By Hannah-May Wilson, Program Manager, PAL Network Secretariat
We arose at the same time as the birds to drive to the heart of Nampula province in northern Mozambique, to a small village called Nathepo in the district of Rapale. “It is good that you have come” the village elder told us. “We are experiencing many problems in Nathepo. Schools have been closed for weeks as the government has not paid teachers their salaries. Our children are just sitting at home. Officially, these children are enrolled in school. Their names are on the school register… but the school is empty” he said.
Mozambique is the newest member of the People’s Action for Learning Network (PAL Network). The PAL Network is an internationally recognized Global South network whose member countries work across three continents to assess the basic reading and numeracy competencies of over 1 million children every year. In Mozambique, the initiative is a program of NGO ‘Facilidade’ named ‘TPC Mozambique’. TPC is an acronym meaning ‘Todos Pelas Crianças em Moçambique’ (All for the Children of Mozambique)’, but is also colloquially understood to mean ‘homework’ in Portuguese.
Schooling does not equal learning
In one sampled household, we met 12-year old Miguel and his grandmother Joaquina. Despite the school closures, Miguel was enrolled in Grade 7 at the local government primary school.
Using his finger as a guide, Miguel moved from one letter to another with Joaquina following attentively, intuitively understanding that her grandson was struggling. Slowly, he sounded out most of the letters. ““Good effort” our team encouraged Miguel, “would you like to try one more time?” Miguel relaxed a little once he realised that he had another chance. This time, he read all ten letters on the page.
Thousands of children left behind
Unable to read sufficiently to be graded at ‘word’ level, Miguel was graded at ‘letter’ level in the literacy assessment and ‘addition’ level in mathematics. As a Grade 7 pupil, Miguel should be able to complete the highest level in both tests, which assess the acquisition of basic Grade 2 level competencies. However, TPC Mozambique’s 2016 pilot results demonstrate that Miguel is one of thousands of children in northern Mozambique who has failed to acquire basic skills in reading and maths, despite having spent 7 years in school.
Across the province of Nampula, assessments showed just under half (45%) of all 9,901 sampled children between 7 and 16 were unable to read letters. Only 1 in every 10 children were able to read a simple Grade 2 story of six sentences. Just 6 in 100 children were able to complete the reading test by correctly answering two simple comprehension questions. In mathematics, the results were equally shocking. Only 3 out of every 10 children between 7 and 16 were able to complete basic addition sums. 92 out of 100 children were unable to do a division sum. Only 4 out of every 10 children in the first year of secondary school (Grade 8) were able to pass the highest level of a Grade 2 maths test.
Results from Mozambique pilot assessment
Next steps for TPC Mozambique
Nathepo is one of 306 villages sampled in Mozambique’s first citizen-led learning assessment. The pilot assessment covered all 23 districts of Mozambique’s Nampula province, assessing a total of 9,901 children between the ages of 7 and 16 in basic reading and mathematics competencies. Last week, the senior management team of Facilidade met with key members of the provincial Ministry for Education in Nampula to discuss the results and next steps, before publicly releasing the results on Friday.
Over 100 key stakeholders attended the launch event of this pilot’s results to explore the findings, learn about plans to expand the initiative to national scale, and learn about the second phase of TPC Mozambique: Community Action Plans. “There is no doubt that action needs to be taken to improve children’s learning in Mozambique” said Executive Director, Matilde de Melo “but we need to know the extent of the problem first. Assessment is the first step towards taking appropriate action to improve learning levels. We are excited to work with local leaders to see what can be done to ensure that no child gets left behind”.
To access a summary infographic of TPC Mozambique’s results, please click here
To read the full report in Portuguese, please click here