Context: There have been significant improvements in education in Mozambique. Abolition of school fees in 2003/2004, provision of direct support to schools and free textbooks, along with investments in classroom infrastructure, and the employment of additional teachers, resulted in a surge in primary and secondary school enrollment. Enrollment increased from 3.6 million in 2003 to about 6.7 million in 2014. Primary school enrollment is now at 97%. Intake of children aged 6 years old has also significantly improved to over 80%. Gender parity in primary and secondary enrollment has also improved.
However, many challenges remain for delivering basic education in Mozambique. Primary completion rates, have stagnated at around 47% over the past few years. This is mainly attributed to persistent high rates of primary school drop-out and repetition. A 2012 study by UNESCO estimated that approximately 1.2 million or 23% of primary and secondary school aged children are out of school. Of these, 775,000 are primary school aged children, and nearly 55% are girls. Although there has been large-scale construction of classrooms (1,450 new classrooms per year) over the past few years, 45% of primary school classrooms are still in precarious conditions. Also, despite increased employment of new teachers, the teacher: pupil ratio remains high at 1:63 in early grades of primary schools. Geographical disparities in teacher deployment also persist. This scenario has led to low learning achievement, especially in primary schools. A national assessment of learning achievement found that on average, less than one in every ten children in grade 3 have basic reading competencies. In addition, only 4% of children below 6 years, mostly in urban areas, have access to any kind of state-funded early learning opportunities. This means that children are not ready for school, contributing to low learning outcomes and high dropout rates.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: The Neighbourhood Tutors Project was established by the government of Mozambique with the general aim of creating learning spaces for young people who have dropped out of school or those who have never been to a school but want to attend. It was also meant to provide the youth who have dropped out-of-school with opportunities to go through vocational skills training to improve their employability, including self-employment. The project was conceptualized on the theory, which considers premature exit from school as abandonment, constituting an individual act, significant individual failure, or perhaps family or cultural pressure. It also reasoned that non-school attendance and/or dropout as being triggered by exclusion, unequal economic, political and social structures and retrogressive school practices such as persecution and expulsion, which serve to stigmatize, discourage and exclude children from attending school.
The Neighbourhood Tutors Project focuses on three main intervention areas – neighbourhood day-care, open school, and vegetable gardens in backyards. The neighbourhood daycare is implemented by a group of volunteers that consists of students and social workers from the community. They provide training to mothers and caregivers on childcare and pedagogy. The trained mothers and caregivers then become the educators for the children from that community. They provide basic education to the children based on a formal curriculum. It targets children aged 2-7 years. The intervention is supported by the government, parents and guardians, community and other development partners. It runs at an annual budget of US$ 15,000 mainly contributed by the project’s partners.
The Open School targets children and young people aged 8-17 years who have never been to school or have dropped out-of-school. They are clustered into different categories depending on their levels and capabilities and then provided with tutorship in basic education and technical vocational areas. The intervention focuses on three technical vocational skill areas, namely informatics, mechanics, and cutting and sewing. The intervention also relies on volunteers from the three vocational skill areas.
The vegetable gardens backyard is a relatively new component of the project. It focuses on training the youth who have dropped out-of-school in modern agricultural and farming techniques. Besides training, the project beneficiaries receive farm inputs and seeds from the local entrepreneurs. They are also trained in land preparation and receive agricultural extension services.
Main challenges: The main challenges faced by the project is that it wholly relies on volunteers. This impacts negatively on the quality and consistency in the delivery of the assistance. Professional technical training in the open school is, for example, provided by persons and institutions of good faith without any obligation to do so. This creates high dependence on the goodwill of these people and has considerable negative effect on the sustainability of the intervention. All the three areas of intervention in the project namely, neighbourhood daycare, open school, and garden at the backyard relies on data on children who have dropped out-of-school collected and submitted by the community volunteers. Besides data reliability issues, the targeting of the beneficiaries may also lack objectivity, which affects the project impact. Also, the project funding is mainly from the parents, guardians, community volunteers and anonymous development partners and support organizations. The funding is inconsistent and mostly inadequate. This limits expansion for increased access and coverage.
Results achieved: The neighbourhood daycare benefitted about 300 children aged 2-7 years and is in 8 establishments in the country. The open school has benefitted 200 students who have successfully completed levels 6 and 8 of the school programme. An estimated 600 youth have also gone through technical training, out of whom 187 have secured paid jobs. Data on beneficiaries of the garden at the backyard was not available.
Moving Forward: The focus of Neighbourhood Tutors Project is to increase the number of volunteers, enhance quality of training content and its delivery, and to widen the coverage to all parts of the country and increase the number of beneficiaries.
Replicability: The Neighbourhood Tutors Project is based on a simple model, which makes it easily replicable. It requires existence of children and young people of school going age but out of school, volunteers with technical capacity to assist the children, legal and structural conditions for the exercise of the activity, and people of good will. These may be individuals or organizations to provide technical training. It also requires host institutions to provide opportunities for internship to enhance acquisition of practical skills.
– Associação para Informação e Conhecimento
– Unicef Moçambique.
– Instituto Nacional de Estatísticas
Date: November 20, 2017