A Discussion with Anastasio, Student at St. Ignatius Loyola Secondary School, Tete, Mozambique
June 18, 2017
Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Fellowship, in June 2017 undergraduate student Harshita Nadimpalli interviewed Anastasio, a twelfth grade student at St. Ignatius Loyola Secondary School (Escola Secundária Inácio de Loyola, ESIL), a Jesuit secondary school in Tete, Mozambique. Anastasio discusses his experience as a student in light of his strong grasp of the Portuguese language, as well as the experiences of his peers. He explains how classes are conducted and makes suggestions for how the school can improve its education and discipline methods.
Can you please tell me your your role is in this community at ESIL?
My role is to study and help those who are older. I am in twelfth grade.
Why did you choose this school?
I came to study in this school as an opportunity to study and improve because it is a Jesuit school. It is one of the best in the country, with the best students.
And what do you want to do after you graduate?
After graduation, I want to be an engineer, and also study economy and management. I am the only one of my siblings in this school.
ESIL is a Jesuit school, so what do you think differentiates a Jesuit education and separates it from other schools that may be secular or government schools? Do you have examples to show this difference?
The difference that exists between Jesuit and public schools is that in these public schools, the teachers left us work without explaining it to us. But in the Jesuit schools, when we get [assigned] work, we have to explain it, and express it in Portuguese.
And do you speak Chichewa?
Yes, and the majority of my family in Zambia also speaks English.
What do you think are challenges or opportunities that students have in the local education system?
For me, there are many. One is that we always have to do work and read a lot, and we have to really understand it. So during class the teacher will explain things to us, but after, it is difficult to do the work on our own.
And you live in the boarding house, right?
When you need help, do you go to the teachers for help after class?
For students who speak Chichewa, do you think it’s difficult to do all the classes in Portuguese, and understand everything? What are your thoughts on this problem of language?
For this question of language, I think that before coming and matriculating at ESIL, they should have an oral interview with each student [that evaluates] math, comprehension, and Portuguese. After this, place them in a class. Listen to the person speak Portuguese, to understand their level. This year, they had to do a written evaluation.
And what was your experience with schools before here?
I went to primary school, and it was all taught in Portuguese. But there was one term that was bilingual and taught in the mother tongue and Portuguese.
And when it is difficult for students to understand Portuguese, do the teachers use Chichewa to explain?
Sometimes, it is useful to use Chichewa for better comprehension for some students who don’t understand. For me it’s difficult to say. Because in school we come across students of different language levels, countries, and communities, so it’s complicated to explain [the lesson] in Chichewa. It should be based on the official language, Portuguese.
In the boarding house, do you guys speak Chichewa?
Not all of us. I speak Portuguese. There are some people who speak Chichewa, and others who speak Portuguese. For me, it’s not something that can be ignored when classes are taught in Portuguese. In my family house we speak in Portuguese and sometimes English.
I’ve heard that some students at the school don’t speak Portuguese very well. Is it a challenge for them? What is the reception of students to learning in Portuguese?
I think that for us to speak Portuguese better maybe we should have afternoon classes after lunch. For those of us who have morning classes, we should have afternoon classes to learn Portuguese better. And for those students that have afternoon classes, they should have morning classes [in Portuguese]. I don’t think it’s difficult. It depends on the interest of the person, if they want to learn. We are used to hearing, “This is my land, my zone.” There are people who say that and say that they don’t need to learn Portuguese, and they want to speak in Chichewa. On my part I want to learn Portuguese a lot. I know it is my country, Mozambique, but when we leave here, and go anywhere, we will come across people who don’t speak or understand Chichewa. That is why it is better to study Portuguese. So maybe it would be good to have some time to practice Portuguese [with teachers or volunteers], to converse.
How is ESIL involved with the community here, and what is the reception of people who know about ESIL, from what you have heard?
I think people who talk about ESIL always have good things to say. Many people want to send their kids to come study here. Because we are in a good place, a good site. There isn’t much distraction. So they want to send their kids here. We don’t have much time to play, mostly just to read and study. We have free time on Saturdays to have fun.
Have you heard of the concept of social justice? What does it mean for you?
For me, social justice, in my understanding, is a thing that I practice in my way for the good of others.
And do you think this is an important part of the vision or mission here at ESIL? Do you have any examples?
I think so, because the teachers here are different from teachers at other schools with the issue of corruption. At other schools, public schools, there is a lot of corruption. Students are always playing, and not doing work, and they should not be able to pass, but because they have parents who can pay [the teacher], they pass the classes. In the case of ESIL, it’s not like this.
Can you share with me a moment that inspired you or made you happy in your two years here at ESIL?
My favorite moment here is the times that we have practical classes, such as working the fields. Because when we are in the house we are always studying, but when we have practical classes in the fields [in agriculture] we can leave and create something, go to the fields and spend time with my friends, and not be in class.
What are some personal challenges you have had in this system?
I have to study a lot to pass the twelfth grade, and then I have to help my brothers do the same after me. I will recommend that they come to this school after.
What was the experience of your family and community during the colonial and civil wars? And how do you think they affected education?
They disturbed everything. Not now, since it has passed, but in the years before. [During the civil war] my family and parents fled to neighboring countries; my family went to Zambia. I think that I am safe here now in ESIL, because it is a community school, and related to Jesuits and religion. So for me I think it is safe here. Other students say the same thing. I don’t think it was the same in other schools, because they were public schools.
Can you explain more about that?
I heard that in the public schools sometimes the soldiers come to recruit students to their forces, from both sides [RENAMO and FRELIMO]. But here [at ESIL] we are isolated. It’s difficult for them to come here.
How do you think that ESIL can continue to improve?
One way is to increase the number of teachers. And construct a gym. And watch the students because sometimes some students leave the school, and it’s difficult to keep watch over every student all the time. Maybe build a fence around the school for better control of this so that students can’t leave classes. There are some students who do this.
And what is the relationship between the external and boarding students?
There is a good relationship. We aren’t as good of friends with them [because they spend less time together], but it is fine.
Is there anything else you think would be helpful for me to know about these topics?
I think they should test all of the students, psychological tests. How does a student think, [or] what is their view on alcoholic drinks. To understand the thinking of students and how to discover and better help these people.
Do you think the use of the Portuguese language affects the preservation of Chichewa culture or language in a positive or negative way, in your opinion?
I think it does affect it. Because we are used to speaking the Chichewa language. We are living here, but we will go to other places and countries, and we should learn the Portuguese language better, to know our own country. Because everything is in Portuguese. University, jobs, businesses, etc. are all in the Portuguese language. And [we will need Portuguese] when we encounter people from different countries.
Do you think there is a difference between the teaching of Portuguese here at ESIL and how it is taught at other schools?
I think there is a difference, based in the function of the language. We learn how to use it, how to pronounce it differently. And in other schools we just respond directly to what’s in the texts and don’t have to think about it or learn to use Portuguese in a useful way.
What do you think is the future role of Jesuit education in Mozambique?
I think there needs to be better government and we can’t see corruption, and I think Jesuit education helps [to reduce corruption].