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Photography by Mário Macilau

Many people in Mozambique, especially women, do not have access to education. According to official sources, almost half of the population (48.1 %) is illiterate. If you have a disability, access to education is even more limited. This is due to discrimination and to an education system that is not adapted to your needs.

The Inclusive Adult Education project (IAE) was launched in 2012 to address these challenges. The project offered literacy skills to illiterate and semi-literate people in two provinces of Mozambique, with a special focus on people with disabilities. The project also raised awareness about the educational needs of people with disabilities, and supported a more inclusive literacy and adult education environment. Funds came from the European Union, and the project was implemented by DVV International together with local organisations, the local government education departments and the Association of Blind and Visually-Impaired People of Mozambique (Associaçao dos Cegos e Ambliopes de Moçambique – ACAMO).

When the project ended in 2016, it had reached 2,355 participants (88 % of whom were women). Around 12 % of the participants had physical disabilities (including hearing and vision loss). Many of the participants said that the project not only taught them how to read, write and to some extent do arithmetic, but that it also gave them greater autonomy and self-confidence, and helped them to actively participate in the life of their communities. The project also called the attention of the communities to the fact that people with disabilities have a right to education; parents learnt that they should send their children with disabilities to school and understood that adults with disabilities can also attend literacy centres.

But the end of the project was not the end of the activities. Many participants wanted to keep on learning. In the rural district of Manhiça, in Maputo Province, three former literacy supervisors of the project worked with the communities to start a local development organisation called Development Community Association (ACD – Associaçao de Desenvolvimento Comunitario). Together they managed to obtain the support of the local education department, which agreed to provide materials and pay volunteers for the literacy centres, while ACD members would provide technical support. ACD also managed to keep the health training as well as small-scale farming activities alive, supporting the families to build toilets and produce their own vegetables.

One year after the end of the project, Adult Education and Development asked Mozambican photographer Mário Macilau to visit one of the communities in the Manhiça district. Here, classes are now running up to two times a week, whenever the community agenda allows it and participants are free from other activities.

Elisa is a community leader of 60 houses, a common system in rural areas. By attending literacy classes, Elisa became a role model. She says that what she learns there is also helping her in her farming activities. She is farming cassava in this field
The illiteracy rate in the Manhiça district
is 58 %. Literacy classes give adults the ­opportunity to learn to read and write, which offers them new possibilities in their community and in their lives. Most of the participants are women. The low level of male participation in literacy classes is a common phenomenon in Mozambique
The learning materials used are not only designed to teach writing, reading and arithmetic skills, but also relate to aspects of daily life such as health, environment, farming, social participation and gender sensitivity
Mariana (in the middle) at an evening literacy class with two women from her community
Classrooms are a rare luxury, so most classes are held out in the open
Mariana is one of the participants with a disability. When the rebels assaulted her village, Mianhiça, during the 16 year civil war in Mozambique, Mariana tried to protect her daughter. The rebels cut off her arm and killed her daughter. Mariana decided to join the literacy classes ­because she wanted to be able to understand why there had been war
in her country
Most people in the Manhiça district are family farmers, producing peanuts, beans, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, corn and vegetables. More than 70 % of the household farming in Mozambique is done by women. Men often have to look for jobs abroad; many men from the Manhiça district are migrant workers in the gold mines in South Africa
Madalena brought her baby to the farm. She came to harvest some food to cook that evening
The local literacy centre also offers practical lessons on farming techniques. They are held in special farm plots where participants can for example share their experiences with different crops. Here, Felizmina is watering her vegetables, a job that is carried out every day late in the afternoon
Julia is a community leader. She says she benefits from the literacy classes because she can understand official documents now and is able to sign them with her name instead of using her fingerprint
Crizonia got pregnant at the age of 13 and had to leave school. She is now a single mother. She decided to join the literacy classes to learn how to read properly and do simple calculations. After completing the third year of literacy, she was able to go back to the 7th grade of public school
When Mário Macilau came to visit, kids were playing around and were excited to see the photographer. As in many rural setups, the population of the Manhiça district is very young (41 % are under 15 years old)
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