JRS Mozambique to Open Doors of First Early Childhood Education Center

09 February 2024|Chloe Gunther

Bamboo walls go up on new education center.
[The community] sees that we are here to stay, that we listen to them and respond to their concerns,
Helder Macingarela, Acting Project Director for JRS Mozambique

With support from JRS/USA, Helder Macingarela, the Acting Project Director for JRS Mozambique, and his team will soon open JRS Mozambique’s first early childhood education program that will serve displaced children living in their community. “As we speak, our team is securing the bamboo walls, assembling desks, and installing a tank full of clean water,” Helder said.

Since 2017, intense fighting has forced over a million Mozambicans from their homes. The presence of non-state armed groups, extreme weather events, socioeconomic disparities, and cultural tension have all contributed to the growing humanitarian crisis and mass internal displacement.

In 2021, JRS Mozambique performed an initial needs assessment. From that report, they decided to establish an office in the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique. There, in the Maningane Resettlement Area, JRS provided education and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, including makeshift desks and temporary learning spaces for children. The team also held regular meetings with internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host community leaders to check-in about how they were coping with the challenges and stressors of displacement as well as where JRS could accompany them in that process.

As violence grew in severity in 2022, JRS Mozambique conducted another needs assessment to understand how they could most effectively serve the community. They realized that providing temporary learning spaces and the resources for children to attend school would be key. In situations of displacement, children are especially vulnerable. Unfortunately, they often experience and witness multiple human rights infractions including killings, family separation, kidnapping, child recruitment, gender-based violence, loss of education, and insufficient access to basic needs including food, water, and shelter.

To address these challenges, JRS Mozambique is opening an early childhood education center and a multi-purpose community center. “We were effectively starting from scratch,” Helder said. “There are no schools or clinics here for people to use.”

Support from non-governmental organizations and donors in this area has been sporadic and Helder described the instability and disappointment that can create in the community as different organizations quickly come and go. JRS Mozambique knew they needed to make a long-term commitment to not only accompany the IDP and host community, but to ensure that individuals are provided the tools they need to become leaders and pave a path for their own community’s future.

“The Maningane host community and IDP community are happy when they realize that JRS is there to help,” Helder said. “They see that we are here to stay, that we listen to them and respond to their concerns.”

Another integral and practical piece of establishing these two centers in Maningane was ensuring that the learners and community would have regular access to clean water. In 2022, the World Health Organization estimated that only 63 percent of the Mozambican population had access to basic services and 38 percent of the population had access to basic sanitation facilities. This continues to be an area of concern in the Cabo Delgado province.

With support from the JRS/USA Greatest Needs fund, JRS Mozambique secured a water tank, access to clean water, and sanitation stations for the school and multipurpose center. JRS Mozambique is also raising awareness amongst the community regarding hygiene and sanitation practices through information sessions to make sure everyone has accurate and up-to-date knowledge about how to keep themselves and their families safe.

In September 2023, JRS Mozambique recruited teachers for the new education center and, this week, they will register their students. This program stands as a beacon of hope in the region and a real step forward in providing comprehensive services for the community.

If you would like to partner with us in creating more schools and opportunities for people in Cabo Delgado and elsewhere, please consider donating to JRS/USA’s Greatest Needs Fund today.