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News, 5/20/2016

Children in Mozambique will learn in their own language

Finnish children take it for granted that they are educated in their mother tongue. Now Finland is helping children in Mozambique to have the same right.

A total of 24 different languages are spoken in Mozambique. Only 13 per cent of Mozambicans have Portuguese as their native language, and more than half of them cannot speak it at all. In the countryside, you hardly ever hear Portuguese, so most of the children have to start school in a totally unfamiliar language.

According to Jorge Ferrão, Minister of Education, who visited Finland last week, children don’t understand anything of what they are taught during the first six months.

This is going to change next year when all children will have the right to be taught in their own language in the first two years of school. At the moment, 500 schools provide mother tongue education in 16 different languages.

Mosambikin opetusministeri, pulpetit
Even the Minister has to sit on the floor, when there are no desks, Minister Ferrão (on the left), who used to be a teacher himself, had 900,000 new desks delivered to schools.

In the last ten years, Mozambique has made rapid progress towards its educational targets. Already 90 per cent of children enter primary school, and the number of children attending school has grown by more than 50 per cent since 2004. The share of girls has increased even more. There are many more schools also in the rural areas, which has benefited girls in particular.

Mozambique spends 23 per cent of its national budget on education, but the need for additional financing is great.

Poor learning outcomes

Many problems remain to be solved; there are great regional differences in the quality of education and in learning outcomes. Far from all children can read and write when they leave comprehensive school. According to a national literacy assessment, only a fraction of Mozambican children learn to read by their third year of school. Teacher training has not been able to meet the demand, and teachers are lacking in qualifications.

Minister Ferrão has taken brisk action to address these shortcomings.

“We are now working to improve the quality of education. Our goal is to have all children attending school for at least nine years. Teachers need additional training, and their work also needs to be accorded the recognition it deserves.”

According to Ferrão, the best way to improve the quality of education is to improve administration.

“A good director makes a school a success, and a bad one has the opposite effect. For the last 18 months, we have been training headmasters, who, in turn, train other school directors on the district and local level.”

School meals keep girls at school

In Mozambique children learn more slowly also because of chronic malnutrition, which affects 43 per cent of children under the age of five. Constant malnutrition causes permanent brain damage and impairs the ability to assimilate learning. If you suffer from malnutrition before the age of three, it will affect your behaviour for the rest of your life. Considering the great number of children involved, this will have an enormous effect on Mozambique’s development for the next 50 years at least.

 “At the moment, school meals are being experimented in five provinces, involving 290,000 out of Mozambique’s seven million school children. Thanks to school meals, girls, in particular, are less prone to drop out of school. At the same time, cooperation with homes is being intensified. It is one of our main goals to involve pupils’ parents in school work,” says Minister Ferrão.

Mosambikin opetusministeri
The Finnish maternity package made Minister Ferrão smile. The content of the package was presented by Ms Seija Toro, Ambassador of Finland to Mozambique (on the far left).

Results obtained with Finnish support

Minister Ferrão acknowledges the great importance of Finland’s support.

“Finland has participated in the development of education in Mozambique in a variety of ways. Education must be capable of providing guidance for the pupils’ entire lives,” he says.

Between 2002 and 2014, when Finland supported education in Mozambique, the share of 6-year-olds who start school rose from 37 to over 81 per cent. The number of comprehensive schools rose by 71 per cent, and the number of teachers working in them nearly doubled. The number of girls attending school is now more than a million higher than 10 years ago.

In April 2016, Finland’s one-year chairmanship of the Education Sector Support Fund (FASE) troika came to an end. Finland's support, nine million euros a year, is channelled through the Common Fund FASE. Two million euros are used to extend education in the mother tongue, as well as teacher training and printing text books.

As Chairman, Finland stressed the right of all children to education, teaching in the mother tongue and equality of education.

During the Minister’s visit to Finland, a provisional agreement on expert exchange between Finland and Mozambique was reached. A teacher training project focusing on teaching in the mother tongue is being planned with the University of Helsinki.

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