Mozambique has been at peace since 1992. New roads, clinics, industry and communication systems have been developed to replace those destroyed in the long civil war. Yet millions of people are still living in absolute poverty. Despite developments in education, more than a million children are still out of school because of a lack of teachers and school buildings. Class sizes average 64, and disabled children are not considered a priority for education. Erik is the head of a teacher training college in Cabo Delgado in the north of Mozambique run by ‘Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo’ (ADPP). Here he reflects on the challenge of including disabled trainees in the college.
Escola de Professores do Futuro (EPF) – ‘Teacher Training Colleges for the Future’ – is one of seven colleges run by ADPP Mozambique. Since 1993, 3,000 teachers have graduated and currently more than 2,000 students are enrolled for training as primary teachers in rural schools. The course lasts 2.5 years. In addition to academic subjects, students are trained in community work: starting pre-schools, running literacy courses, constructing latrines, and campaigning against HIV/AIDS, malaria and cholera. In their final year, trainees do teaching practice and implement community projects in village schools. EPF Cabo Delgado co-operates with a disability organisation (ADEMO) which trains students in working with disabled children. It has also provided seven scholarships for disabled student teachers. Three students have graduated and are now working as teachers in the province, the rest are still in training. The disabled students improve the educational environment in the college, participate in all aspects of the programme, and demonstrate that education is for all.
Salimo enrolled as a trainee teacher at EPF in 2001. Salimo uses a wheelchair so the paths were improved to enable him to move around easily. During teaching practice, Salimo organised himself so that he could write on the blackboard and he got out of his chair and crawled across the classroom to help pupils. His community project was latrine construction.
Trainee teachers receive a salary during their practical year, but the district administration would not give him one, so Salimo began work at a school anyway. One day a Ministry of Education inspection committee unexpectedly visited the school where Salimo was teaching biology to Grade 7 pupils. The committee was impressed to see him employing active teaching and learning methods using a range of plants he had brought into class. They observed that the other teachers in the school were using traditional teaching methods, with pupils simply copying text from the board. The committee heard that Salimo was working without a contract or salary and they lobbied for him to receive payment.
At the end of his practical training the children, teachers and head teacher wanted him to return. Salimo graduated in 2003 and went with the other graduates to the provincial department of education to be given a contract. On the way out of the building he was stopped by an official who said that disabled people could not be teachers. Salimo had to return the contract. The disability organisation wrote to the provincial department on his behalf. Their response was that special conditions could not be provided for disabled teachers.
As head of the college, I met with the head of employment at the provincial department. He argued that Salimo did not have the necessary documents, which was not true. He also argued that they could not provide special working conditions for Salimo. I explained that he did not need or want any ‘special conditions’! Finally Salimo was re-issued with a contract and now works at the school where he did his training. If such attitudes and traditions are to change, we need role models for new (and older) generations to follow. EPF Cabo Delgado aims to continue educating more disabled people – with the help of sponsorship from organisations and individuals – so that more disabled people can work as educators. If we are to achieve education for all, we need well-trained teachers to teach future generations. The college is currently seeking sponsorship for two disabled trainee teachers. If you can offer assistance, please contact Erik.
Contact Erik and Salimo at:
ADPP EPF Cabo Delgado
CP 395 Pemba