Schools for Africa
In 2003–2004,4 the country abolished school fees and began providing financing to primary schools, as well as free textbooks. This significantly increased children’s access to primary school. UNICEF has worked with the government to develop national strategies on gender and inclusive education, while supporting a regional pre-primary education process in 2017 to assess gaps in the education of young children. This key work has kept the focus on access to education at the centre of education policy and programme debates. As Mozambique is prone to environmental disasters, UNICEF has helped the Ministry of Education to provide education in emergencies, and to improve preparedness as well as the response. This has been critical to protecting children’s access to education even in times of heightened vulnerability.
UNICEF’s close work with the Ministry of Education has contributed to an increase in the primary school net enrolment rate from 57 per cent in 2003 to over 97 per cent in 2017. With UNICEF’s advocacy on learning, the focus has now broadened in the country’s strategic and operational education plans from access to education to the quality of learning. This has translated into sustained investment in the capacity-building of key actors, including the in-service training of early grade primary teachers and primary school directors. In-service teacher training is a performance-based indicator for the Global Partnership for Education, and the achievement of annual targets has triggered millions of dollars of additional funding for the country. Based on UNICEF’s education budget briefs, 20 per cent of the national budget needs to be invested in education to improve access and quality. This is serving as an important advocacy tool in sustaining that investment, despite the country’s worsening economic outlook.
UNICEF has made a significant programmatic shift away from the service-delivery-focused child-friendly schools’ approach, transitioning towards a more concerted upstream engagement in evidence-based advocacy to inform policies and strategies. This new focus aims at empowering key actors to deliver quality education and to facilitate effective learning of basic literacy and numeracy skills in primary schools.