
The people of Muxungue produce mangoes, pineapples, and cashews in abundance. There are not any developed plantations or processing plants as of yet. Most of the produce is either consumed by the family or sold in the market place or on the roadside. Families farm on their small plots of land. However the soil is not very conducive to many varieties of crops and as a result, there is evidence of malnutrition. The greatest time of trouble is when there are no rains and the summer sun dries the earth and all the plants. There is not an excess to rely on.
There is a great potential for further commercial development in Muxungue mainly due to the location. The first hurdle to overcome is to bring electricity and running water to the community. After that, much commercial development is possible. There are future plans to form a juice factory to utilize the pineapple, mango, and cashew fruits. On a more small-scale, the students see a need for small rural markets in addition to the large central market already in existence. Rural markets would provide people with a market for their produce AND would offer a bit more variety to the diets of the community members as they could buy produce they were not able to grow.
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