In the 2000s, the provision of free textbooks and abolition of school fees, along with investments in classroom construction and teachers, resulted in a surge in net primary and secondary school enrolments, which are now 88% (2015) and 26% (2013) respectively. However, low learning achievement and insufficient number of qualified teachers are still a cause of great concern.
In line with Mozambique’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan for Education, which prioritises good governance, social inclusion and improved quality of education, AFD is financing the construction of a school of excellence, the Aga Khan Academy, in the outskirts of the capital city Maputo. The Academy – the third in the world after Mombasa, Kenya, and Hyderabad, India – provides high-level primary and secondary education with the goal of training future highly qualified and socially responsible professionals to help Mozambique fulfil its social and economic development ambitions. More importantly, the Academy will actively enroll highly gifted and talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds who will be exempt from paying school fees.
The Aga Khan Academy is one of the 240 learning institutions managed by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which promotes projects in the area of education, rural development, environment, architecture, economic development and civil society strengthening.
AFD has a long-standing relationship with AKDN, having already worked together on several projects. However, this is the first project between the two organisations in the education sector and the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo is the first one to have received external financing.
For this ‘pilot’ project, AFD loaned AKDN US$ 25 million to build a campus with a world-class teaching and learning environment. Set on 90,000 square metres of land, the Aga Khan Academy currently has 81 students– an equal number of boys and girls – across kindergarten to grade 12. It plans to accommodate 750 primary and secondary students by 2026, with 75 graduates per year.
Students as young as seven are bilingual in English and Portuguese and are able to follow classes and debate topics in both languages. Their curriculum follows the International Baccalaureate’s, which focuses on thinking critically and independently, and learning to enquire with care and logic. Students not only study traditional subjects such as languages, arts, maths and science, but also subjects such as ‘individuals and society’, which aims at developing their understanding of politics, society, culture, human experience and behaviour.
By focusing on both technical and life skills, the Aga Khan Academy aims at preparing skilled and socially responsible individuals who could one day be Mozambique’s future leaders. In order to improve access to education for academically gifted students from poorer households, the Academy provides 50% of its students with subsidized tuition fees, while about 10% of students receive full bursaries.
The level of skills and knowledge among teachers is equally impressive, as local teachers are recruited through a highly competitive national exam and undergo training both in Mozambique and at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya.
Portuguese language and sports teacher Adília Cabral had been teaching for 13 years before joining the Aga Khan Academy in 2018. After being recruited, she attended a year-long training in Mombasa, which completely changed her approach to teaching: “During the training, we learnt that a child’s mind is not an empty vessel on which to load our knowledge. If I instead recognize that each child already has some knowledge, I can adapt my classes accordingly, and make them much more interactive and dynamic”, says Adília.
She goes on to explain that the Aga Khan Academy stresses the importance of equipping children not only with technical skills, but also with life skills, and encourages them to question the world around them. “We not only teach them, but we also explain to them how what we teach connects to their day-to-day life and we encourage them to ask questions and share their knowledge with us and other students”, she adds.
By the time of its completion in 2026, Aga Khan Academy campus will include additional classrooms, a sports complex, an amphitheatre and extensive green and recreational spaces.
A portion of the land on which the development sits will be used to build 90 rental apartments, whose revenue will be used to ensure the Academy’s long term sustainability and to fund future bursaries to students from poorer households.
In addition, French language courses in partnership with the Mozambican Cultural Centre of Maputo will soon be offered to secondary students.
AFD has also initiated discussion with AKDN to fund the construction of an Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In addition, there are plans for exchanges between students of the three academies.
With highly qualified, inspiring teachers, state-of-the-art facilities, plenty of room to play and learn, it is no surprise that the Aga Khan Academy’s students dare to dream big. The Academy is without a doubt contributing to train individuals of solid principles and skills to drive Mozambique’s development forward.