Supporting Education for All in Mozambique

Secondary school in refugee camp seen as a critical need by both refugees and host community

 

Maratane refugee camp, Mozambique - The loud chattering of children at recess can be heard when walking up to the primary school in Maratane refugee camp in Mozambique in the early afternoon.

The primary school which serves both the refugee and host population now has 2,325 students enrolled. Thanks to support from UNHCR, in 2015 two new classroom blocks were constructed to accommodate the increasing number of students.

However, in the meantime, there was a growing demand for a secondary school in Maratane camp as well. Previously, these students would have had to travel to schools based some 35 kms away in Nampula, the provincial capital and nearest city to the camp.  It was therefore decided that these two new classroom blocks would be used in the afternoons to accommodate the secondary school students.

Since then the secondary school enrolment has grown tremendously as refugee and Mozambican parents alike try to ensure their children get an education.  There are currently 244 students enrolled in the secondary school.

Jacqueline Kashindi, age 17, is in grade 10 at the secondary school. Her family fled from their village in South Kivu in the DRC in 2011. She lives with her parents and her five brothers and sisters in Maratane camp.  When she first arrived in Mozambique, it was hard to adapt to her new home at first and she missed her friends back in Congo, but she soon managed to speak Portuguese and enjoyed going to school. Her favorite classes are biology and Portuguese.

“I love improving my Portuguese because it will be helpful for my future,” says Kashindi.

She would like to be the first in her family to go to university some day and hopes to become a doctor.

She also has a lot of friends, including Mozambicans.  

“It doesn’t matter where we are from, what matters is that we are here together today studying,” says Kashindi.

Also enrolled in 9th grade at the school is 26 year old Mozambican Denis Cesario Muteba.  Growing up, he had to drop out of school after his mother died just as he finished primary school. He struggled to help his father by doing odd jobs to support the family for many years. He watched as friends his age completed school and got better opportunities so he decided he needed to complete secondary school.  With the help of a local church, he enrolled  in the secondary school in Maratane in January 2017.

“The first day of school was the happiest day of my life. It was not only my first day of school but the first day of a better future for me,” says Muteba.

He appreciates the school in Maratane because the school fees are affordable and the teachers are good. His favorite subject is also biology and he would love to be a biochemist someday.

He also enjoys going to school with the refugees.

“In Mozambique we receive refugees here as brothers,” says Muteba.

According to Felix Bernardo Omar, the Director of Maratane Secondary School,” the opening of the school is a benefit to the community. Instead of parents having to find ways to send their children to schools in Nampula, some 35 kms away, they are now able to study near their homes.”

“It helps the students to focus better on their studies, rather than be confronted with distractions or difficulties with traveling to Nampula,” says Omar.

The biggest challenge however is having to share the premises with the primary school. They only have six classrooms available which means they can only have six streams of classes while other classes are conducted under the shade of the cashew trees in the school yard.

To accommodate the growing number of students attending the school, the Mozambican authorities have located a site to construct a new secondary school but still has not managed to identify funds for the costs.

“We could really change children’s lives if the school is built,” says John Woja, UNHCR’s Head of Field Office in Nampula “It would also help Maratane primary school so that they could reduce overcrowding by regaining use of the blocks that were originally constructed for them.”

The total amount required to build and furnish the school, including latrines and water points is USD 300,000.

 “We would love to help the Ministry of Education construct the new school but currently our funding constraints do not allow for us to do so. So until that happens, the primary and secondary school will need to share their premises," says Woja.

And for now Kashindi and Muteba do not mind having to do this as long as they can continue with their studies.

Maratane refugee camp is located in Nampula Province north eastern Mozambique and currently hosts over 9,000 refugees mostly from the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. 

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