Health & Education

Mind the Gap


Educators are up against far more than the country’s macroeconomic indicators would suggest in their efforts to provide universal quality education. After 16 years of civil war and the incumbent […]

Educators are up against far more than the country’s macroeconomic indicators would suggest in their efforts to provide universal quality education. After 16 years of civil war and the incumbent instability, the country’s low levels of adult education are forcing policy makers and teachers to rebuild from the ground up—and the task is daunting. Even though the government spent 18% of its budget on education in 2012 or 6.2% of the nominal GDP, only 63% of fifth-graders walked, and for 12th graders, the rate was a meager 7%. But while enrollment rates, literacy, and gender balance indicators still require close attention, decades of reforms, trial, and error are starting to pay off as each year brings progressively better results than the last.

While encouraging signals are emerging from the education sector, an unflinching analysis of the most recent data shows that problems like gender imbalance and low completion rates will require more than more just funding to fix. According to the BTI country report, completion rates are falling in the upper levels of education. In secondary schooling, only 7% of students will complete 12th grade. The country report accredits this to a low quality of teaching, and teacher absenteeism is also cited as a contributor to the high attrition rate.


What is important however is that educators have demonstrated their ability to close gaps and enact meaningful reforms in schools across the country. The key now is to extend those developments into older age categories while improving quality across the board. Dropout rates are high. Comparing urban to rural enrollment rates for males ages 6-11, the difference by percentage was reduced from 14.2% in 1997 to 1.2% in 2008. In just over a decade, enrollment levels by residential density were brought close to parity across the country. That said, education is still more comprehensive, and of higher quality in the south. For females, similar trends are at play although overall enrollment rates are still far behind those for males.

Turning to a slightly older demographic—12 to 13 years of age—the breakdown of schooling comes into focus. Again between 1997 and 2008, enrollment differentials shrank from 66.2% to 51.6%. This improvement of around 15% is overshadowed by the overall low enrollment rates in rural regions—improving from 26.1% to 68.6%. For rural females in the same time period, the rates are encouraging, up from 13.6% to 50%. Even though rates are going up, the dropout rates that these numbers indicate are disconcerting. In 2013, the gross enrollment ratio for secondary education was 27.2% for males, and 24.8% for females. Meanwhile, the net enrollment rates for males and females were 18.6% and 18.1% respectively.


The NPS 2008 National Education History Module revealed other impediments to educational attainment that indicate insufficient financial aid for students and supply side problems. Supply-side problems in this case include insufficient classroom vacancy, lack of schooling within a reasonable distance, lack of age-level appropriate studies, shuttered schools, no teachers, unmotivated teachers, and lack of books. High cost includes school fees, and the costs of uniforms and materials. In the decade between 1999 and 2008, around 12% of respondents consistently cited supply side problems as the reason for not attending, or dropping out of school.

High costs polled at above 10% dipped to 5.1% in 2004, and remained stable for the remainder. This decrease comes in the wake of several internationally backed programs to make education and related materials affordable. Education programs work. One such program backed by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development provided more than 30 million textbooks and workbooks to students in primary grades 1 to 7. It also developed a strong foundation for procurement management within the Ministry of Education by developing systems and processes that are now integrated in the annual planning and reporting cycles of the Ministry of Education and the Government of Mozambique, all in the first phase of the project. This assistance is annual, and continues to procure between 14-17 million primary school textbooks, workbooks, and teacher’s manuals every year.

The third major impediment, which consistently deflates enrollment by around 12%, is defection to the workforce. Even among 8-year olds, attrition is at 9.2%, and the rate goes up with age, peaking at 14, at which point 22.5% of respondents cited labor issues as their reason for dropping out of, or not attending school. But with a per-capita GDP of $605.03 in 2013, many families simply cannot afford to educate their children when even a few extra dollars represent a significant addition to household income, and the cost of attendance is a budgetary obstacle.


While only a small percentage of Mozambicans make it as far as higher education, the successful few can avail themselves of a growing number of institutions where educational standards are improving yearly. In fact, when Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, 93% of the population lacked an education, and at the country’s sole university, the Eduardo Mondlane University (EMU) many lecturers had to be hired from abroad. Meanwhile, the state launched massive literacy campaigns in conjunction with hefty investment in primary and secondary education. Although this campaign has suffered setbacks, decades of hard work are paying off as students who navigate the entirety of the educational system go on to become the leaders of Mozambique’s emerging economy.

Prior to 2000, the higher-education system was plagued by bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of funding. Outdated curricula ensured that those students who graduated were ill-prepared for the market realities. Institutional reform, starting in 1993 paved the way for private institutions to operate and in doing so, created more openings while fostering a competitive environment wherein poorly-run schools were forced to compete with their more successful counterparts. In 1995 there were no private universities, and a total of four public universities served 6,890 students. Almost two decades later in 2012, private universities outnumbered public ones by a ratio of 26 to 18, and the collective enrollment of all universities in the country was over 123,779 (some universities did not provide data on enrollment). Other metrics improved alongside total enrollment. Between 2003 and 2012, female enrollment rose from 32% to 40%, indicating that the fight for gender equality in higher education is paying off. Graduation as a percentage of enrollment is also up from 4% in 2003 to 9.1% in 2012. In all areas, universities exhibit significant room for improvement, but without accounting for the monumental impediments to growth, it is easy to discount the significance of these gains.

In 2000, the first Higher Education Strategic Plan 2000-2010 was implemented under the auspices of the newly formed Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology (MHEST). However, by 2005 MHEST was shuttered, and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) took over science and technology, leaving higher education under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Recognizing the need to emphasize science and technology, the government approved the science policy in 2003 and by 2006 had laid out the National Strategy for Science and Technology. These developments laid the foundation for a regulatory framework conducive to building a STEM intensive didactic agenda that was calibrated to the country’s development priorities.
This focus on increasing human capacity in the science and technology fields has been bolstered by a slew of scholarships that have been rolled out over the last decade. In addition to promoting the country’s most promising scholars, these financial incentives reduce the financial barriers to education. Currently, through the Institute for Scholarship, around 3,000 students benefit from scholarships of which 33.7% are funded by the MHEST. About 80% of the beneficiaries hail from households that earn less that $270 per month, and of these students 39% are female, and 42% are enrolled in science, engineering, and health related programs.

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