Most narrators had little opportunity for more than basic education; some, such as Palmira, didn’t attend any classes until they were 20 or older. “In our times it was difficult to find a person who had been to school,” explains Rafael. “Our parents’ main concern was to see us [working]… But now it is different. Every parent wants a school near home… and they take care of the cattle and the fields when the children are at school.”
Jorgina points out another change: “It is not like in the past when girls were required to give up their education… The government gives everybody the right to study, including women.” There is more assistance from the government in terms of school supplies as well, but costs remain a burden and obstacles to education are considerable, especially in rural Mabalane.
School buildings are often inadequate, says Boafesta, and involve mothers in constant repair work, while older children going to school in Mabalane city face an arduous walk. When it rains heavily they are forced to miss classes because the roads become impassable.
Not many teachers seem prepared to work in the rural areas, and some narrators accuse them of being corrupt. Arnaldo, who was too poor to go to school until he was 14, is still studying today, aged 27. He explains that he has been trying to pass exams for three years, failing each time because the teachers “took my marks and ‘sold’ them to other people”. He is one of several who say teachers exploit young girls, who “give themselves to the teachers because they want marks, but in the end they [get pregnant and] miss out on their studies…” He concludes: “[At this rate] there will not be any development…”
Some narrators, including Amélia, speak passionately about their desire for education. Jorgina declares “If I had access to school I would continue studying until my last day on earth.” She expresses disappointment that young people are reluctant to join the organizações de camponeses, where they could teach adults like her to read and write. She points out that being illiterate lays you open to being cheated in the market.
Pedro also raises the issue of changing expectations. Young people no longer want to work in the fields, he says, “because it requires some effort. It is a job that requires you to be there, dirty, and all that, and many people think ‘Because I’ve been to school, I made Grade 10 or higher, I will not go to the field, I would rather find an office job.’ … So, what happens? That person does not work, he does nothing [because jobs are so scarce].”