Educational Challenges in Mozambique

Written by Néusia Cossa

Educational Challenges in Mozambique is one of the major struggles that the country faces and the core issue that the majority of educational organizations locally have to deal with. Most of the time, this is due to an array of factors within the country, especially with Mozambique being a southern underdeveloped nation.

In 2008, more than two thirds of the labor force had either no education at all, or had not completed primary school. Mozambique is still behind its neighbors (and competitors) in educational achievement at all levels, therefore more will need to be done to ensure the country establishes a qualified labor force that can promote sustainable economic growth. Studies in Mozambique and other African nations found that households and workers with primary education were able to transition into non-farm activities, achieving a higher income and transforming their livelihoods in both rural and urban areas, but those without at least lower primary education were not (Moz Policy Note, 2012:2).

In summary, Mozambique faces several educational challenges, some of these challenges may include: limited access to education, low quality of education, poverty and inequality, limited resources and lack of relevant curriculum[i].

School facilities in Mozambique – Photo by Sebastian Rich, UNICEF.

Limited access to education

Mozambique has shown its commitment to education. It has abolished school fees, provided direct support to schools and free textbooks at the primary level, as well as made investments in classroom construction. The sector receives the highest share of the state budget, over 15 per cent. As a result, there has been a significant rise in primary school enrollment over the past decade. Yet quality and improvement in learning has lagged. Additionally, enrollment stagnates in upper primary and secondary despite increased provision. About 1.2 million children are out of school, the majority being girls, particularly in the secondary age group. The 2013 national learning assessment found that only 6.3 per cent of Grade 3 students had basic reading competencies. A 2014 World Bank survey showed that only 1 per cent of primary school teachers have the minimum expected knowledge, and only one in four teachers achieves two-digit subtraction. Absenteeism among teachers is high at 45 per cent, and directors at 44 per cent. About half of enrolled students are absent on any given day.

Another huge challenge is the lack of an early childhood learning service. Only an estimated 5 per cent of children between 3 and 5 years benefit from them, and most services are still located in urban areas (UNICEF).

Low quality of education

Most of underdeveloped African nations use bribery in almost all the public services like hospital, school, police services and migration as a direct result of scarcity.

In terms of quality of education, Mozambique has a high percentage in lack of educated teachers, with good skills such as pedagogical trainings. Due to scarcity and low salaries (barely enough to survive), in most of the high school and primary schools  teachers, parents and educators use bribery in return for successful grades.

It costs US$116 (or US$58 per day) to provide a teacher with high-quality, two-day training on development of low-cost materials including transport, full boarding, tuition and all the materials[ii].

However, according to Sam Jones (2017)[iii] Mozambique, in common with many other developing countries, has achieved impressive increases in access to education. Since 2000, the number of children attending primary school has more than doubled, as have the number of schools. Enrollment into secondary school also has risen rapidly — in 2004, less than 8,000 young people graduated from secondary school (12a classe) in the whole country; by 2014, the number of graduates exceeded 50,000.

These trends are positive, but they only paint half the picture. The flip-side of access is whether children are learning once they are in school. The evidence here is patchy, but broadly suggests that Mozambique is lagging a long way behind many of its developing country peers in the quality, rather than the quantity, of education that it offers its children.

It is not difficult to grasp why the quality of schooling matters. Weak educational systems create burdens for both employers and workers. If educational certificates are not a good guide to the skills a person possesses, employers find it difficult to identify the suitable and qualified candidates. This can lead to higher turnover and costly recruitment processes. It can also lead employers to demand higher levels of education, even where the specific tasks of a job do not demand it. Today, technological change also is increasing the demand for skills — even labour-intensive manufacturing firms prefer better-educated workers who are able to operate equipment and follow production goals.

A major education challenge in Mozambique is to ensure that all children who start primary school go on to complete it. Data from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources suggests that in each grade of primary school, only around 80% of children go straight to the next grade. Although not all of these children drop out, the probability of a child who starts primary school completing the full seven years is less than 50%. So, many young Mozambicans are entering the labour market without having even completed a primary education.

But completing primary education does not mean young Mozambicans learn enough through schooling.  This is revealed by a recent face-to-face survey of children in Nampula implemented by TPC Moçambique, part of Facilidade-ICDS (Instituto para Cidadania e Desenvolvimento Sustentável). The survey follows a model originally developed by Pratham in India, now used in many countries. The data from these surveys are not strictly comparable, but they are informative about broad differences.

Using the survey, Table 1 compares attainment in literacy and numeracy across a range of countries. In all cases, the competencies tested refer to skills taken from each country’s curriculum that should be mastered by children after completing two years of education. We see that there are many children attending grade 5 who do not master grade 2-level skills. In Nampula, the majority of children finishing in the first phase of primary school are not mastering the basics: less than 1 in 3 children in grade 5 can read a simple story and do basic subtraction. Moreover, attainments in Mozambique appear substantially below those of children in the same grade in other low-income countries.

Table 1: Share of children enrolled in grade 3 and grade 5 able to achieve specific competencie

Notes: table is adapted from Jones et al. (2014), adding data from TPC Moçambique (2017).

The worrying situation in Mozambique is echoed by a World Bank investigation of service quality in the education sector. As set out in the study by Bold et al. (2017), which compares results across various countries, only 38% of Mozambican 4th grade students were able to recognize letters, compared to 89% in Kenya and 50% in Nigeria. A possible reason for this situation is suggested — not only are many teachers absent from school and/or class — which means Mozambican pupils are receiving less than half the recommended four hours of teaching per day —  but also, many teachers show a poor knowledge of the curriculum they are supposed to teach.

In addition, JICA (2015:25) makes a comparative analysis of access by group, where he points in both lower- and upper-primary education, that Maputo City, Nampula, Sofala, Niassa and Maputo Provinces have higher dropout rates than the national average. Repetition rates are higher in Tete, Sofala, Niassa, Nampula and Manica Provinces. Overall, northern and central provinces have higher dropout and repetition rates than the national average. In particular, repetition rates in Niassa Province are, in comparison to the national average, 4.4 point higher in lower-primary education and 5.1 point higher in upper-primary education.

Dropout rates by gender show that female dropout rates are 0.2 point higher than the male’s in both lower- and upper-primary education. Looking by province, female dropout rates in primary education are higher in Maputo City, Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo Provinces, suggesting that female students drop out more than their male counterparts in the southern parts of the country. On national average, female repetition rates are 0.3 point and 0.4 point higher than the male’s in lowerand upper-primary education, respectively. By province, all except Zambezia Province had higher female repetition rates.

The Mozambican government has paid special attention to gender in every sector’s planning stage in order to narrow the gender gap. In the education sector, girls’ education has been promoted from the first Education Strategic Plan, and PEEC 2006-2011 has also identified universal primary education—especially focusing on girls’ education—as a major target issue. Due to these governmental efforts, gender gap in primary education has almost been corrected (PEE 2012-2016, P.41-42[iv]).

Poverty and inequality

Poverty is a major barrier to education in Mozambique, as many families cannot afford to pay for school fees or related expenses such as uniforms and textbooks. In addition, girls and children from rural areas are often at a disadvantage due to social and cultural barriers, such as early marriage and traditional gender roles (Chatgpt, 2023).

The poverty limits education in Mozambique in many families. The normal salaries are most of the times for food, the basic need. People do a lot of times struggle to pay school and college expendidures reason why the small informal businesses are an outlet.

Schoolchildren in Mozambique – Photo by Sebastian Rich, UNICEF.

Limited resources

For education to be successful, it is not enough to ensure that children attend school but importantly, they also need to learn while they are in school. The expansion in primary education, because of limited resources, put pressure on quality of the education. Children and parents frequently complain about the low quality of infrastructure, lack of availability of books, and increasing class sizes (Moz policy note, 2012:3).

For Bonde and Matavel (2022:2) education funding is one of the problems that most underdeveloped countries face daily. Many of these countries are economically dependent due to their respective States’ fragility and postcolonial condition (Crossley, 2001; Williams, 2009). Vieira, Vidal, and Queiroz (2021) argue that “education financing is a key theme of the debate on educational policy. Far from being exhaustedly discussed by the literature in the field, it represents a challenge fruitful and permanent to reflection” (Vieira; Vidal; Queiroz, 2021, p. 1).

In the case of Mozambique, since the country’s independence in 1975, the Government has faced problems in financing its education. About this reality, Oliveira (1995) states that “enabling democratic and quality public education implies providing financing sources” (Oliveira, 1995, p. 76) see page 2.

The difficulty of financing the Mozambican education resulted in inquiring its international partners to assist within this sector. In a first phase, external funding came from several countries (bilateral and multilateral), from the period of socialist orientation (1975-1986) and in the later phase of multipartidarism (1990). These financings were directed to the General State Budget until 2001. In 2002, the Education Sector Support Fund (FASE) was created, which is the main instrument for channeling external funds to the sector. “The Common Fund (FASE) is the most aligned instrument for channeling external funds to finance the sector’s annual plan, using state procedures and instruments regarding planning, implementation, and monitoring”, says the Ministry of Education and Human Development (MINEDH, 2010, p. 56). page 2

The Common Fund (FASE), by which most of the external funding to the sector is channeled, contributes to the financing of key programs focusing on funding programs for basic education, such as the textbook, direct support to schools, teacher training, supervision, and accelerated construction of classrooms. Half of the FASE spending is continuous.

Among the many objectives of the FASE, the following stand out: [1] – achieve the Millennium Development Goal; [2] – achieve Universal Primary Education for all; and [3] – ensure the completion of primary education for all children in 2015. The FASE was created by the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI). FTI follows the commitment of the international community established at the 4th World Education for All Forum in Dakar, stating that no country committed to providing basic education for all and with a credible plan would be limited to achieving this goal due to the lack of financial resources (MINEDH, 2010, p. 8). Therefore, it was by the FTI that the Direct Support to Schools (ADE) was introduced. Hanlon (1997) considers that “Mozambique has become the country most dependent on foreign aid and probably still is” (Hanlon, 1997, p. 15). Abrahamsson and Nilsson (1994) state that “Mozambique is now in a considerably worse situation than at the time of independence” (Abrahamsson; Nilsson, 1994, 73). We understand that the country should reduce foreign aid and create its own sources of investment for education and other social and economic areas, for local problems must have local solutions. As long as partners continue to fund education, they will continue to outline Mozambique’s educational policies and we will hardly leave this external dependence.

World Bank documents highlight this reality. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report tells that “external models of good educational practices, defended without much conviction by different groups of agencies, are generally not sufficiently attuned to local circumstances” (UNESCO, 2005, p. 23). Unable to manage and finance education, the Mozambican Government has opted for privatizing education since 1990 to get rid of the financial burden. Therefore, Mozambique has forgotten that there is not a single experience in the world that has developed high educational standards with discourses, but with resources. Silva and Oliveira (2020) claims that “[…] when governments rely on privatization to expand access to education, this approach may conflict with the promotion of universal access, especially for the most marginalized populations” (Silva; Oliveira, 2020, p. 14).

Lack of relevant curriculum

The curriculum in Mozambique is often seen as outdated and not relevant to the needs of students or the economy. This can lead to a mismatch between the skills students learn in school and the skills required by employers, limiting their opportunities for future employment (chatgpt, 2023).

Mozambique has made impressive advancement in improving access to lower and upper primary school since the education reforms of 2004, which abolished all national primary school fees, provided free textbooks and introduced a new curriculum, while maintaining the high pace of school construction and teacher training. Enrollment in primary schools surged as the combination of lower costs and supply of schools increased access particularly for poorer families. The study shows that in lower primary (EP1), access improved the most the response to the reforms was highest for poorer families, whereas in upper primary (EP2), the gains for poor families were limited. Overall, the primary system has become more inclusive (Moz policy note, 2012:2).

To conclude, Mozambique is an underdeveloped nation which educational challenges has to deal with poverty, quality, limited access and limited resources. However, there are some great results on education access in the rural communities such as in Nampula, where some organization like “Girl Move”, has been working with young girls. More could be done to reduce these challenges, such as the government investing more money in education, increasing teachers salaries and quality of skills, which consequently would improve children and young people education.


[i] 27th February, 2023  12:36

[ii]  27th February 27, 2023 13:22

[iii]  4th March, 2023 22:05

iv March, 2023 by 11:40




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