Mozambique: Girls absent from schools

Date: July 17, 2011
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Teresa Chivale is a 37-year-old mother of five girls who lives in Maputo’s Zimpeto suburb and works in a local market selling vegetables to supplement her family’s income. Her husband works from their home as a tailor and barely earns US$10 a day.

“My dream was for my children to live a life different from mine. It seems I am losing the battle,” she says. Chivale did not finish third grade at primary school because her father preferred to send her brothers to school.

When she gave birth to all girls, Chivale hoped one or all of them would be able to get a tertiary education and help lift the family from poverty. But her husband has maintained that the family cannot afford to pay for the girls’ education.
Her eldest daughter was forced to drop out of school in the fifth grade when Chivale’s husband insisted he could not afford to keep the girls in school.

“I decided to start selling vegetables at the market in order to pay for the girls’ education but I can hardly make enough money to afford the fees for all of them,” she said, adding that her second daughter who is finishing primary school might not be able to proceed to secondary level because of the family’s money problems.

Chivale’s situation is not unique. Many parents are willing to provide their children with an education but when they finish studies at free state-run primary schools they are forced to drop out due to lack of money to pay for secondary school fees.

The 2010 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer found that Mozambique ranks third from last in Southern Africa in terms of the proportion of girls and boys enrolled in both primary and secondary schools. The country also ranks last when it comes to illiteracy rates – only 33% of Mozambique’s women are able to read.

In most cases Mozambican parents prefer to send boys to school, arguing that male children will be better able to support a family. This view is increasingly becoming an issue of debate as gender activists argue the issue needs to be tackled urgently in order to meet the deadline of the UN Millennium Development Goals and the 2015 provisions of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

Mozambique is also a signatory to the Dakar Framework for Action, endorsed by the international community in 2000, which gave new life to the Education for All declaration and set out 2015 as the benchmark emphasising two of the EFA goals, namely completion of primary education and elimination of gender disparity.

According to a Danish International Development Aid (DANIDA) 2008 report titled How to make an attractive and effective school for girls?, Mozambique is still far from attaining gender balance in the education sector.

“Girls disappear while going up in the system. A quarter of school age children still need to go to school. Girls represent two thirds of the out of school children,” the report noted.

The report further notes that just 28.8% of girls complete primary or secondary school education. This is despite praise received in Mozambique for the appointment of women to senior positions in government sectors.

If no solution is found, the dreams of mothers like Chivale will remain just that and another generation of illiterate mothers will be forced to look at education as only a dream.


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