Mozambique Children Holding Hands

Field Diary: A Week in Mozambique

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 185 out of 187 on the Human Development Index. Despite a fast-growing economy fueled by the discovery of vast natural gas resources, the countries poverty level has remained stubbornly unchanged. It is an extremely difficult place to grow up.

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of Chicago-based donors on a field visit to Mozambique to observe UNICEF programs. The week we spent there was fascinating, heartbreaking and helpful—all at once.

"I'll be attending a campus drive, sounds like a great cause."

Notebooks in hand, we began our visit with a stop at the Community School of ADEMO (the Mozambican Association of People with Disabilities) in Maputo. The students here havemultiple challenges—some are deaf or mute, while some have mental disabilities. Our group was struck by the dark, overcrowded classrooms, where the littlest students sat with no desks and little light. The facility would have been challenging for able-bodied children, much less children with special needs. One of the teachers, however, was wonderful with the students and developed a system to help them count visually in order to learn addition. UNICEF’s partnership with FAMOD (the Forum of Mozambican Associations of People with Disabilities) focuses on teacher training to overcome the tremendous lack of specialized teachers equipped to work with special needs children.

In sharp contrast to the experience at the ADEMO school was our visit to Radio Mozambique, where we checked out the child-to-child media program. This is part of UNICEF’s communicantion for development strategy in Mozambique, and nationwide over 1,500 children develop and produce radio and television programs for and by kids. Two young people, Cecilia and Mike, proudly greeted us at the door. “Welcome, friends, to our Radio Mozambique family!” They gave us a tour, and we talked to kids and young people aged 8 to 21, who all work on the program after school and are expected to earn excellent grades to continue participating. The kids told us about some of their programming, covering topics like child abuse and violence against children, how to avoid HIV/AIDS, why stay in school, why early child marriage is not a good thing, child rights in Mozambique, and more. The the kids asked us, “What are the kids in America talking about?” We left Radio Mozambique feeling certain that one of these children would be President of Mozambique 20 years from now

Photo Credit