HEAD OF THE CLASS

Mozambique 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hon. Jorge Ferrão, Minister of Education and Human Development, on the goals of the ministry, the role of local languages, and tackling teacher absenteeism.

Hon. Jorge Ferrão
BIOGRAPHY
Born in Nampula, Hon. Jorge Ferrão graduated in international relations and diplomacy at ISRI in Mozambique, completed a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Zimbabwe, and earned his PhD at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro. Ferrão is currently Rector of the University Lúrio (UniLúrio) in Nampula. In 2011 he assumed the position of President of the Association of Portuguese Speaking Universities (AULP) and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of Universities of Southern Africa (SARUA). A recipient of both national and international awards, in 2012 he was named Personality of the Year in Mozambique.

Which education goals will receive the largest share of the budget in the next few years?

The current stage of education in our country requires more focus and investment on several priorities, with particular emphasis on training teachers and education managers to ensure the delivery of quality educational services and subsequently the acquisition of essential skills at all levels of education, above all those of speaking, reading, writing, and numeracy in primary education. The establishment of a healthy and safe school environment favorable for learning will be key, particularly in the areas of school construction and equipping educational institutions, increasing community participation, promoting education for health and the improvement of nutrition within schools and the community, promoting school sports, and providing entertainment and healthy occupation for children and youth, without losing sight of emerging new talents

How has the role of women evolved within the education sector? What should be done to empower and unlock the potential of girls and women?

We are a country where, for sociocultural reasons, for a long time girls did not need to go to school to become the “reference model” of woman that communities needed. However, in the last 40 years there has been great investment to reverse this scenario. The placement of female teachers in schools located in communities where attendance in girls school is low has been one of our successful interventions with regard to female involvement in education. Women have stood out in terms of organization and performance, when they occupy management positions at schools or other levels of management. Acknowledging the prominent and invaluable role of female teachers in educating children, and girls in particular, the Ministry of Education has focused on training more teachers by defining strategies for enrollment in teacher training institutions to ensure more gender equity among the teaching staff. At the inter-ministerial level, the government has introduced a range of measures to remove the barriers to girls receiving an education.

What role do local languages play in the education sector in Mozambique?

Educating a child is more successful when it is done in a language in which he/she is fluent, particularly if it is the mother tongue. Teaching in local languages has contributed a good quality of interaction in classrooms and in the improvement of school performance. It has also facilitated the participation of communities in the school life. We have 16 standardized Mozambican languages, with Portuguese as our official language. Most Mozambican children have one of the 16 standardized languages as their mother tongue. In 2003, we introduced bilingual training in 23 schools and currently there are more than 500 schools teaching in the model. Teaching in local languages requires a lot of institutional capacity in terms of producing and distributing textbooks, as well as training and assigning teachers.

What strategies is the ministry considering to tackle the problem of absenteeism not only among students but also teachers and directors?

This situation demonstrates the weak performance of not only the management of schools, but also the lack of accountability for the performance of the sector and the learning achievements of students. We have encouraged local leaders to pay more attention and provide support in the functioning of schools in the areas of their jurisdiction. The Ministry of Education is committed to improving local governance by training school managers and strengthening School Councils to become more proactive in school management. Other actions include the institutionalization of the district supervision, the implementation of quality standards and indicators, and the improvement of inspection activities to allow for better local supervision and monitoring. At the same time, we have reinforced our instruments of control and accountability while gradually improving conditions and incentives, especially at the school level.