Mozambique: Textbook Scandal - Inde Director Suspended

Maputo — Mozambican Education Minister Carmelita Namashalua confirmed on Thursday that the General Director of the National Institute for the Development of Education (INDE), Ismael Nheze, has been suspended, following the scandal of "unacceptable mistakes" in the sixth grade social science textbook.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to a Maputo primary school, Namashalua said that Nheze was questioned on Wednesday by the Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate the scandal and led by the General Inspectorate of the Public Administration. Apparently, Nheze's answers were unsatisfactory for he was immediately suspended.

In a clear conflict of interest, Nheze also headed the National Commission to Assess School Textbooks, which is supposed to monitor INDE's work. The Commission has now been dissolved.

The scandal also seems to have claimed the scalp of one of the Ministry's spokespersons, Gina Guibunda. Contacted by reporters, Guibunda said she has been put on indeterminate leave, and has been banned from making any statement about matters related with the Ministry.

The sixth grade textbook is being withdrawn, and the original idea of distributing an erratum sheet has been dropped. There are simply too many mistakes in the book for the corrections to fit on one erratum page. No decision has yet been taken on whether to publish a new sixth grade social science book, or how it would be paid for.

There were over 941,000 copies of the book that has now been withdrawn. The current batch of textbooks were published in Portugal by the company Porto Editora and financed by the World Bank. So far, nobody has been able to explain how such blatant mistakes found their way into the book and were not corrected during proofreading.

The worst howlers concern African geography. In a section dealing with pre-colonial states in southern Africa, the book states that Great Zimbabwe was bordered to the north by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. That would put Great Zimbabwe in the Arabian Peninsula, thousands of kilometres from its true location.

It also claimed that Malawi and Zambia are to the south of Zimbabwe, whereas in fact they are to the north.

The editor hired by Porto Editora for the sixth grade social science book is a Mozambican teacher named Firoza Bica. Her name is on the cover, but so far she has said nothing about the scandal - no explanation, no apology, no acceptance of any responsibility.

The problems are not restricted to just one textbook. The Ministry is now investigating every textbook used in Mozambican schools since 2016. Extraordinary mistakes entered the books, including errors in Portuguese and even in mathematics (at one point, the proofreaders let through the claim that the number 10 is equal to five times three).

Perhaps the worst discovery so far is a paragraph in the 10th grade history book which claims that colonial rule in Africa was a progressive development since it supposedly ended ethnic warfare, with Africans becoming European citizens. This fantasy is in a book that has been in use for some years.

The government has given the Commission of Inquiry 15 days to investigate and publish its findings.

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