Across the border: reading in Mozambique?

16 May 2012

The northeast parts of Zimbabwe have some of the lowest educational levels in the country. The lack of a large city or many missions in the area may account for this.  Not surprisingly, across the border in Mozambique, there are also low literacy levels and a shortage of books.

Jeni Bister has been promoting literacy in northwest Mozambique since the 1990s. She reports on the challenges to find reading materials in the area around Tete, 150 kilometers from the Zimbabwean border: “Books are available, but very few people ever enter the shops to buy books. Many are economically challenged, about half live below the poverty line. Most think books are either textbooks for school, or bibles for church.”

“An alternative is local libraries. There is a provincial library housed in the Direcao Provincial de Juventude e Desporte that will be moved to new premises at Escola Industrial in Matema. The current holdings include about 2000 titles, but don’t envision comfy chairs and shelves of interesting books. You will find all the parliamentary proceedings and newspapers archived for the past 20 years, but almost no literature. There isn’t even a Portuguese-English dictionary, or an encyclopedia; only textbooks and a few novels from colonial times. The library serves as a study center for secondary students, and researchers of local history.”

“As for schools, according to government policy, secondary schools should have libraries. Sometimes a room isn’t available to serve as a library, or the books have been moved, or there is no librarian. Tete Secondary School does have a room that houses textbooks, and some reference materials that are used by students who can’t afford to buy textbooks. It is full of students every day.”

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