History of the Peace Corps in Mozambique
The government of Mozambique first approached the American government about the Peace Corps in the early 1990s, at a time when the more than 20-year liberation and civil war was coming to an end. In October 1998, the first Volunteers arrived to start teaching English in district secondary schools in the 1999 school year. The second group of Volunteers included a complement of science teachers. The next group included not only secondary school English and science teachers, but also English teacher trainers, and began teaching in February 2002. In 2004, Peace Corps Volunteers began working on a new community health project. Health Volunteers are working in a variety of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including international, national, community, and faith-based organizations that have projects in HIV/AIDS care and prevention as well as other aspects of health and wellness.
There are approximately 80 Volunteers in Mozambique, many of whom will be a resource to you as you prepare for and begin your Peace Corps experience. You may be placed in a community with another Volunteer, replace a Volunteer who has just finished his or her service, or even be the first Volunteer assigned to a particular school, NGO or community.
You will become an integral part of sustaining and expanding the Peace Corps program in Mozambique and will benefit greatly from the knowledge and experience of the Peace Corps/Mozambique staff. The staff consists of four Americans (a country director, associate directors for education and administration, and a medical officer) and locally hired Mozambican or non-Mozambican professional and support staff.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Mozambique
In 1999 the Peace Corps began a program to assist the government of Mozambique in its plans for English language teaching. English language capability is particularly important to the country as all of the countries surrounding it are English-speaking. The Ministry of Education later expressed a need for science teachers, so the next group of Volunteers included biology teachers. Both English and science Volunteers teach in eighth to tenth grade and also work with Mozambican teachers who seek to upgrade their language or teaching skills. In 2002 Peace Corps/Mozambique placed two Volunteers in primary-school teacher-training institutes. They are part of a large team of Mozambicans, Americans, and British who are training Mozambican teachers in language and methodology for teaching English in sixth and seventh grades.
The purpose of the Peace Corps’ education project in Mozambique is to strengthen the culture of learning, teaching, and service in primary, secondary, and technical schools, and teacher trainer institutes. Peace Corps Volunteers accomplish this objective by (1) providing young men and women with quality instruction; (2) collaborating with and supporting Mozambican teachers in their efforts to be more qualified, creative, and effective teachers; (3) assisting in the development of materials and resources to enhance English-teaching curricula and textbooks; and (4) strengthening links between schools and communities in environmental and public health education for girls, women, and out-of-school youth.
The secondary school academic year begins in February and has two terms: early February to mid-June, with a short break for students in early April, and mid-July to the end of October, with another break for students in early September. Final exams are in November and early December. Agricultural and technical schools, to which some Volunteers are assigned, follow an August-to-June calendar.
An estimated 60 percent of schools and health posts were destroyed or closed during the war between the government and RENAMO in the 1970s and 1980s. The Mozambican school system provides seven years of elementary education (grades 1-7) and three years of either general secondary school (grades 8-10) or basic agricultural, commercial, or industrial school. Finally, there are two years of upper secondary or pre-university school (grades 11-12) or two to three years at an agricultural, commercial, or industrial school.
Through the collaboration with Mozambique’s National AIDS Council, the health project has two goals: (1) that selected groups and individuals will organize and implement activities that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, HIV/AIDS prevention, and support orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in their communities; and (2) that NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs) will have improved capacity to provide health and social services. Health Volunteers are placed with NGOs that are primarily working with HIV/AIDS projects. The Volunteer’s routine activities include community mobilization; training community health workers; assisting in the development of project plans; and assisting smaller organizations in professionalizing their outreach programs.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.