Mozambique : Serious quality deficiencies in Education

The Education Ministry has admitted that there are serious problems of quality in the education provided by Mozambican schools, particularly in the initial years of primary education.

Quiteria Mabote, an adviser to Education Minister Aires Aly, told AIM that visits made by Ministry inspectors to the schools show that the same problems, particularly in teaching children to read and write, are found all over the country.

Mabote, who heads a Ministry team monitoring the quality of education, said the key problem was the performance of the teachers. She said there are teachers who do not plan their lessons, and others who do not use the methodologies they should have learnt during their training.

She also argued that poor quality results from a misinterpretation of the relaxation in the exam regime. Under changes introduced in 2004, children are no longer examined at the end of each year. It is thus impossible to fail first grade – advancing to second grade is automatic.

Mabote said there are now “teachers who think it is not necessary to teach and watch the progress of each pupil because at the end of the year they are all going to pass the grade”.

Other teachers, she continued, do not use their time rationally, and fail to make the most of the time that they should be in front of the pupils in the classroom.

The current pupil/teacher ratio is 71 to one. However, Mabote claimed there are “appropriate techniques” for teaching large classes. “You can work with the class not as a homogenous group, but by splitting it into small groups. You can deal with one or two subjects a day”, she said. But the teachers must be seen “to make a greater effort, to control and help the least flexible pupils”.

“The problem of large classes is most visible in the countryside, but the question of poor quality is also found in the cities”, she said. “But there are also large classes which do not face this problem of quality”.

Maria da Vera Cruz, national coordinator of the women’s committee of the National Teachers’ Union (ONP), said blame for the poor quality of education should be shared by all those involved – parents, teachers, the government and even foreign donors.

She criticized parents for failing to take a proper interest in their children’s education. “If a child reaches seventh grade without being able to read or write, where were the parents?” she asked. “The time a child spends at school is short, and when the children go home they do other tasks. If children don’t have the support of their parents to consolidate at home what they’ve been learning at school, they become nothing more than carriers of books”.

Vera Cruz also argued that donor dictates in macro-economic policy have unwelcome repercussions on Mozambican education. This was because the emphasis was now on hiring teachers with only a minimum of training (and who cost less than those with degrees).

“We’re looking for quality, but we’d rather hire teachers from the “10 plus one” system (ten years of basic education plus one year of teacher training) instead of people with bachelors degrees”, she said. Furthermore, the better trained teachers were dropping out – Vera Cruz claimed that the majority of teachers with degrees did not renew their contracts in 2008.

AIM 2008