[Sources: John Seymour and Mariko Chadwick, Twyford School July 2011]
(Click on an image for an enlarged picture)
Mozambique, our Glorious Land
Rock by rock constructing a new day
Millions of arms in one only force
O Loved fatherland we will be successful
Our visit to Mozambique is set apart from many of the other trips that take place in Activities week by its nature: to establish a link for Twyford with a school in this developing country. Mozambique is ranked 211 out of 228 counties by the amount of money the country generates in its economy per person in the population (GDP per capita) (Source: the CIA factbook.)
Twelve of us travelled as a group and it took 24 hours for us to arrive at our destination. The first impressions of the city as we arrived by aeroplane were of the undeveloped natural landscape and the smoke rising from various parts. Arriving on the ground, it was apparent that this was a mixture of wood smoke and burning tyres from the smell. Our very simple bus took us on a journey of 250 km to Maciene, much on a well built road (provided by the Chinese) but the last 7 km on a dirt track.
The accommodation looked pretty normal from a Western point of view. The guest house in Maciene was built by the Swedish Church a few years ago and has a conference centre on the bottom floor and rooms for guests on the first floor. Conditions were simple though, with an uncovered cement floor, and water being brought by the servants of the bishop’s house – up and down the hill from the well that was close to his house.
We all became very aware of how much water we used, as from the storage butt shown each of us flushed the toilets and washed. Most mornings and evenings hot water was also brought so that a warm ‘shower’ was possible – using half a mineral water bottle to scoop the water. During our time in Maciene, the pump that provides water from 100 m below ground was not fixed and so there was no running water in the guesthouse or elsewhere.
As the week unfolded it was apparent that we were given the best of what was available; whether it was the food and comfort of the bishop’s house, or the gifts that staff and students presented to us. Or the gestures of greeting and welcome: indeed, the welcome we received could not have been warmer.
Our first day started with breakfast: fried eggs and cheese slices; bread and jam; fresh fruit. We then went to church in the village church, which is also the Cathedral for the Anglican Church in the Southern half of Mozambique. Fr John presided at the Eucharist with Fr Carlos, the Cathedral Dean and main community leader. The service was conducted in Chingolese rather than the national language of Portuguese. Adrian read the epistle in English and then Fr. John brought greetings from London as well as news about schools and the church. Clare and Josephine then spoke about Twyford. Singing was present throughout the service and was deeply moving – the people did not hold back from thanksgiving in their worship.
After worship, we were invited to a birthday party. The widow of the former governor of the region – that of Gaza – lives in the most elaborate house in Maciene. As we entered, we were invited to greet some of the senior female members of the community who were seated together on the ground outside.
Drinks followed; and then food. There was a birthday cake and singing and then the presentation of gifts. Gift-giving was not a simple case of presenting a wrapped present: a group offering a gift would perform an extended dance to bring the gift before it was then received, with honoured guests sitting either side of the recipient.
After the afternoon celebrations, we were taken to a view of the local lake. Fr Carlos pointed out one of the round mud huts that most of the villagers lived in, if not a temporary shack-structure. The way the ground was used to grow food by each family to eat; we also saw live pineapples on their stalks and a goat tethered to shorten the grass in a circle, before we arrived at the beautiful panorama of the lake.
Our first school day was to have an earlier start. Each day starts with the whole school singing the national anthem of Mozambique, the chorus of which is given above. That meant the group getting up at daybreak in order to make the 0645 start; this came to be a valuable part of our contact with the whole school.
On our first day, this was followed by a meeting with the leadership team of the school, along with the educational representative of the local authority and the chair of the school council – equivalent to our chair of board of governors. Each expressed their hopes and expectations for the school link in a series of quite formal speeches. An exchange started between the teachers present and the teachers and students in our group about how education is organised in the UK and in Mozambique. Miss da Silva proved to be an expert translator!
Once the speeches were complete, the computers bought for the school were uncovered. Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to connect the room to an electricity supply – it would seem that the electricity company is too busy to fulfil the obligations upon it.
Next gifts were presented by the staff to our group: a plate of fruit – oranges, passion fruit and papaya. There was a sack of oranges, a sack of cassava and two or three other sacks of produce. And then the dancing started. The staff had a tune and words that were generated a capella and then more a more members of the group were called into the dance with its foot movements and swirling. Here was a celebration; and the presentation of gifts and discussion was sealed by a shared dance.
Lunch was back at the Bishop’s house before a lesson in Chemistry and in Portuguese in the afternoon.
After the national anthem, we went to a music lesson with year 7. The lesson concentrated on the regional forms of singing and dance in Mozambique, with students volunteering their examples only then to demonstrate them. It was apparent that both music and dance are intrinsic parts of Mozambican culture and part of the way that people relate to each other. Our group was given its own chance to sing – and chose ‘Welcome in this place’ from the gospel choir repertoire. The young Maciene students were every bit as enchanted by the purity of the Western harmonics as we had been by the dramatic syncopation to the rhythm of drums and foot stamping that formed part of their dance.
Our next lesson was Portuguese and saw the Maciene students being given an hour and a half lesson in Portuguese grammar. Whilst the normal rainfall for Mozambique is only days in July this day as most others of our stay – was particularly wet. The rain beat down on the tin roof of the classroom to make the teachers voice (and the teacher looked and sounded remarkably like Mrs. Lazare!) virtually inaudible above the sound of the rain.
It was striking that despite these difficulties, the students’ attention was maintained throughout the lesson. The rainfall seemed to provide no distraction, which was not the case for the classes English visitors. It was apparent how much the students valued their opportunity for education and that lessons that seemed quite traditional – focussed on the teacher teaching, rather than individual and group based work – did not detract from their engagement. The lesson ended with a discussion between the students and staff there of the merit of teaching grammar – and how this is now little taught in the UK outside of modern foreign languages.
In the afternoon, we went into the local city of Xai-Xai, about a 30 minute drive from the school. There we visited a local city school and saw how different it was to its rural cousin at Maciene. There the classrooms were in good repair: they had windows and good equipment, a computer classroom, covered walk ways and gardens. The school looked pretty much like a US High School. The disadvantage of the rural school seemed apparent, despite its excellent reputation.
We also went to see the local teachers’ university, where the headteacher of Maciene school had trained and a number of teachers continued to train, teaching in Maciene in the morning and then going to university in the afternoon. We also saw the house of the Governors of Gaza province in Mozambique, which included a frieze which gave the history of the countries liberation and assertion of independence under its first president and the Marxist ideology that became so much part of the countries identity and a cause of conflict within it.
Our afternoon ended with a well deserved trip to the beach with the headmaster and our link teacher and the discovery of just how warm the Indian ocean is…
Highlights of the Wednesday were an English lesson, when again teachers learnt something about English grammar alongside both the Maciene and UK students. The afternoon saw us in the ‘Resource room’, with presentations of various experiments constructed to show principles in physics. A salty solution of water made an egg float, whereas a solution of water made it sink; the need to a fulcrum to lift a weight was demonstrated using a device a bit like a broom. The ability of water with salt in it to conduct electricity was demonstrated to be better than that of water or glucose solution alone as it was able to light up a light.
The afternoon saw us back a Xai-Xai at the market there, where many of the students bought caipirinhas. These are rectangles of attractive fabric, often used as dresses, but for a number of other purposes also. The afternoon finished with a visit to another beach – this time at Chigenduele. The resort is one popular with South African tourists and in the summer is full. The beach was very beautiful and also boasted a warm shower!
The penultimate day of our stay had time for the Twyford students to give the presentations they had prepared – on a typical day in the life of a UK student, on the internet and social networking as forms of communication, on our Royal family and parliament. The talks were well received by the year 10 students who heard them. We discovered that whilst not many houses had electricity – and so television was not much watched – that one student from Maciene had access to the internet through his mobile, and that he used this to help with his homework. The head talked about his excitement about the use of the computer room and the possibility of a Skype link was discussed. It seems that the Maciene students would really like a Royal family and were enthralled by the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The afternoon saw a final meeting between the Maciene staff and the Twyford group leaders and students. There was an extended discussion on mixed ability versus setting in classes before the discussion moved to the future of the link. Both groups were very enthusiastic that the link continue, and feel that a lot has already been gained on both sides. The session ended – again – with the exchange of gifts and group dancing, this time started by team Twyford!
Last day in Maciene
Our last day saw us sad to be leaving Maciene: despite the simple lifestyle there, the place is tranquil and the quality of relationships and sense of belonging is deeply human – and stood in contrast to the way we usually live in the UK.
The greatest celebration was yet to come, with the presentation of speeches by the primary school, secondary school and staff to the Twyford group in a whole school event. This was followed by very powerful traditional dancing by various groups of students, using a variety of region dances and traditional tribal dances. Josephine gave a speech in Portuguese and Fr John thanked the school for the warmth of its welcome and engagement, saying that it felt like we had met members of our own family whilst in Maciene.
Mr. Francisco Bila, the headmaster of the school is pictured in the centre here, wearing a Twyford PE sweatshirt, with one of the lead dancers in the whole school cultural event immediately below him. We will miss them.
After the celebration, we visited the local arts shop for souvenirs, made from recycled materials and sustainable sources, before our final farewells over tea at the bishop’s house. It was apparent that we had learnt a lot about ourselves through the life and culture of those we were visiting. As we thought about the future of the link, the rainbow that had appeared in the morning as we sang the national anthem that morning seemed to offer a continuing promise.
First of all I would like to thank Father Mark and everyone who either donated money or gave me the opportunity to earn it by babysitting and drawing pictures – it all helped me raise funds for my trip to Mozambique in July.
My school, Twyford C of E High School, with the help of the London Diocese’s ALMA foundation, has established a link with a school in Maciene, in rural Mozambique. Just before the end of the summer term, a group of pupils led by our school chaplain, Father John Seymour, travelled there to help set up an ICT department and to build an understanding between our two very different cultures.
It was a small group, (most of Year 12 opted for ‘holiday’ trips) and some of us attended Portuguese classes after school on Fridays for the whole year, in preparation for the trip.
It took a very long time to reach our destination, starting from London Heathrow, transiting Johannesburg airport en route to Maputo in Mozambique, finishing in a minibus packed with ourselves, our suitcases, and 2 sacks of potatoes our driver picked up at the market.
We arrived in darkness, as very few of the houses in Maciene have electricity, and discovered that although we were staying in the most modern house in the village, we still had no running water, just giant buckets and pails. We soon realised that the ladies of the house would spend most of the day carrying water to fill the buckets up, so we had to be very careful not to waste it!
All of our meals were taken at the main house attached to the cathedral, a sort of vicarage, which was a long walk from the guest house as the village was spread out along a single road. The food was simple but the servings were generous – we mostly ate rice with cooked vegetables, and either meat or fish in rich sauces. It was all very tasty and filling, but not at all what we were used to!
The local vicar was Father Carlos, a very sincere, content and patient man. We discovered that he was held in very high respect by everyone in the village.
I quickly realised that all those Portuguese lessons had not been very useful after all. Father Carlos spoke perfect English, but almost everyone else, including the ladies running the guest house, spoke a local dialect which wasn’t a bit like Portuguese.
On out first full day in Macienne we were woken up in time to attend the Sunday service. This was SUCH a different experience. The whole service was sung, everyone knew the words to everything without books, and all the songs were sung a capella. During the service people were invited up to give thanks to God for things that had happened and which they wanted to share. So many people spoke, and were thankful for so many things that we take for granted, that it definitely changed my perception of what is important.
Throughout the whole service everyone was smiling, because it was their favourite part of the week. At the end we shook hands with every single person in the church, and it was amazing how welcome we were in their community. We were guests of honour at a birthday party, which was fascinating because everyone there kept jumping up to sing, dance and stamp their feet. Of course we were drawn into the dancing and were exhausted by the end of the day…
…only to be woken up at 5am on Monday morning for our first day of school. At 6:30 am every day, the pupils assemble to sing the national anthem, and by the end of the week we knew it off by heart (it’s a very catchy tune!) We attended classes and gave talks to the pupils about our culture, from the Royal family and the British media, to social networking and how to use YouTube and stay in touch by Skype. A lot of this was important because we wanted the pupils to be able to use their new computers to maintain links with Twyford and also to use this new resource carefully and safely.
We discovered that teaching methods in Mozambique are very different to those in England. It was almost impossible to lose focus as every few seconds the teacher would yell a question and the pupils would yell the answer in unison. There was no bad behaviour as everyone seemed to totally appreciate the need to learn – it meant both teacher and pupils were happy and the lessons were engaging. This was a lesson to us on how school should be, even though the building was crumbling and some rooms only had 3 walls, and all the classrooms had old fashioned blackboards instead of the high tech interactive white boards that we use.
As lessons were taught in Portuguese it was hard to keep up with some of them, although I was pleased to be able to follow the science and maths classes without actually understanding most of what the teachers were saying. Music classes were the most fun, though. We learned local songs and dances, then sang Twyford Gospel Choir favourites and taught the children the songs we use in worship.
We all made some great friends over the week, and had some amazing experiences. Sudden outbreaks of singing and dancing, always apparently spontaneous, made everything such fun – for example, a teacher conference suddenly turned into a dance circle, with our head girl hoisted onto the music teacher’s shoulders.
Every day local people would press gifts of fruit and vegetables on us, which would be turned into delicious juices and side dishes for mealtimes. The most wonderful part, for me, was the way that I could walk down the street and everyone I met would smile and say hello. It was great to respond in kind, and very sad to find that back in England my smiles and friendliness were met only with scepticism and glares.
It was clear that despite all our wealth, resources and opportunities, we have not grown as people nearly half so much as the happy, carefree citizens of Macienne. They know what is really important.