Education financing strategies and
the neoliberal project in Mozambique
Adelino Chissale and Michael Cross
University of Johannesburg
Since the end of World War II and the inception of human capital theory in the 1960s,
the World Bank (WB) has been championing the importance of education for
development and the need to finance it in developing countries. The WB’s crusade has
not been without contestation, not only because of the reductionism of education to
development imperatives, but also because the Bank tends to change the emphasis
that it places on different levels of the education sector. In fact, over decades and in
different periods, the Bank has shifted emphasis on the significance of the various
levels of education (adult education, primary education, secondary education and
lately higher education) for economic development, depending on the perceived
From the early 1990s onwards, education in Mozambique has been caught between
the need to articulate social development (as spelled out by both EFA and MDGs) on
the one hand and, on the other, the need to address economic development concerns.
In order to achieve these two goals, education policy has prioritised issues of
quality, access, gender, citizenship, relevance, poverty reduction, decentralisation,
private education, public-private partnerships and efficiency. However, current
reports on the progress made on EFA and the MDG goals suggest that Mozambique
is unlikely to achieve them by 2015 as initially envisaged. This article argues that
neoliberal ideals of social and economic development have steered the education
system into an erratic articulation of its different components through travelling
policies of education financing. This has led to tensions between various aspects of
education development, which have brought about contradictory developments in
the education system and have constrained the realisation of EFA and the MDGs.
Keywords: education development, Education for All, Millennium Development
Goals, neoliberal project, social inequalities, travelling policy
Chissale, A and Cross, M. (2014) Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique.
Southern African Review of Education, 20(2): 7-25.
returns on investment at each level (Bloom, Canning and Chan 2005; World Bank
2002). Although Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals
(MDG) are initiatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations (UN) respectively, the WB saw these
frameworks as a timely opportunity to set its global agenda on education for develop-
ment, which emphasises education as being instrumental to economic development at
the expense of its social and cultural role in society.
The global embracement of the EFA and the MDG agendas led most of us to believe
that this was the time to make things happen. However, as we approach the deadline,
there is evidence that many countries will not reach the desired goals, particularly in
sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO 2014b). One of the main reasons for this failure is a
decline in the financing of education. UNESCO, in its 2015 global monitoring report
(GMR) on EFA, identifies the financing gap as the main problem because ‘neither
domestic financing nor aid to education was sufficient to ensure that the six goals
would be achieved’ (UNESCO 2014a: 8).
We argue, however, that, notwithstanding its overall importance, the financing gap
has a different impact in different countries, depending on the nature of the strategies
and policies adopted by governments. This is because, beyond the funding gap,
prevailing political discourses, particularly the dominance of neoliberal discourses,
influence how budgets are conceptualised and used. Indeed, critics of EFA and MDGs
have already voiced concerns not necessarily with regard to their realisation, but
because of their neoliberal nature and the consequences for global justice. In this
regard, Pogge’s (2005) analysis of the first MDG goal is quite revealing. His analysis
casts light on how the MDGs and EFA are discourses strongly constructed around
neoliberal ideals of the global economy. Similarly, it has been argued that, because the
EFA framework is operationalised through neoliberal mechanisms, it sets other goals
that, though not made explicit, are harmful to the rights of the people in countries
where EFA is being implemented. The argument is based on the idea that the EFA
framework is constructed around neo-liberal strategies of control of the ‘Other’ by
global actors who are at the centre of its financing (e.g. the WB, the IMF, the G8, the
Asia Development Bank, and the World Trade Organisation) (Tamatea 2005). In line
with this reasoning, we locate EFA and MDGs within the broader context of
Mozambique’s transition from socialism to a neoliberal order. We concede, however,
that while education financing strategies and the discourses underpinning them play
a critical role in education development, the role of other factors like teacher
preparedness, teacher accountability, learner responsibility and the role of the
community should not be underestimated.
Starting with an analysis of national education strategies and progress reports on
EFA and MDGs, this article investigates how education in Mozambique has evolved
under these agendas. We analyse policies adopted and financing strategies pursued in
attempting to achieve their goals. More particularly, the article draws attention to the
8 Chissale & Cross
ways in which education in Mozambique has been reformed through forms of travel-
ling policy (i.e. policies drawn from elsewhere and implemented locally) to achieve
universal primary education. It argues that travelling education policies, or aspects
thereof in a context of neoliberal reforms for macro-economic stabilisation, have
caused tensions in the implementation of EFA and the MDGs, making the country
unable to achieve these goals. We suggest that the adoption of a neoliberal agenda,
comprising education financing and development strategies, including the principles
of decentralisation, privatisation, and deregulation, integrated into the Mozambican
macro-economic framework without regard to local complexities, has constrained the
achievement of EFA and the MDGs. If this trend continues, we are likely to witness a
deepening of education crisis and social inequalities in the country.
The article starts by sketching the neoliberal project in post-socialist Mozambique.
After briefly considering our methodology, we present background information on
progress made with EFA goals at global, regional and local levels and highlight the
challenges that seem to emerge in the case of Mozambique. These challenges
prompted us to investigate how education has been financed and the tensions that
constrain the education system in fulfilling its goals of universal access and quality
education. Before the conclusion, a section is dedicated to what seems to be
consequential dimensions of the adopted education financing strategies for the social
order at large.
The neoliberal project in Mozambique
The neoliberal project in Mozambique can be located within the broader context of
international political changes in the 1980s, with the demise of the socialist model of
development. As an economic model, neoliberalism regards the market as a self-
regulated entity and central to the advancement of capitalism, in which the state
should not interfere (Turner 2008).
In the case of Mozambique, evidence that the socialist project had failed led the
Mozambican authorities to turn to the West for guidance. In fact, according to Bowen
(1992), the broken economy that led the government to abandon centrally-planned
development strategies and adopt capitalist-oriented strategies was not only because
the Soviet Union itself was struggling to sustain its model of development, but also
because of the civil war in Mozambique. Having affected mainly rural areas, the civil
war made it difficult for any development strategy to be effective (Saul 1993b) because
of the destruction of the local infrastructure. It was as a result of these difficulties that
offers from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help
economic recovery were welcomed and were seen as the only way out of the dead end
that the country had reached. As a result, as Bowen (1992: 259) puts it, ‘Mozambican
private capital has remained dependent upon the resources made available by the
World Bank, multinational enterprises, regional development banks, NGOs, and so
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 9
It is this dependency that led some critics of privatisation policies such as Hanlon
(1996), Mittelman (2000), Plank (1993) and Saul (1993a, 1993b) to interpret the turn
to capitalism as capitulation of the Mozambican government to policies from the
World Bank and the West at large. This particular perspective has been challenged for
not problematising other factors of the transition from a centrally-planned economy to
a neoliberal market economy. The process of neoliberalisation is best understood when
considered in its interplay with internal factors such as the role of political elites and
associated power struggles within government in formulating, shaping and
implementing privatisation policies, and pressures from social actors such as unions
and non-governmental organisations in the process (Pitcher 2002: 129-131). This
endogenous dimension leading to privatisation may explain the almost blind
acceptance of what Hall and O’Shea (2013: 8) call the ‘common sense’ of neoliberalism,
i.e. an uncritical form of ‘everyday thinking’ that provides frameworks of meaning
with which to make sense of the world.
As an established ‘common sense’ philosophy, neoliberalism makes it possible for
people to take for granted a set of values about individual and private property, the
glorification of the market, freedom of choice for consumers, and the superiority of
private services in the face of supposed lack of productivity, ineffectiveness and, in
some instances, the inability of the state to steer the economy (Torres 2011: 184-185).
In the particular case of Mozambique, and against the legacy of socialist experience,
the common sense of neoliberalism emerged as a powerful ideology giving ordinary
people a sense of lived democracy, freedom of expression and association, and the
restoration of private/individual ownership. As Pitcher (2002: 140-141) has suggested,
this ideology was cemented by government discourses in which buzzwords of
neoliberalism such as market,competition,efficiency and private investment were
hailed as the key drivers of the benefits the country could get from the transition from
a socialist to a capitalist economy.
It is in this sense that Mozambique followed the neoliberal common path into liberal-
isation of the economy (agriculture, trade, etc.) and social sectors such as education
and health. The most fundamental feature of this move was the reduction of the role of
the state (from socialist centrally-planned to neoliberal ‘hands off’ approaches). In the
process, Mozambique embraced several features of neoliberal reforms, including
deregulation, decentralisation and privatisation of social services and economic
activities, all of which were fuelled by hegemonic discourses around modernisation,
increased productivity and global competitiveness (Pitcher 2002: 141). In Mozambique
such discourses were initially materialised through structural adjustment pro-
grammes (SAPs) and later through poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs), frame-
works for macro-economic policy reforms.
The first SAP, known locally as Programa de Reabilitação Económica (Economic
Recovery Programme), was introduced in 1987. Among ordinary people, it was
referred to through the abbreviation ‘PRE’, which had a sarcastic connotation associ-
10 Chissale & Cross
ated with the hardship generated by ‘PRE’ in social life. The irony was simply because
for the majority of urban people SAP measures worsened their living conditions and
the level of poverty. In fact, as Hanlon (1996: 69-70) has indicated, the rise in the
prices of basic goods and in the cost of living was aggravated by a dramatic fall in
minimum wages within a year after the introduction of the first SAP, leaving the vast
majority of people with no money to purchase goods, most of them imported as a result
of trade liberalisation.
The SAP set three long-term goals. It aimed to increase the country’s GNP through
increased productivity. It was concerned with the achievement of fiscal stability
through restrictive fiscal and monetary policies to align expenditure with available
resources. It also envisaged a reduction of poverty by focusing on economic investment
and minimising public expenditure on social services, including basic education,
primary health care and food subsidies. The central objective of PRSP was a
‘substantial reduction of the levels of absolute poverty in Mozambique’ through
several measures affecting education, health, agriculture and rural development,
basic infrastructure, good governance, macro-economic strategy and financial
management (GoM 2001: 42). In education, considered to be a basic human right, the
expected outcomes included expansion of access, improvement of quality,
enhancement of efficiency, reduction of costs and ‘promotion of social equity, and
equity between the regions, the cities and rural areas, and on the basis of gender’
As flagships of the Washington Consensus for economic growth in developing
countries, the SAPs and PRSPs included policies found elsewhere in the world and
believed to be effective. The World Bank took the East Asian economic boom of the
1980s and 1990s as a model of how effective neoliberal policies aligned with good
governance could be a lesson for other countries, mainly in the sub-Saharan region
(World Bank 1993), although Amsden (1989) and Rodan (1989) have demonstrated
that the East Asian success was more because of strong state intervention than
free-market-friendly policies. It is in this sense that we argue that most reforms in
Mozambique from the 1990s onwards were travelling ‘reforms that surface in different
parts of the world’ (Steiner-Khamsi 2012: 3). The consequent flow of travelling policies
was ‘shaped by globalising trends in pursuit of successful competition in the new
knowledge economy’ (Ozga and Jones 2006: 1). This notion of travelling policies helps
us to evaluate the finance strategies adopted in Mozambique for the achievement of
EFA and the MDGs by 2015 and to problematise their role in legitimising the whole
macro-economic neoliberal agenda, which in our view has had a negative impact on
the education system.
Nonetheless, travelling policies in Mozambique must also be understood in the context
of a country in which local government officials and civil society organisations were
bargaining for a change of policy (Pitcher 2002) and the political elite of the ruling
party FRELIMO responded by turning from socialist ideals of social order to capitalist
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 11
markets (Saul 2010) as the solution against poverty. Under the circumstances, the
World Bank and IMF offers were perceived as an opportunity for overcoming the
economic problems facing the country. It is in the context of this interplay of complex
social and political forces that the notion of travelling policies is approached in this
As a discussion article, our analysis is centred mainly on secondary sources on EFA
and the MDGs, SAP and PRSP strategies, namely evaluation and progress reports,
including education sector strategic plans and reports, and other relevant studies on
education development in Mozambique. Of particular importance are the progress
indicators from UNESCO’s global monitoring reports (GMRs) for the world and
sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with emphasis on the mid-term and the most recent GMRs.
These reports provide an account of the progress made and how strategies for
achieving EFA and the MDGs have been implemented or have changed as a result of
the mid-term reviews in different countries. In the particular case of Mozambique, we
gathered progress data from national MDG reports, because figures for Mozambique
are not clearly demarcated in UNESCO’s GMRs. In the case of UNESCO GMRs, our
attention was driven to the 2007 mid-term report, which evaluates progress, acknow-
ledges the difficulties in achieving EFA goals by 2015, and sets new strategies. The
2014 GMR was also important in that it summarises data from other reports since the
2007 mid-term report. In the case of MDG national reports on Mozambique, we tried to
cover all reports available since 2002.
Our analytical strategy was to look at main trends in relation to enrolment and
completion rates at primary education level. However, we went beyond official figures
to explore dimensions of quality such as teacher training and practices in academic
progression, which in our view represent in practice a serious threat to the very idea of
access to education. An attempt was made to read the reports in the light of evidence
from literature in other contexts, not necessarily to compare but to have a sense of the
complexities and peculiarities of education development in Mozambique under the
EFA and the MDGs: What progress so far?
Since EFA goals cannot be analysed separately, this article deals with the second
MDG, which is to ‘ensure that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in
difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and
complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality’ (UNESCO 2000: 15).
With reference to this goal, we focus on aspects of universal primary education access,
completion and quality of education. A consequential point here is access to secondary
education as part of EFA. In fact, access to primary education depends partly on secon-
12 Chissale & Cross
dary education as graduates from secondary schools supply teacher education pro-
grammes. Underlying this analysis is our problematisation of both EFA and the
MDGs, not only because of their commonality on the second goal – universal (primary)
education – but also because of their assumptions about the functionality of education
in terms of development issues, economic growth and employment.
A brief look at some progress made with regard to universal primary education and
quality education shows a mixed picture of achievements in Africa and beyond. The
UNESCO mid-term GMR (UNESCO 2007) indicates that the number of out-of-school
children declined significantly worldwide between 1999 and 2005, with a concomitant
increase of net enrolments in sub-Saharan Africa of about 36%. Despite this, it is
estimated that around 58 out of 86 countries that had not yet reached universal
primary education will miss the target of 2015 (UNESCO 2007: 2). Sub-Saharan
Africa has the lowest rate of completion for the last grade at primary level. Further-
more, there are still notable differences in terms of access across regions and the rural/
Crowded classrooms and short time-spans for children to spend in learning activities
are highlighted as major problems in achieving quality education. It is believed that
contracting teachers without qualifications to save costs has negative consequences on
quality education (UNESCO 2007: 2). Despite the fact that for over a decade global
education aid has been declining (Rose, Steer, Smith and Zubairi 2013), the 2007 mid-
term GMR was optimistic that international support in developing countries of sub-
Saharan Africa has played a major role in increasing enrolments at primary education
level. However, the cost of education is still seen as the major obstacle for children to
access education, even after the abolition of fees in many countries (UNESCO 2007: 2).
The latest GMR (UNESCO 2014b) seems to be less optimistic; it indicates that around
57 million children were still out of school in 2011, with SSA making the slowest
progress from 2007 to 2011 and 22% of primary-school-age children still being out of
school. This figure is closer to the United Nation’s 2013 MDG Africa Report, which
indicates that in 2010 many African countries still fell short of the target by more than
20% (UN 2013: 24), making them unlikely to achieve the goal by 2015. Furthermore,
the completion rate for the last grade at primary level dropped from 58% to 56% over a
decade. Only 68 out of 122 countries are likely to achieve universal primary enrol-
ment, and only 13 out of 90 countries are expected to achieve universal primary level
completion (UNESCO 2014b: 52). Class size is still a major problem in a number of
countries, with less than 75% of teachers at both primary and secondary level
qualified (ibid.: 82).
Although there may be variations from country to country in the region, Mozambique
shows no improvement on the overall figures for SSA. In fact, as far back as 2002, the
first United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country report on the MDGs in
Mozambique indicated that, despite progress made since 1999 on net enrolment,
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 13
‘Mozambique [would] not achieve the goal of full primary enrolment by 2015’ (UNDP
2002: 18). Regional and gender differences were singled out as major obstacles.
Completion rates and the quality of education were also major concerns, since
‘repetition often leads to drop outs (8%), increasing the number of illiterates in the
country’ (UNDP 2002: 18). The report recommended further debt relief and an
increase in financial support, as well as capacity-building and teacher training as
some possible steps to be taken.
Two years later, the possibility of achieving universal primary education by 2015 was
still escaping Mozambique, although there was a significant increase of about 16,7% in
completion rates from grades 1 to 5 (primary school level 1) between 1997 and 2003
(UNDP 2005: 18). The 2008 report indicates that ‘the average net primary school
enrolment index was 95,5% in 2007, a considerable increase compared to 2003 (69,4%)’
(UNDP 2008: 23), but in the 2010 report the figure came down to 81% (UNDP 2010:
35). The report does not give any explanation for this decrease. In both reports (2008
and 2010), regional and gender disparities in net enrolment rate were highlighted as
an apparently unsolvable problem, which has persisted over the years. This suggests
that ‘the fact that EP1 [primary school – level one] is free does not in itself guarantee
the stay of poorer households’ children at school until completion’ (UNDP 2010: 39),
which also amounts to difficulties in achieving significant levels of quality.
Despite the drop in completion rates from 58% to 56% over a decade in the last grade at
primary level (UN 2013: 24) in SSA at large and the decrease in the net primary
enrolment index from 95,5% in 2007 (UNDP 2008: 23) to 81% in 2010 (UNDP 2010:
35), the overall numbers seem to suggest that some progress was made in Mozambique
in relation to targets set at the time of the launch of the EFA framework. However,
progress as articulated by numbers may be misleading, because the reports do not tell
us the actual dynamics of teaching and learning processes in classroom contexts or
how teachers are trained and perform. Classroom size and teacher training are
mentioned in the reports as persistent challenges that may contradict the completion
rate figures. In line with Jansen’s (2005: 375) theory of public policy as political
symbolism, one could argue that the statistical exercise for most African governments
fulfils primarily symbolic, political and financial ends in their relations with
international development agencies. Moreover, Tikly’s (2004) idea that education is
used as an entry gate of the West in developing countries to pursue a global
development agenda as a new form of imperialism – the incorporation of developing
countries into a global form of governance dominated by Western standards – may
illuminate the real value of these figures and help us question the purported progress
made so far in regard to EFA goals in Mozambique.
Persistent challenges and steps forward
Certain challenges have persisted for over a decade in terms of progress towards uni-
14 Chissale & Cross
versal primary education, completion and quality of education in Mozambique. From
the reports, classroom size, pre- and in-service teacher training and low school
network coverage (with particular emphasis on rural areas) seem to be the main
recurring challenges. Actions taken towards achieving universal access and quality
education goals were mostly in the form of debt relief and continued external financing
of education, teacher education, the provision of didactic materials to schools and
pupils, and capacity-building at all levels, with particular focus on district and school
The persistent nature of the challenges seems to have exacerbated the difficulties of
financing and developing education in the country. In our view, education
development can be analysed from different angles. A study based on data from the
past two decades approaches education development from the perspective of
empowerment of people for active citizenship in a democratic society (Brouwer, Brito
and Menete 2010). The authors address issues of access from regional and gender
perspectives, considering inter alia the contribution of private schools, the role of
vocational education and training for economic development, and education for
citizenship. They argue that an education system is effective only if it empowers
people to use the learned knowledge in their role as active and responsible citizens.
However, in pointing out the challenges faced with regard to access, the authors do not
go far enough in exploring the relationship between policy options and unequal levels
of access. Instead, they argue that the way forward is to be found through private
education (more significantly at secondary than at primary levels) and through
public-private partnerships in technical and vocational education and training. Such a
position is inscribed in a set of strategies for financing education, which have been
hailed as effective solutions for education development in Mozambique.
Other studies on access to education in Mozambique emphasize ‘subjective factors’ by
locating hindering factors in learners themselves, their households and social and
cultural issues. This is the case with Roby, Lambert and Lambert (2009), who argue
that, although caregivers’ level of education, household income, distance from home to
school and the divide between urban and rural areas affect most school children, girls
are most affected than boys. Another study sees access to education from a retention
perspective and argues that children who enter schooling at an older age tend to leave
school earlier, before completing a level (Wils 2004). From a cultural perspective
Robinson (1993) sees academic achievement as an aspect of education access and
argues that it depends on family background: children from Portuguese-speaking
families were found to be more successful than those whose mother tongue is not
Portuguese. Although much of this research allows for an understanding of access to
education from the perspective of the learners themselves and suggests a set of
interventions in the community and in households to invert the situation, it does not
take into account factors related to the domain of education policies. This article tries
to look at access to education from a policy perspective, more specifically financing
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 15
strategies as one of the angles to understanding the problem.
The political economy of education financing
The persistent challenges and actions taken all seem to point to what within the EFA
and MDG agendas has been termed the ‘financing gap’. In fact, it is expected that the
forthcoming final GMR on EFA will point to the financing gap as the main problem of
the agenda and the chief component in the success of the post-2015 global education
framework (UNESCO 2014a). The introduction of the Education for All Fast Track
Initiative (EFA-FTI) early in the 2000s was an effort towards financing education
strategies in developing countries to achieve the goals.
In the case of Mozambique, ‘the reforms proposed by EFA-FTI were incorporated in
the Education and Culture Sector Strategic Plan 2006-2011 (ESSP 2006/2011) and
implemented during its term’ (Lobo 2010: 2). Furthermore, Mozambique has been
pursuing neoliberal macro-economic strategies since the introduction of SAPs in the
1980s and PRSPs in the 2000s, which ultimately incorporate the EFA-FTI and its
conditionalities (besides debt obligations for decades) in education. The country thus
has a PRSP in place to integrate national social development needs and macro-
economic stabilisation measures in the form of decentralisation, deregulation and
privatisation. It is this integration of development needs and a macro-economic
stabilisation measure that seems to be at the heart of the financing gap in extending
quality education to all children. It has been suggested that low- and middle-income
countries could use national resources to bridge the education financing gap
(UNESCO 2014b). However, in some cases, like Mozambique, this may not be as easy
as it seems, owing to debt repayments currently required on international loans.
Abolishing fees at primary level
The introduction of the FTI in 2002 was intended to help developing countries acceler-
ate progress towards achieving EFA by 2015. One of the aspects on which the FTI had
an effect was alleviation of the fees burden for parents at primary school level. The
abolition of fees in a number of countries was seen as a step forward in ensuring that
no child is excluded from school because of a lack of funds. In Africa, earlier attempts
at abolishing fees were made by Ghana in 1961 and Kenya and Tanzania in 1974.
However, these efforts were discontinued owing to economic constraints (World Bank
2009: 1). In Mozambique, fees at primary level were abolished from 2004. Although it
is not clear from which countries this policy was borrowed, the fact is that other
countries had gone ahead of Mozambique in this regard. In fact, countries such as
Malawi and Ethiopia started in 1994, and for the second time Kenya in 2003 and
Ghana in 2004 (World Bank 2009). This precedence and concomitance in abolishing
school fees suggests that the policy was not entirely home-born, but was a result of
influences if not directly from country to country then through one of the donors invol-
16 Chissale & Cross
ved in such reforms, namely the World Bank.
In Mozambique, one of the ways in which schools could recoup revenues from
abolished fees was via a small fund that was introduced for each primary school, the
Direct School Support (DSS) programme (Lobo 2010). This intervention makes the
process of fees abolition somewhat peculiar to Mozambique, seen against the wave of
fees abolition in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, as Takala (2008) suggests, institu-
tional capacity was noted as a weak aspect in the process of decentralising the use of
external funds. Other views suggest that the inability of the education sector to absorb
external funds was due to a major difficulty in complying with FTI conditionalities and
procurement regulations of the donors (Lobo 2010). This point is important in the
sense that conditionalities seem to have had two hands: one to give and the other to
take back what was given. Within the current EFA-FTI framework, the country is
more likely not to meet the intended goals.
The underlying concerns with the abolition of primary school fees seem to be cost-
saving and the efficiency of the education system. Increased enrolment rates pose the
challenge of throughput and completion. This challenge has resulted in a number of
related issues such as the restriction of decision-making at school level, the con-
comitant increased upward (to government) and downward (to local stakeholders)
accountability for school financial matters, and automatic progression. This last issue
seems to have led to artificial pass rates, as teachers are very often under pressure to
produce high pass rates (Duarte et al. 2012: 93), which jeopardises the quality of
primary school graduates and, indeed, EFA goals.
The price of decentralisation
The allocation of funds to schools to compensate for revenues lost owing to the
abolition of fees required a transfer of financial management responsibilities to the
district and school levels. Following specific regulations, schools are expected to use
the Direct School Support funds to purchase materials mainly for orphans and
disadvantaged girls and for the improved functioning of the school, among other
things. A further effect of this move was to strengthen management capacity in
schools and to make them accountable to school councils at the local level. On the basis
of the 2012-2016 education strategy, it is expected that an additional fund might be
payable, based on each school’s performance according to defined indicators (MINED
2012: 70). Clearly, school performance depends on school management, which does not
provide equal access to the additional fund, even if schools have similar needs.
However, this level of decentralisation does not offer sufficient autonomy for schools to
make decisions in terms of key issues such as teacher recruitment according to the
needs of the school. Teacher recruitment is decided at the ministerial level with
reference to the government’s budget for the public sector as a whole. In fact, if teacher
recruitment is subject to the government’s central budget, it follows that, within the
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 17
EFA-FTI education funding framework, the recruitment of ‘new teachers at a rate of
10 thousand per annum, in line with targets set in [PRSP] II’ (UNDP 2008: 23) is
subject to the overall WB macro-economic stabilisation measures.
A problem with this targeted number of new teachers per annum is the need to
improve working conditions, at least in terms of salaries. In response to this challenge,
Lobo (2010: 5) argues that ‘the [education] sector spends more easily when paying
salaries using its own internal funds than in investment due to the capacity to
implement procurement regulations and donor process conditionalities’. If teachers
are paid from internal funds, improving their salary conditions may not be an easy
exercise for the government, owing to its commitments to the WB and the IMF’s
overall economic stabilisation measures at the macro-economic level.
An advantage of this process of primary school decentralisation is that it provides
some degree of autonomy and stimulates local initiative and efficiency. However,
schools have no say in the appointment of teachers, beyond reporting their needs. In
this sense, the question of decentralisation is not a simple one, since there are
instances in which a strong government presence may be required. In the particular
case of Mozambique, the degree of decentralisation and the question of what to
decentralise should also be viewed against a legacy of bureaucratic, political and
Private education, public-private partnerships and privatisation
The UNESCO outline for the 2015 Global Monitoring Report advocates the diversi-
fication of funding sources in the post-2015 global education framework (UNESCO
2014a). In Mozambique, the private sector has been called on to provide education
since the liberalisation of the education system in the early 1990s. This offered a
unique opportunity for missionary societies to reclaim their schools, which had been
nationalised under the socialist regime. The general tendency of private education in
Mozambique is that private schools are proliferating more at secondary education
level than at primary level, and more in urban than in rural areas, probably owing to
the geographic concentration of affluent families and middle- to high-income
Unfortunately, data on private education in Mozambique is more consistently
available for higher education than for primary and secondary education (Brouwer et
al. 2010). Nevertheless, the number of private schools at primary level has increased
over the years. By 2009 ‘approximately 2,3 percent of EP1 and 4,2 percent of EP2
schools’ were private (World Bank 2009: 220). Three years later, it was estimated that
around 95% of primary school enrolments were in public schools, which means that
private primary schools constituted 5% of enrolments (Fox, Santibañez, Nguyen and
André 2012: 4).
Although private education was introduced within the context of broader economic
18 Chissale & Cross
liberalisation, recent developments have entailed new forms of privatising education.
The latest education strategy for 2012-2016 encourages public-private partnerships
(PPPs) in financing and providing education (MINED 2012) as a way of responding to
the growing demand for education that exceeds what public education is able to
adequately address. Recent moves have attempted to establish further partnerships
with the private sector to provide education over and above the construction of schools,
supply of furniture and provision of bursaries (MINED 2012). However, it appears
that so far the idea of PPPs in Mozambique remains at the level of a statement of
intent. No concrete efforts have taken place in this regard. In fact, a WB study
(Patrinos, Barrera-Osorio and Guáqueta 2009) advocates PPPs in education, arguing
that, in respect of both quality and access, private education has proved to make a
significant contribution. The assumption is that both private education and PPPs
would open more opportunities for education access. However, critical voices such as
Ron-Balsera and Marphatia (2012: 218) have argued that PPP in education can
actually aggravate inequalities and that the fact that dozens of millions of children are
still out of school is a reminder of the need to ‘strengthen state systems and increase
resources for public education rather than seek a substitute in private provision’.
Vocationalising the curriculum for entrepreneurship
Many countries have been led to reform their education systems based on EFA
assumptions regarding the function of education in enhancing economic growth,
increasing employment and reducing poverty (UNESCO 2000). Mozambique followed
this trend by making the curriculum at both primary and secondary levels more
relevant to the market through vocationalised curriculum components (INDE/MINED
2003: 7; MEC/INDE 2007: 27). At the primary school level, the subject of crafts was
introduced so that ‘pupils are minimally prepared to face challenges in life and acquire
a basis for learning crafts which would make them capable of responding to the labour
market’ (INDE/MINED 2003: 39). This move is both innovative, in the sense that it
brings a new dimension to primary education, and contradictory, because it goes
against other approaches to childhood education contained in EFA goals. In fact, the
suggestion that Grade 7 children should be able ‘to respond to the labour market’
seems to be contrary to UNESCO’s plea that ‘child labour must not stand in the way of
education’ (UNESCO 2000: 15). If 12-year-old children are expected to do something in
the labour market, how can we expect that they proceed to secondary schooling? Our
contention in this regard is that vocationalisation remains a narrow approach to skills
development and a serious diversion from the provision of solid general education
required at primary and secondary levels; it is not at these levels that the emphasis
should be placed on preparing students for the labour market.
Education beyond 2015
With these strategies for financing education in mind, we now turn to a number of
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 19
aspects that have implications for education development after the 2015 targets. Our
analysis of travelling policies focused on aspects of financing education, namely the
abolition of primary school fees and the consequent decentralisation of financial
management to the school level, and privatisation of education, all of which are
allegedly intended to increase children’s access to education. However, these
strategies, along with vocationalisation moves, reveal some tensions in the education
development process that are worth considering.
If the abolition of fees at primary school level should be hailed for benefiting the most
disadvantaged children by enabling them to attend school, its shortfalls are that the
emergence of a managerial culture at school level, assessable through performance
indicators (e.g. pass rates and automatic progression), relegates teachers to mere
managers rather than educators. This raises the question of the place of teacher
professional identity in an increasingly performative culture. Ball’s (2003) view is that
performativity and other policy technologies such as market and managerialism are
not only about reforming schools as organisations; they are also about changing
teachers themselves, their social identity and how they relate to themselves and to
others. More specifically, if teachers are ‘reformed’ according to performativity as ‘a
technology, a culture and a mode of regulation that employs judgements, comparisons
and displays as means of incentive, control, attrition and change – based on rewards
and sanctions’ (Ball 2003: 216), in the long run a cycle will be opened that privileges
the best and neglects those that need more support.
The increasing number of private education providers at secondary level points to the
issue of unequal access in the sense that the ‘education as a service’ models that the
private sector is being called upon to provide overlook the fact that the social and
material conditions of the majority of households are such that they are far from able
to afford private education. Evidence from various developing countries combined
with a case study in India suggests that even low-fee private education is not only not
affordable for poor households, but also, as a consequence, increases social inequal-
ities (Härmä and Rose 2012). Promoting private education as an alternative delegates
state responsibility for providing education as a public good into the hands of the
private sector/business. Finally, the vocationalisation of both primary and secondary
schooling sends an ill-advised signal to graduates that they will be able to access the
labour market because of the skills imparted through the curriculum. Not only may
such skills be inadequate in enabling graduates to enter the labour market
successfully, but they may also be misaligned with opportunities available in the
labour market. It has been argued that very often graduates do not find employment
related to what they learned from the curriculum not only because ‘aligning
educational programmes and employment requirements is difficult’ but also because
in most cases vocationalised education ‘has effectively separated work preparation
from work itself’ (Grubb and Lazerson 2009: 1797). Furthermore, even if the acquired
skills were sufficient, the logic of the labour market contrived by socialist and tradit-
20 Chissale & Cross
ional legacies (e.g. peasant subsistence production) is structured to absorb as little
human capital as possible.
A particular dimension of these tensions is that, despite any attempt at appropriation
and adaptation, travelling policies are not aligned with the current socio-economic
reality of the country. Rather, they seem to play a legitimising role for other policies
(Halpin and Troyna 1995); they reflect the battle to modernise the economy, to make it
competitive and productive through education. A second important dimension to
consider is that because these policies legitimise the neoliberal economic project, they
aggravate social inequalities and stratification as well as the divide between rural and
urban in terms of access to education.
We argue that a combination of policies based on neoliberal principles of privatisation,
rewards based on performativity (additional funding for best-performing schools) and
labour-market demands (vocationalisation) do not offer a sound basis for addressing
the question of education access in Mozambique. Privatisation in particular is rapidly
extending the boundaries of social stratification. This is more the case of urban areas
where the emerging middle class tends to choose private schools perceived as offering
better education than public schools. Privatisation policies have not only changed the
balance between public and private education, but also increased school segregation
(Bonal 2002), as is the case in Chile (McEwan, Urquiola and Vegas 2008). The Chilean
case makes it plausible to argue that ‘what should be clear is that user-fee and other
cost-recovery policies for primary education have been very harmful to equity, have
not improved quality or efficiency significantly, if at all, and have been inimical to the
attainment of EFA and the MDGs’ (Klees 2008: 315).
The crisis of the socialist regime warranted an alternative to the former Mozambican
development strategy, particularly with regard to the country’s education system. The
situation was aggravated when neoliberal macro-economic strategies were embraced
as the only alternative to socialist regimes. The adoption of EFA and the MDGs offered
an opportunity for key international development agencies such as the World Bank
and the IMF to intervene and attach their education financing policies to development
strategies, informed by their practices elsewhere in the world. This is illustrated in
Mozambique, for example, by the emergence of SAPs and PRSPs.
We have argued that this attachment of education financing policies to development
strategies without proper re-contextualisation has diverted the path of education
development as envisaged by EFA and the MDGs. This is because, on the one hand,
economic investment has been privileged at the expense of social sectors, particularly
education and health, and, on the other hand, economic problems are considered to
find a solution in education by vocationalising the curriculum and leaning general
education towards entrepreneurship and the labour market. According to this logic,
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 21
the foregrounding of performance has driven the authorities in the country to specific
education funding strategies such as privatisation, decentralisation and, more
recently, the call for PPPs. A consequence of this logic is the deepening of stratifi-
cation, inequality and the urban-rural divide, which in turn has compromised the
achievement of EFA and the MDGs and poses serious challenges for post-2015
educational development in Mozambique.
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Notes on the authors
Adelino Chissale taught at Tete Secondary School for two years and, after obtaining an MPhil in
education at the University of Queensland, he lectured educational studies at a local university
in Mozambique. He is currently studying towards a PhD degree in the Faculty of Education,
University of Johannesburg. He is looking at how secondary school students constitute their
subjectivities as graduates-to-be under discourses on entrepreneurship. The study explores
social and cultural discursive practices in the process of subjectivity constitution and how
general school students intersect their family experiences on entrepreneurship with school
learning on entrepreneurship to constitute their future entrepreneurial subjectivities.
Professor Michael Cross began his career as a lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of
the Witwatersrand, in 1986. A respected author and researcher, he is well known for his
expertise in higher education policy issues. He has been awarded teaching and research fellow-
ships in several institutions, including Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern Univer-
sity. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford University, Stockholm University and Jules-Vernes
University in Amiens. He is author and co-author of several books, book chapters and numerous
articles in leading scholarly journals. He has served as an education specialist in several major
national education policy initiatives in South Africa, such as the National Commission on
Higher Education and the Technical Committee on Norms and Standards for Educators. He is
currently teaching courses in educational leadership and policy studies in the Department of
Education and Curriculum Studies of the Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg.
24 Chissale & Cross
Address for correspondence
PO Box 524
Education financing strategies and the neoliberal project in Mozambique 25