MAPUTO, Mozambique — Imagine a country where half of the girls in primary school drop out by fifth grade. Only 11 percent of those girls go on to complete secondary level education. And only one percent of girls attend college. These percentages represent girls’ education in Mozambique. How can this be?
War, Politics and Poverty
While 94 percent of girls are enrolled in primary school, the number drops as girls advance grade levels. Past domestic issues have plagued the Mozambican educational system. The education infrastructure fell apart during a two-decade-long civil war and a decade under single-party Marxist-Leninist rule. It was not until 1992 that Mozambique reached peace and established a multiple-party democratic system. However, the African nation is plagued by poor governance.
The prevalence of poverty and AIDS has placed schools in a difficult position. Clean water, sanitation facilities, desks and school supplies are unavailable to many schools. Schools are responsible for health services and psycho-social assistance that normally would be provided by the children’s families. Girls, along with orphans and the most impoverished children, are most vulnerable. Their risk of dropping out of school or skipping school altogether is high.
Mozambique abolished school fees for primary education in 2005 to make education accessible to all children. Now schools are overcrowded and do not have enough qualified teachers to meet the demand. Many teachers lack the proper training. The shortage of teachers and classrooms have led to double and triple-shift teaching. As a result, the average student/teacher ratio at the primary level is one teacher for every 74 children. Furthermore, test scores for reading and math have dropped.
The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, funded a study on school effectiveness. While education in Mozambique is more accessible, the amount of actual schooling is lacking. According to the study, children only received an average of 30 days of actual instructional time per 193-day school year in 2010. In addition, 59 percent of third-grade students in the 49 schools studied were unable to read a single word per minute. The students did not know the letters either. Students who could read were only able to read an average of five words per minute.
With a 47 percent overall literacy rate in Mozambique, the 28 percent female literacy rate is well below the 60 percent male literacy rate. Mozambican girls are clearly disadvantaged in receiving an education. Without an education, girls have fewer opportunities. Education empowers women and equips them to be economically independent.
The Mozambican educational system has made improvements by making education more accessible. However, more must be accomplished for equal, quality education. Without adequate resources, girls will continue missing out on the education needed to pull them out of the poverty cycle.
– Brittany Mannings