Mozambique: Candida returns to school after devastation of two cyclones

Candida in a renovated classroom. The new classroom was built thanks to GPE’s support. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
Audio file

Story highlights

  • Two back-to-back cyclones—Idai and Kenneth—made landfall in central and northern Mozambique in 2019, disrupting learning for students.
  • These natural disasters caused extensive damage to education infrastructure, the loss of learning materials and interruption of the school cycle.
  • With GPE's support, the government of Mozambique is ensuring children continue learning even when natural disasters strike.

This story was produced in collaboration with UNICEF Mozambique.

Twelve-year-old Candida Alberto Inácio was among the hundreds of thousands of students affected by the two category 5 cyclones that occurred in Mozambique in 2019.

Candida lives with her aunt, uncle and siblings in the province of Sofala. Cyclone Idai destroyed their house, causing the family to stay in the local orphanage while their home was being repaired.

Candida Inácio was among the hundreds of thousands of students who were affected by the cyclones which made landfall in Mozambique. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“[The cyclone] demolished houses—even our dishes were broken—and both our hospital and school were damaged. Our classroom was destroyed. And at the spot where I used to study under the mango trees, the books, pictures, and notebooks got really wet when it rained.”

12-year-old student, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha
  • Candida and her aunt outside their home in Sofala, Mozambique.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Natural disasters caused widespread devastation

On March 14, 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique, affecting the provinces of Inhambane, Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia. Six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth followed, this time affecting the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula.

Weather catastrophes are not uncommon in Mozambique; however, this was the first time in recorded history that two strong tropical cyclones had hit the country in such a short period of time. Overall, the country lost (totally or partially) 4,222 classrooms.

Celeste José Mucaisse, Candida’s teacher, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“I have only one thing to say about Cyclone Idai: we were left with nothing. Our houses were all destroyed; the school too. We didn’t have classes because the classrooms were full of water and the walls were damaged. Later, when the rains stopped, we continued to teach, but under the trees.”

Celeste José Mucaisse
Candida’s teacher, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha

Furthermore, a heavier than normal rainy season in late 2019 and early 2020 caused total or partial losses of an additional 1,168 classrooms, ultimately impacting 100,000 students and 2,000 teachers.

These natural disasters had a devastating effect on students, including extensive damage to education infrastructure, the loss of learning materials and disrupted schooling.

Prolonged interruption in education can have significant consequences for children—especially for the most vulnerable, who face higher risks of child labor abuse, early marriage and gender-based violence. Ensuring children have access to education following natural disasters protects their rights, provides a sense of normalcy after a traumatic event, and fosters resilience.

Elidja Elavo, School Director, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“After the cyclone passed, it took us a week, a month really, to prepare temporary classrooms and set up areas where we could hold classes outdoors. Where the new building stands now, we had used tarpaulins to set up tents that successfully accommodated our students.”

Elidja Elavo
School director, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha
  • Candida writing in her notebook during class at the temporary learning tent.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

  • While the Escola Primária Completa de Galinha was reconstructed, students learned in temporary tents.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Interventions ensure learning continues

With a US$20 million accelerated grant managed by UNICEF, GPE supported the government of Mozambique to continue providing access to education for all children, while also putting in place measures to “build back better” (BBB), an approach that integrates disaster risk reduction into the restoration of infrastructure.

GPE’s support focused on reconstructing classrooms to provide children with safe and inclusive learning environments, and on strengthening the resilience of education infrastructure to withstand natural disasters—including cyclones and floods—in the future.

  • Candida sees the newly renovated classrooms for the first time. The new classrooms were built with GPE’s support.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

To achieve this goal, GPE supported a damage assessment and feasibility study, which served as the foundation to reconstruct 600 classrooms and furnish them with basic equipment (such as blackboards, chalk and desks).

Additionally, ministry staff, construction firms and auditors received technical training on BBB standards.

  • Last work before the reopening of the Escola Primária Completa de Galinha.
    Credit: Carine Durand

  • The construction of a new school building begins.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

  • Celeste José Mucaisse, Candida’s teacher, writes on the blackboard.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Celeste José Mucaisse, Candida’s teacher, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“After the cyclone, there were holes in the walls and the classrooms were damp; the students couldn’t study. The school has changed a lot because of this renovation. The appearance alone will motivate children to attend school. It’s clean and well protected. We now have an entrance that is accessible to persons with disabilities, which we didn’t have before.”

Celeste José Mucaisse
Candida’s teacher, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha

In parallel, the GPE program funded the construction of girl-friendly water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure to help attract girls to school.

Recognizing the evidence on menstrual hygiene in promoting academic performance and school retention of girls, GPE supported the distribution of 13,500 hygiene kits, containing masks and soaps. Nearly 33,000 girls also received dignity kits comprised of underwear, body soap and a feminine sanitary product.

School meals promote attendance

To motivate children to return to school, while also increasing access to food in provinces affected by the cyclones, school meals were provided to students through GPE and the World Food Programme.

From May to November 2021, 91,000 children in 167 schools were given rice, butter beans, salt and vegetable oil to take home every month. More than 43,400 students were provided with hot meals at schools prepared by volunteer cooks.

Elidja Elavo, School Director, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“The school lunch program really helped children recover after the cyclone, and after COVID-19, and they came to the school in droves. The food was prepared right here at the school, and as a result students were eager to attend classes.”

Elidja Elavo
School Director, Escola Primária Completa de Galinha

Building resilience

Training teachers and students affected by natural disasters on emergency preparedness and response is key to strengthening resilience. The GPE program therefore supported activities at schools to enhance both teachers’ and students’ capabilities to respond to and recover from disasters.

In parallel, the teachers’ manual on how to provide psychosocial support to learners was revised to include two modules about gender-based violence and violence against children.

Ninety national, provincial and district trainers—including 40 disaster management committees at schools—received instruction on disaster risk reduction and emergency management at schools. The aim of this training is to enhance the technical capabilities and skills of existing emergency focus groups.

These trainers are also responsible for further rolling out the information and skills so that as many as possible are well prepared in the event of future natural disasters.

The REFORM Risk Index, which measures countries at extreme risk due to conflict and climate change, ranks Mozambique 11th out of 191 countries. Constant exposure to these hazards increases child vulnerability and restricts access to key services, including education.

With support from GPE, the government of Mozambique will continue to establish emergency preparedness and response planning to ensure the education system is more resilient to shocks.

  • Students at the Escola Primária Completa de Galinha celebrate the reopening of their school building.
    Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

June 1 is Children’s Day in Mozambique. It’s always a special day, but after enduring two major natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, Candida and her fellow students were especially excited to celebrate this year. Also, the day coincided with the reopening of their rebuilt school.

Candida, 12-year-old student. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand
“Tomorrow I’ll go to school. I’m going to eat, play and then study at the school, in a pretty classroom. It’s more beautiful because it’s been fixed up.”
12-year-old student

August 2022