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Saches 2008 Annual Conference in Maputo

Saches 2008 Annual Conference in Maputo, 17-19 July 2008—opening talk by Jeannette Vogelaar

Contribution to opening of SACHES conference
Jeannette Vogelaar, Netherlands Embassy, Focal donor education partners, Mozambique
We, as the cooperating partners in the education sector, are pleased to be invited to say a few words at the Annual Conference of SACHES on international cooperation and collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Culture in Mozambique.

Dialogue GoM and its external partners: the context
Mozambique is financially very donor dependent. Around 50% of public expenditures are financed by its international partners. Much of this funding is channelled directly to and managed by Government as general support to the state budget, or through sector pool funding. Within this context, it shouldn’t surprise that there exists a highly structured process of dialogue between the Government of Mozambique and its external partners.
The dialogue takes place at macro level around monitoring of the implementation of the country’s poverty reduction strategy, and at sector level aimed at monitoring the implementation of the different sector strategies. It touches upon both political and technical issues.

Structured dialogue with the Government on education issues started early on in 1998, with the development of Mozambique’s first strategic plan for education. Since then, focus has been on supporting the Ministry in developing and implementing a national programme of education, based on its own priorities in line with the country’s specificities.

Developments in the education sector:
Societal (parents, communities and government) commitment to education is enormous. Education is and has always been top priority in national development plans, as main strategy to combat poverty, hiv/aids and address gender and other societal inequalities. High social demand for education has resulted in a phenomenal expansion of the system. Was net enrolment in 1999 was around 52% (first cycle), while in 2008 almost all kids in the age group 6-10 are in school in one way or the other (with a net enrolment estimated close to 100%). The school network has expanded from 6.114 offering lower level primary education to 9.649 in 2008, implying more and more schools there, where the children are. The gender gap and regional disparities, particularly at primary school level (47, 2) are rapidly disappearing. Only two years ago, more than 50 districts had less than 40% girls’ participation. This year there were only 18 districts.

In order to accompany this expansion, the Ministry of Education and Culture embarked on an ambitious reform agenda that aimed to address concerns with quality, efficient use of resources and overall institutional development issues through curriculum reform, more and new teacher training programmes, introduction of in-service teacher training and school management programmes, direct financing of schools, free school books for all primary school children, acceleration of school construction, introduction of life-skill education, etc. 

However, it is exactly the enormous social demand for education that challenges the development of an overall balanced system of quality as the expansion of the system takes place in a resource (financial and human) constraint environment.  While funding for the sector has increased, it did not increase at the same rate as expansion, particularly at post-primary levels.

Despite lifting of IMF ceilings on pay bill and the increasing number of teachers the Ministry has managed to attract, pupil/teacher ratio in the lower classes of primary schools remain very high, varying from +/- 54 in Maputo to +/- 100 in Zambezia province. This has major impact on the quality of learning taking place at classroom level. Despite many progresses in terms of access, drop-out rates are still very high, too high, particularly for girls, once they reach puberty. HIV/AIDs is also affecting the system negatively, in terms of high teacher absenteeism, increasing number of orphans who have to take care of their own education without adequate support, etc.

The focus on primary education, in line with the Government’s and donor commitment towards meeting the MDGs for education in 2015, contributed to more and more children finishing seven years of primary education. This relative success of primary education has caused an enormous pressure on post-primary education where the brute enrolment in lower secondary education increased from being 8% in 2000 to 35% in 2007, meaning an increase from 91.000 students in 2000 to circa 540.000 in 2007. This expansion has taken place without significant additional investments: secondary schools are without books, laboratories, and sufficient numbers of trained teachers. To compensate, resources are attracted from primary schools: the best teachers and classrooms.

A number of reforms at post-primary level are in place, aimed at addressing the challenges of expanding with good quality education, without negative implications for primary education.

The Ministry is well aware that implementation of its ambitious reform programmes, can only be successful, if management of schools and institutions is more and more decentralised. Particularly in the last year, the Ministry has taken bold steps of transferring most funding to decentralised levels. Decentralisation of funds and responsibility requires increased capacity at local level and a shift at central level from being implementers towards policy making, standard setting and strategic monitoring.

Partnership and collaboration
In general, the above analysis of major challenges is shared by the Ministry, its international partners as well as civil society. Over the years, since the early days of dialogue in 1998, a strong sense of partnership has been developed aimed at working jointly towards building a sustainable education system of quality. Structure of dialogue is laid down in agreed terms of reference, that include both national and provincial processes of coordination between the Ministry of Education and Culture and its external partners (bilateral, multilateral and civil society).

The partnership focussing on providing support to the implementation of the reforms formulated in the Ministry’s strategic plan 2006 – 2010/11 to overcome the major bottlenecks in the system. Most of the external donor funding (70%) is channelled through the sector pool fund FASE, managed by the Ministry to finance implementation of its strategic plan. Civil Society organisations support, in particular implementation at the provincial and district level, not only financially, but more important through technical input. Annual progress towards reaching the major strategic objectives of the sector is jointly monitored on the basis of an agreed indicator framework. 

To conclude
Why this presentation at this conference? While in a country such as Mozambique, the parameters for education reform are well set and implementation is on its way, there remains a constant need to challenge those at the forefront of policy development and implementation,  as to what is being done, why it is being done, with what effects and how to do things better.

In our view SACHES is an important network for the monitoring of quality of education in the region by creating the necessary space for discussion and debate on reform of education, by linking academic research to strategic policy development and implementation.
Maputo, 17 July 2008

SACHES Conference Maputo 2008
SACHES Conference Maputo 2008




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