The Nacala Women’s Polytechnic School, which is run by the Comboni Missionary Sisters, was established about twenty years ago and it has become a reference point in the country. Its goal is to provide Mozambican women with education, a challenge in a country where girls have difficulties in accessing quality education.
The city of Nacala is located in northeastern Mozambique, on the coast of the Indian Ocean, in the province of Nampula. With 165,000 inhabitants, this city is the fourth most populated in the country. Nacala has developed along a 15 kilometre coastline. The construction, in recent years, of a coal terminal and an almost 1,000 kilometre long railway linking the Moatize mines, in western Mozambique, to Nacala, boosted the industrial activities of the city and its port, whose deep waters make the access to large industrial ships possible.
The traffic around the port area is heavy due to the transit of many huge and second-hand trucks that are loaded with coal which is transported from the Moatize mines to the Nacala port by trains of 120 wagons. Besides the coal industry, that of cement and cashew are among the major industries of the city.
The neighbourhood of Ontupaia is located in the central part of the port area, and it is characterized by simple dwellings mainly inhabited by harbour workers, and it is here that the Comboni Missionary Sisters established the Women’s Polytechnic School in 1998. The students attending the school then were only 25; today they are 350, 191 of whom are internal and 159 external students. The school, which is exclusively for girls and is the only girls school in all of Mozambique, mainly offers courses in technical subjects and the teaching staff consists of 21 teachers. The number of applications for admission to the courses have increased over the years, and they are more than the number of places available, which are eighty per year. The technical courses last three years and they are aimed at expanding women’s access to work. The school is currently offering courses in accounting, mathematics, administrative management and several other subjects. The Comboni Missionary Sisters arrived in Mozambique in 1954. There are currently 48 sisters serving in twelve communities throughout the country. The sisters who operate at the Nacala Girls School are six, three Italians, one Ecuadorian, one Ethiopian and one Costa Rican. Sister Maureen Ivana Mora Agüero is the current director of the centre. The six sisters are directly involved in the management of the school and three of them are part of the teaching team along with the twenty one teachers. The three religious teach English, biology, study techniques, social and moral communication and computer science.
The other three sisters are mainly in charge of nursing and domestic work. Despite the fact that the school is grounded in Christian principles, there are several Muslim girls among its students, since the majority of population is Muslim in the region. “The courses we offer – says Sister Maureen Ivana Mora Agüero – are aimed at providing girls with a good theoretical and practical professional preparation so that they can find a job more easily and help their families. The study program at the Girls School includes several subjects such as Portuguese, biology, chemistry, mathematics, typing, agricultural science,computer science and accounting. The latter two – the director of the school stresses – are essential in a reality like the one of the flourishing Nacala port which is evolving rapidly”.