- Mozambique: pursuing development of natural and human potential
Mozambique: pursuing development of natural and human potential
Photo: Eduardo Mondlane Univ/Lourenco Dique
National Strategy for Higher Education accomplishing aims
After decades of armed conflict, Mozambique, once one of the poorest countries in the world, has become one of Africa’s best-performing economies with greater political stability and rich natural resources of remarkable economic potential.
The Moatize Basin in the country’s Tete province, may be the last untapped great coal reserve in the world with an estimated 2.5 billion tons of coal. Proven reserves of natural gas estimated around 127.4 billion cubic metres rank the country as 51 among 99 nations. Some 88 percent of its arable land is still uncultivated. And, for its part, the tourism industry must overcome many issues to take advantage of Mozambique’s stunning beaches and wildlife. Today, agriculture makes up 80 percent of Mozambique’s economy.
Peace and the road to welfare
Peace has placed Mozambique on the road to welfare, and substantial progress has been made in achieving several milestones toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Nonetheless, poverty remains widespread, with more than 50 percent of Mozambicans living on less than US$1 a day. According to the World Bank, many things have changed in the country since independence from Portugal in 1975, with programs such as free education, affordable health care, child immunization, malaria control, HIV/AIDS and infrastructure improvements. The Bank points out that net primary school enrolment reached 95 percent in 2010, and infant and underfive child mortality was reduced from 201 per 1,000 new-born in 1997 to 138 per 1,000 in 2008.
A remarkably indicator is the illiteracy rate that is expected to drop to 30 percent by 2012, according to Mozambican National Director of Adult Education, Mr. Ernesto Muianga. In 1974, it was estimated that 97 percent of the Mozambican population could not read or write. Since then, the rate has been steadily decreasing.
The need to improve job creation and to sustain economic growth requires a well-educated population. With close to 22 million people, 70 percent of whom live in rural areas and 50 percent under the age of 15, Mozambique is on the way to taking advantage of its strong economic potential. Still untapped natural resources can easily support the development of this sub-tropical country bordering Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland and South Africa, and with an Indian Ocean coastline of about 2,470 km.
Despite a particularly high rate of growth in the last few years (an annual average of eight percent per year), Mozambique’s economic expansion has not been accompanied by an increase in necessary human resources. According to the project appraisal report, assuming zero growth, Mozambique will need about 1,200 professionals every year to fill the available jobs in the public sector alone.
The government is aware of the importance of meeting demands for higher education, responding to labour market expectations and increasing efficient use of available resources. OFID, in compliance with the mandate to support development of the poorer countries worldwide, has supported Mozambique’s National Strategy for Higher Education, through the Eduardo Mondlane University Project. With a total US$13.4 million cost estimate, the project has been jointly financed by BADEA (30 percent), the Government of Mozambique (seven percent) and OFID (63 percent).
Ms. Luisa Gil, Operations Officer in charge of the Mozambique projects, and Acting Director of OFID’s Africa Region, explained the conditions in the Mozambican education sector: “At first there was only the Eduardo Mondlane University. During the civil war and after the peace agreement in 1992, student accessibility remained limited, but eventually the system expanded, but on a weak financial basis. By 1999, the number of applicants had increased five-fold over the available vacancies.” Today, the university is one of 23 higher education institutions, and preeminent in terms of size, number of students and staff.
The increasing number of students had not been accompanied by a concomitant level of new infrastructure. The physical condition of university campuses has not meet the needs of a growing population concentrated mainly in Maputo, the capital city, where job opportunities are better and the standard of living more attractive.
Ms. Gil summarized the objectives of the present project: “to enhance the quality of the services rendered by the University as a whole and of the Faculty of Science, by expanding existing facilities in order to increase the enrolment of students and by improving the learning environment.”
To accomplish this goal, the project has supported the construction of four buildings: mathematics, computer science, biology and administration, totalling over 11,000 square meters, with appropriate furnishings and equipment for classrooms, laboratories and offices. Today, the university community has adequate facilities, no longer deficient or dispersed as was previously the case. The Faculty of Science, for example, had some divisions located eight kilometres away from the main site. Besides the advantages of new and modern buildings, the project provides relief for an overcrowded educational location.
With the expectation of a 40 percent increase in graduate numbers, Eduardo Mondlane University will contribute to the development of professional standards, providing the best human resource training in its improved facilities in a country with a tremendous urgency to find ways toward progress.