quarta-feira, 17 de agosto de 2005

16 August 2005-Pemba-Mozambique

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Escrito por Ward Heneveld em 16 de Agosto de 2005:

When one arrives by air in Pemba, a coastal city in northern Mozambique, the view from the plane at this time of year is of dull, brown vegetation and dusty, dry earth. There’s not much sign that humans have stamped their presence on this landscape of hills and African bush. Since arriving I have been assured that spring is coming – we’re maybe 1,000 miles south of the equator – and that rain will soon turn the landscape green, but probably not lush green. The town of Pemba is on a promontory sticking out into the India Ocean. A spine of hills runs the five miles from the airport to downtown with the main road running along their peaks. So, I got a look at the sea on both sides as I arrived.
The hill’s slopes down each side from this road are covered with private homes, also gray and brown. Packed together with small compounds around each house, these houses are made of mud and wattle, and most of them have grass roofs. Mud and wattle construction starts with a frame of one-inch sticks tied together about six inches apart to make a square house frame with pole rafters. Then the walls are filled in with mud, often mixed with cow dung; but I have not seen many cows here. Finally, mats of grass woven together are layered over the rafters. To see a city that probably has nearly the population of Burlington living in such dwellings suggests the poverty that Portuguese colonialism, a nightmarish civil war in the 1990s among what became armed robbers, and the harshness of the landscape have all combined to prevent people from succeeding economically.But tourism is arriving. I am staying in a plush hotel with a verandah looking onto a grassy area with the sight and sound of the sea beyond it. The hotel’s pool is set on the low cliff’s edge above the sea from which one can look out and only see water. I’ve had good food, including a hamburger, and lots of seafood. Near this hotel there are less fancy tourist residences and restaurants, and there are many tourists around, lots of them young backpackers. I’ve also run into a large number of young American evangelical missionaries. I think they come to my hotel to drink tea and to feel more at home. The visitors are providing a job for some city people – restaurant workers, taxi drivers, moneychangers – but the countryside is another story. The moneychanger that I used to get metacais, the local currency (24,000 to the dollar), was Senegalese. That’s like finding a Spanish-speaking Texan running a dollar store in Enosburg.Yesterday, in preparation for my work with a team of 20 local educators to look at the quality of their primary schools, I was taken to visit three schools. We drove about 20 miles out of town on the main, well-paved, two-lane highway heading south towards the less rural parts of the country. Then we turned into a village and drove between houses for about a half-mile to a school of four classroom buildings and five teachers’ houses. Classes were in session in about half the rooms, one of them in a ramshackle mud and wattle structure with most of the students sitting on the floor in front of the teacher and a blackboard on an easel. The teacher would read a sentence on the board with a blank to fill in, and when she got to the blank the class chorally chanted the answer. The other teachers that I observed in this school were doing the same thing with their students. Maybe half the students had textbooks, most of them dog-eared, and most had student exercise books, small 64-page notebooks that students throughout Africa copy their notes in and, if they are lucky in their teachers, write out exercises that challenge them. My two local hosts and I were not impressed by the other two schools. At the second one, about 50 students were lounging around the compound of two new cement buildings of six classrooms built with money from the World Bank. Across the area in front of these buildings was a table under a tree at which three teachers were lounging. One of them was checking the work done in students’ exercise books, but the other two were relaxing. Eventually, we found two more teachers, one of them emerging from a classroom where he might have been teaching. The principal of the school was not around. After 40 minutes, we gave up that the “break” the students were on was going to end. My two hosts noted my disappointment, and disapproval, and offered to take me to another nearby school. After a 10-minute ride we came into the open, dirt-packed area of another village. We stopped at two low grass-covered, mud-and-wattle school buildings with two rooms each. They were absolutely vacant: no students, no teachers, no doors, and no activity. In these rooms I found the pupils’ seating was on three bamboo poles tied together and lashed to other pieces of bamboo and house posts stuck in the dirt floor. Eventually, the arrival of a white man in the village attracted a crowd of villagers, but they would not shed much light on how often the school was operating and why it wasn’t in session when we came. When we came back to the office I ran into the newly appointed Director of Education for the province. When I told her what we had seen, she said “Now you know what our schools are like.” No outrage, and not even much hint of disapproval. I came back to the hotel in the evening discouraged and wondering how I’d help the educators here explore meaningfully what was going on, and not going on, in their schools. I’ll see what happens when I start working with the group of local educators invited for Wednesday morning.

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