A Discussion with Lucinda, Student at St. Ignatius Loyola Secondary School, Tete, Mozambique
June 28, 2017
Background: In June 2017, as part of the Education and Social Justice Fellowship, undergraduate student Harshita Nadimpalli interviewed Lucinda, an eleventh grade student at St. Ignatius Loyola Secondary School (Escola Secundária Inácio de Loyola, ESIL) in Tete, Mozambique. Lucinda discusses her family, including her mother who works at the school. She mentions linguistic differences between students and talks about differences between boarding and non-boarding students.
Can you please tell me your name and about what your role is in this community at ESIL?
I’m Lucinda, and I’m 18 years old. I’m here as a student and my family is from Mozambique, in the province of Nampula in the north. My mom lives in Tete with my sisters. The past year I was at the school in Fonte Boa, where I completed tenth grade, and here I’m in eleventh grade.
And how is it that you came from Nampula to ESIL?
My mom works here, so that’s why we’re here. I like it.
What is your mother tongue that you speak in Nampula?
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?
They are different because maybe Jesuit schools are run by priests and the others aren’t, and there are a lot more rules here. ESIL is always with us, but outside, it’s not the same.
Can you give me more specific examples in ways that there is a difference?
The school I studied in Tete is different from here. Here everyone is together, and when there is a break, everyone is on break, and when we are in class, everyone is in class. But in other schools it’s different and people are doing other things [and not following the rules]. There is a lack of control [at other schools].
What do you think are distinct challenges that you or other indigenous students face in the local education systems?
One challenge for me is studying and finishing school, because my mom needs help. Now for other students, a challenge is learning to speak Portuguese. Because they don’t speak it at home, so learning to speak Portuguese is difficult for them.
You speak Portuguese very well. Where did you get practice speaking it?
My family—we speak the mother tongue, too, but also Portuguese. And with my sister who is in university.
Have you seen examples of students here having trouble learning Portuguese here at ESIL?
Yes, many of them are scared and don’t think they are good so they don’t want to speak [Portuguese]. I think it is a lot more difficult to learn to speak Portuguese than the mother tongue.
And since you don’t speak Chichewa, is it difficult for you to communicate with other students here?
No, it’s not difficult, although they always speak Chichewa. Of course there are people who speak other languages also. But it isn’t too difficult to learn to speak the dialect. Now I have a bit of a vocabulary.
Are there other students who speak your mother tongue here?
Do you think ESIL does a good job teaching Portuguese? How does it try to resolve the problem with difficulty teaching Portuguese to the students?
Yes. It’s an impossible [problem] because each day that passes, the students speak their mother tongues all day. It’s really difficult.
Since mother tongues here are so strongly connected to the culture, how do you think students can maintain their connection to their culture while learning Portuguese and using that in work and school settings?
It’s really difficult. I don’t know.
How do you think students can improve their Portuguese?
Do you think there is any resistance on the part of the students to learning Portuguese?
Yes, it’s so easy to speak the dialect so many students do that.
What do you think is the value of learning Portuguese?
I don’t think there is. You can learn it, but if students want to stay here they can use the dialect and get by. You only need Portuguese if you want to go to university or leave here for other parts of Mozambique.
And Tete has a different dialect from Nampula and from here. Is it difficult when you go home for holidays?
A little bit...they don’t speak Makua.
What does justice mean for you?
I don’t really know. It’s really hard. [Characteristics of a society with justice are that] here there are rules. When people don’t comply with them, mainly when dealing with crime or violence, there is not justice. They need to follow rules for there to be justice.
What are some examples of justice you have seen in this school?
I think the justice here is exaggerated. The rules...some are good, but not so much. In the boarding school there are so many rules, laws. For example, they prohibit drinking alcohol, and also love and relationships between students, and also the use of a phone. It is prohibited all the time (cell phones). And they prohibit robbery and lying. They don’t tolerate those.
How did the colonial past and the colonial war affect this area? What was its impact on education, your family, and your community?
My parents don’t talk about it a lot, but something that I learned in school… I heard a bit from my grandmother. People who lived here couldn’t stay in one place; one day they were in one place, the next day in another. Nothing was fixed. My grandmother said that she had to move around a lot.
How did the civil war affect this area? What was its impact on education, your family, and your community?
I don’t know the history of my family very well. We haven’t conversed much about this. But in the community people had to move houses; they were scared of being killed, even last year. One whole family was killed last year [in Nampula], and they said it was because they were part of RENAMO.
Do you think all the students feel safe here?
In the beginning [2014, 2015], no. I heard that recently some students fled their schools, other schools, to go home. But I don’t think this happens much. If it did it was in the beginning.
Do you think it’s hard because many students live far away from their families?
Here, it’s not so bad because most students here have some family at least in the village or in Tete.
How does students leaving schools impact the education system?
Schools join both parties; there are children of people from both parties in them. So sometimes they fight. But here in this school there isn’t any fighting about this amongst students.
Can you share with me a moment that inspired you in your time here at ESIL?
When I am with my family. Or when I am with my two best friends here. And when everything goes well. Maybe when I became the boss of the general meeting [chefe de junta geral, a student leadership role similar to class president] where I get to help orient new students, and it was really nice when I got elected.
What are your responsibilities in this role?
To orient my fellow students, especially during the morning assemblies. In the afternoon and Saturdays I have meetings with the priests and professors with the other co-leader for our grade.
Do you think there is a difference between students who live in the boarding house and those who don’t?
They have a really long distance to travel [the students who come from outside] and are tired. Sometimes they have to come here once and go home for lunch and then return again in the afternoon. So there is a difference.
What about differences in learning between boarding and non-boarding students?
Yes, because they can’t be mandated to work at home like we have obligatory study hours here. They need to have their own interest to study for themselves. I don’t think it makes a difference in how they speak Portuguese. Sometimes you can find families where the parents don’t speak Portuguese but the students do. There was an essay.
Do you have any ideas for programs or ways ESIL can improve how it teaches Portuguese and allow for cultural expression?
It’s a little difficult. Maybe presenting sometimes. But many students are really shy and embarrassed. Not of their own culture, but of being in public.
If you could change anything at ESIL or at other schools in Mozambique, what are two or three things you would change?
I think there’s a lot to change. I don’t think the school needs a ton of improvements, but it needs students to share in their ideas and need to try to speak Portuguese more.
Maybe they could do something like three days each week everyone has to speak Portuguese. Then the other days you can speak your mother tongue or whatever other language you want. Some know how to speak Portuguese, but they don’t out of fear and embarrassment.
There should be a system to print and distribute copies of pamphlets or flyers out to all students to publicize events and information about the school. There are many things to improve. Our own school can improve. For example, we can get more materials like desks and chairs. We need to renovate.
The professors are good for the most part here.
Do you think there is a difference between the teachers who can teach in Chichewa and those who can’t?
I think it’s normal for teachers to not use Chichewa to explain because the majority don’t speak it and are not from this part. But students explain to each other amongst themselves in Chichewa a lot.
Do you think it’s better to have teachers who speak the local dialect or no?
No. Because if they have students who speak the dialect, they will have the tendency to explain in the dialect, which is not good for learning Portuguese or for us. There would be no motivation to teach in Portuguese.
What do you see as the future of Jesuit education here in the country?
I think it’s good because for example in this community, there would be many students who didn’t go to school [if ESIL didn’t exist].
Are there any other things you would like to share with me?
I don’t think they should prohibit cell phones. And we should try to get better internet access here. Because in secondary school you need your phone to complete your homework. To do research and such.
Do you think that this would help students learn Portuguese?
I think it could. In the cities people are always speaking Portuguese. But in the rural small areas, they are speaking the dialect in all moments.