What does it mean to be uneducated? Does it mean to not have a certain level of formal education? I, like other development workers, am quick to say that Mozambicans are uneducated. It’s true that the majority of the population has less than a grade 8 level of education, and even up to that point, what they have received is very poor quality. But one thing I have noticed in Beira is that people read the newspaper. Every morning I see street vendors selling newspapers and often see people standing on sidewalks in the morning with the paper open. We receive Diario de Moçambique in the office, and the majority of our staff reads it by the end of the day. Let me contrast that with a conversation I had at a meeting with some American and European missionaries the other night.
There were four of us sitting around my dining room table planning a special prayer service for the English fellowship for June 8’s International Weekend of Prayer for Needy Children. We were coming up with prayer points for different topics, and I said, “We can pray for all the Zimbabweans in Moz, but we should also definitely be praying for the situation in South Africa.” I expected enthusiastic agreement as it’s so close to home and fit perfectly in the service. Instead I got three blank looks and finally someone said, “What’s happening in South Africa?”
For those of you reading this who are also now looking at the screen blankly and asking the same question, I will give you a little slack since I’m not sure American news, especially during election campaign time, is reporting on the situation there. (Of course I know I have other readers outside the US, but I think the majority are in the US.) A couple weeks ago violence erupted in some of the townships around Johannesburg as South Africans began rioting and attacking foreigners, mainly Zimbabweans who have sought refuge in South Africa from their own political violence in Zimbabwe (and if you don’t know what’s going on in Zimbabwe, shame on you). In these days of violence, at least 50 people had been killed and 25,000 people fled. When Zimbabweans first started migrating to South Africa, they were welcomed with open arms; however, township South Africans are now blaming them for unemployment, accusing foreigners of taking jobs and fuelling crime.
Because Mozambique is so connected to South Africa, it was truly appalling to me that these women, these educated women with radios, internet, and satellite TV, knew nothing of the situation! I must admit, I often miss the news because I don’t have a radio or TV and rarely read the newspaper, but I do have my internet homepage set to bbc.com, and BBC always has good coverage of Africa. However, I also know what’s happening in South Africa because people in my office and in churches are talking about it. Mozambicans know about it because they have friends and family in South Africa and read the newspaper and discuss current events on chapas. For instance, in church yesterday morning when we had a time of intercessory prayer (which really means everyone just starts shouting at God at the same time), the women on either side of me were praying about South Africa.
We can sometimes learn a lot from “uneducated” people.