Education struggles to survive in Mozambique. Many claim rebels specifically target schools and towns for violent attacks
Maputo, Mozambique — ``First, the armed bandits burned the classroom building and the library,'' said student Salvador Zacharias. Next, ``they stole the food from the kitchen and looted students' rooms,'' added Pedro Noah, who was one of Mr. Zacharias' teachers at Chibuto Twin Teacher Training Center, about 40 miles north of Maputo, the capital.
Finally, they attacked. ``Everyone was sleeping when they began shooting,'' Mr. Noah explained. ``We just took what things we could and ran to the bush.''
Students and staff fled to Maputo in June and resumed classes within a week, using space borrowed from a high school in the slums. The ``bandits,'' students and teachers said, were fighters from the Mozambique National Resistance Movement (Renamo), a rebel group widely believed to be backed by neighboring South Africa.
Chibuto Twin's quick relocation is characteristic of a resilient school system struggling to survive amid constant violence.
Critics - including Mozambicans, Western diplomats, and United Nations officials - claim Renamo singles out education and other human services for attack.
``Rural schools have been a target for destruction and looting, and teachers have been victims of murder, kidnap, mutilation, and robbery,'' said a report prepared jointly by UN and Mozambican officials for a meeting with foreign aid donors last April.
Violence perpetrated by Renamo forced the closing of more than 2,700 schools between 1983 and 1987, displacing 460,000 students and 7,350 teachers, according to a UNICEF-funded study by the Mozambican Education Ministry. The study reported 193 teachers killed and 185 kidnapped in that period.
This focus on schools is part of a broader strategy, according to the US State Department, in which ``the destruction of the village as a viable entity appears to be the main objective'' of Renamo raids.
Schools and teachers are on the firing line, contended Education Ministry Emergency Coordinator Adelino Cruz, because Renamo knows ``if you have educated and trained people you have a stronger country.''
Renamo and its South African backers seem imbued with ``this mad vision of [former Cambodian leader] Pol Pot destroying everything that could have a connection with the past or with social advancement,'' adds former Mozambican Security Minister Sergio Vieira, who now heads the Center of African Studies at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University.
Whatever the reasons for violence, the remains of ravaged schools dot the landscape of this vast southern African nation, which stretches along the Indian Ocean coast over an area twice the size of California.
Almost 800 miles north of Maputo, near the Malawian border in Tete Province's fertile highland district of Angonia, the grounds of the former agriculture school of Fontapboa have become a resettlement camp for Mozambican refugees returning from nearby Malawi. The school closed in late 1980 after repeated Renamo attacks, said Luciano Cuunji, who heads the government relief committee for the area.
Education continues despite violence. Wherever Mozambicans have fled to escape violence one finds displaced ``teachers working without pay, leading classes under the trees,'' said a Roman Catholic priest who works with refugees.
Under these difficult conditions, educators are also searching for effective ways to rehabilitate pupils traumatized by war. Educators say as many as 200,000 Mozambican children have been severely effected: orphaned, wounded, mutilated, sexually abused, kidnapped, or forced to fight for Renamo. (Instances of comparable violence or child recruitment by the Mozambican Army appear to be few, isolated, and not indicative of official policy.)
Mozambique has launched a special program to train teachers to aid these children. Because so many educators themselves have suffered from violence, they are already sensitive to the students' needs, said Francisco Teimane, who heads a Tete Province teacher training center twice forced by war to relocate.
But experience isn't always the best teacher, noted Mr. Cruz at the Education Ministry. Untrained teachers may, from ignorance, ``do things that are counter-pedagogical'' unless taught how to respond to the children's needs.
``If a child sleeps in class, the teacher may say he's lazy and hit him,'' Cruz said. ``Yet that may be a child who saw his father murdered by the bandits and can't sleep at night because of recurring nightmares.''
Among children who lived in Renamo captivity for long periods of time, 10- and 12-year-olds often produce drawings which would be normal for a five-year-old, Cruz said. Traumatization is so pervasive, he added, that every teacher needs to learn how to help these children.
A pilot program to give teachers in-service training in ``social and psychological rehabilitation'' has attracted widespread interest from other donor agencies, but relatively little funding. Aid donors have pledged less than 60 percent of the $3.9 million Mozambique needs in 1988 for this and other education reconstruction programs, according to outgoing UN Emergency Coordinator Arturo Hein.
Foreign aid donors understand a war-torn country's need for donated food and medicine, but often forget that it needs education aid as well, Cruz said: ``They say to the peasants, `Here is your hoe, here are your seeds, start planting;' they say to the nurse, `Here is the vaccine and the medicine, do your work.' Then they come to the teacher and say, `Here are your students, go to work. But the teacher gets no notebook, no pencils, nothing.'''