Developing Inclusive Education in Mozambique
By Kennedy Nhengu
Mozambique is a country located in Southeastern Africa, bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest.
Since 2001, Mozambique’s annual average GDP growth has been among the world’s highest. However, the country is still one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world, ranking low in GDP per capita, human development, measures of inequality and average life expectancy. According to Worldometer data of 23 June 2021, Mozambique’s population is estimated at 32.102,539 people. The real number of Disabled persons is not known, but basing on World Bank’s conclusions, 15% of this number is of Disabled persons.
Disabled people face inequality in all national development spheres. They have no access to education, which is a fundamental human right and the basis to access all other rights. Many Disabled children and youth have never been to school (exclusion) and many of those who were enrolled do not finish the first circle of primary education. But the constitution of the Republic of Mozambique provides that: “Education shall be a right and duty of all citizens and the duty of the state to promote the extension of education to professional and continuing vocational training as well as equal access to the enjoyment of this right by all citizens.”
Mozambique’s education system is still dominated by traditional education forms, namely segregation form and integration form:
- Segregation form is when Disabled children are in separate or special schools, units, homes and institutions mainly designed to respond to a particular impairment. This comes from the medical model of disability, where disability is viewed as problem that needs to be fixed. If it cannot be fixed, the children are separated from others. It focuses on what these children cannot do instead of what they are able to do.
- Integration in mainstream education is placement of Disabled children and students in mainstream classrooms, without promoting actual participation to reach full potential and success. It is all about “being there”. There are minor adjustments for the child to be there, but their particular disability needs to facilitate learning are not taken into account. This is a major cause of drop-out. Mozambique has made failed efforts to implement inclusive Inclusive education is about looking at the ways our schools, classrooms, programs and lessons are designed so that Disabled children can participate and learn and have successful results in regular system. It is about finding different ways of teaching ensuring full and effective participation, accessibility, attendance and achievement of all students.
Inclusive education was introduced in 1998 and a number of initiatives have been realised since then, including adoption of national instruments that promote quality inclusive education, international partnerships, and ratification of regional and international human rights treaties and their protocols.
Inclusive Education Initiatives
In 1998 the Ministry of Education launched the ‘Inclusive Schools’ project, with UNESCO’s support, to combat exclusion and promote schooling for all children. The strategy was to raise awareness of diversity throughout the education structures. Activities consisted of short capacity building courses for provincial coordinators and teachers in pilot inclusive schools.
Following this project, Mozambique started implementing the resolutions of the 2nd World Congress on Education for All (EFA) in Dakar, April 2000.
The government has also established international partnerships with the Finnish and Swedish governments to support inclusive education in the country.
The government has a National Education Policy that emphasizes promotion of the principle of inclusive education through awareness raising and mobilization of regular schools and communities for support, as well as training teachers, providing materials and equipment and conception of flexible plans for children with particular education needs. The government also introduced free and compulsory primary education for all children.
Mozambique’s education policy is implemented through its 2020 – 2029 Strategic Plan. The plan has as its mission, implementing a national education system that is inclusive, equitable, efficient, competent, innovative and ensuring long life quality learning. In its general principles (2.1.1 a. the strategic plan ensures education, culture, training and a balanced and inclusive education as a right for all. 2.3.1. Ensures inclusion and equity in access, participation and retention.
These initiatives were to ensure that children and young people with different disabilities learn together with non-Disabled children in regular education system. Unfortunately the education system is not yet inclusive, after more than two decades of trial.
What I did on making schools accessible.
We implemented a project on inclusive education with financial and technical support from Power International between 2011 and 2013 in the provinces of Maputo, Sofala and Zambezia. I worked in Maputo, identifying Disabled children and youth at school going age that were not enrolled, realising accessibility audits in schools, and other public and private built places open for public use and thereafter presenting a report on each audit with recommendations for change. Changes had to be seen within an agreed period of time. As a DPO, we are advocating for accessible schools.
The wider barriers and what needs to change:
The initiatives that were taken in Mozambique totally failed because of the following reasons, among others:
- There is a serious misunderstanding of the concept of “inclusive education.” Many people confuse integration for inclusion, the difference between “being there” and “taking part.” This is clear in government documents on inclusive education;
- Lack of trained teachers to administer inclusive education. Teachers lack competence and will to modify methodology as per specific disability needs of the individual child;
- School authorities and staff do not show a willingness to cater to the needs of Disabled children, especially those with severe and profound disabilities, and there are no teaching aids;
- Lack of awareness and positive attitudes and sensibility on the part of teachers, parents, classmates and community to make inclusive education happen;
- The general belief that Disabled children cannot learn following the old idea that they could not function in the general education system and so they were excluded or that their needs were defined by what they could not do and special schools and classes were set up to address this;
- Lack of support for Disabled children from parents, teachers and community to reach their full potential;
- Some Disabled children are hidden by their parents thus they cannot take part in inclusive education building. There is no inclusive education without Disabled children;
- Schools are not physically accessible, and in most cases they are too far for Disabled children’s reach;
- School materials are not in accessible formats for all, especially blind students and there is no sign language for Deaf students;
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools were closed as part of the government’s response to the pandemic and lessons were delivered online. This was a very good idea, but Mozambique was a wrong context. Very few people are prepared for e-learning (both teachers and students), lack of devices with internet, rural zones without electricity and connectivity, lack of adapted devices, etc.;
- Lack of accountability of teachers poses challenges in inclusive education;
- Individualized attention is difficult for teachers because of the large numbers of students in a class, between 60 and 70 students per class;
- Classmates generally bully and reject peers with disabilities leading them to dropout;
- Unavailability and/or unaffordability of assistive technologies;
- Absence of political will. There is no specific legislation or policy on inclusive education;
- Lack of implementation of the UNCRPD (Article 24) and SDGs (Article 4) on inclusive education, including the national physical accessibility legislation;
- Underfunding of inclusive education initiatives;
- Lack of CBR, which is important as part of getting Disabled children ready for the general education system.