On the eve of its independence, Mozambique was among the last of the colonial territories in Africa. After the proclamation of the People’s Republic of Mozambique by the liberation movement FRELIMO (Mozambican Liberation Front) in 1975, it gradually became evident that Mozambique’s new government would follow a socialist path.Footnote 1 However, material and financial resources, as well as qualified national cadres, to contribute to the envisioned post-independence development were scarce.Footnote 2 Popular hopes for economic progress and social advancement were high after independence, and education was politically perceived as the driving force for social and economic progress.Footnote 3 Tragically though, its educational institutions were lacking the skilled personnel required to train Mozambican citizens.Footnote 4 To overcome this educational shortcoming, largely inherited from the colonial era, the FRELIMO government chose to build upon its own experiences in popular education, as initiated during the struggle for independence. Moreover, the government also heavily relied on foreign aid for education, preferentially—but never exclusively—from socialist countries.Footnote 5 Subsequently, socialist aid agencies from all over the world offered to play a role in Mozambique’s educational history as well as in the running of its only institution of higher learning, the Eduardo-Mondlane-University (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane—UEM). Within the socialist bloc, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was one of the major providers of so-called “socialist solidarity” to Mozambique, especially in the arena of education.Footnote 6 Accordingly, numerous East German aid workers took up “solidarity” tasks at the UEM in the 1970s and 1980s.

This chapter seeks to retrace the spirit of “socialist solidarity” in the context of educational aid, dwelling on the historical example of cooperation in higher education between Mozambique and the GDR during the first decades of Mozambican independence. The concept of “socialist solidarity” from the East German perspective was generally “based on solidarity combined with what in official parlance was called cooperation for mutual advantage”Footnote 7 in relation to countries following a socialist path of development. This implied a complex mixture of ideological, economic, and developmentalist goals in GDR–Mozambican cooperation.Footnote 8 Accordingly, educational aid offered to Mozambican partners was of little material benefit to the GDR initially—it was rather meant to foster “an ‘emotional disposition’ towards socialism in general and the GDR in particular”Footnote 9 in Mozambican minds, which in turn was meant to prepare the ground for envisioned economic ties between the two parties. At the same time, solidarity engagement in developing countries played an intriguing role in the GDR’s self-perception as an internationally acknowledged socialist player in the Cold War world, and seemingly contributed to foster a corresponding feeling of pride in GDR citizens, many of whom shared “a strong belief in a more just and equitable world order.”Footnote 10

Although the abovementioned socialist aid endeavors surely marked the post-independence development of education in Mozambique, scientific knowledge about the actual scope and day-to-day practices of Euro-socialist engagement in southern African higher education is still limited. As part of the current research on foreign aid experts and their possible impact on African education, a study conducted by Koch and Weingart was instructive. Yet, Koch and Weingart’s focal interest did not reside in the history of socialist aid endeavors.Footnote 11 This is true for most of the literature reviewed. An inspiring exception is the concept of (post-)socialism as discussed in the field of comparative education, which has been introduced to re-evaluate (post-)socialist educational transfers within the (former) Socialist “Bloc,” and also with reference to Africa.Footnote 12 Recently, a corresponding strand of research has focused on student experience and personal accounts of socialist education, thereby contributing an actor-centered perspective to the (post-)socialist discourse prevalent in history of education and educational sciences (for a detailed case study, see Chapter 8 by Eric Burton in this book).Footnote 13 Moreover, sophisticated historical studies on GDR–Mozambican cooperation in the educational sector do exist, but reviewed studies mostly concentrate on educational aid projects located within the GDR, like the “School of Friendship” (Schule der Freundschaft) in Stassfurt.Footnote 14 For an overview of GDR–Mozambican cooperation and the official motifs of the GDR’s educational aid toward Mozambique, studies by Müller and Döring prove insightful,Footnote 15 as do some studies published in the GDR.Footnote 16 Besides this, publications by former GDR aid workers have been consulted, even though these sources contain rather personal descriptions of work in Mozambique, with only a fraction of publications concentrating on the education sector.Footnote 17

Summing up I would argue that overall visibility appears to lean toward the East German perspective, as a donor country, in research concerned with the GDR’s involvement in Africa. This perspectival imbalance will be perpetuated in this chapter, because the views of donors on development processes in Mozambique seem relatively well documented and accessible for matters of research.Footnote 18 In comparison, the perspectives of Mozambican counterparts, involved in the East German “solidarity” project in Mozambique, are less overtly expressed in the historical documents evaluated. Keeping this in mind, I will try to highlight reciprocal exchanges between Mozambican and East German actors whenever possible.

This case study seeks to contribute to the further exploration of historical trajectories of East German “socialist solidarity” at the UEM. Historical sources for the analysis were collected from archives in Germany (Bundesarchiv, BArch) and Mozambique (Arquivo Histórico de Moçambique, AHM),Footnote 19 as well as from interviews with contemporaries from the former GDR and Mozambique.Footnote 20 In the following sections I will first examine the relevance of “socialist solidarity” for educational cooperation between East Germany and Mozambique. Second, I will summarize FRELIMO’S vision of the post-independence development in higher education, and then contrast it by reviewing the GDR’s educational aid agenda for higher education in Mozambique. Third, I will retrace the everyday practices of GDR teaching staff at the UEM by offering micro-insights into their work. Finally, I will draw conclusions on East German “solidarity” engagement in Mozambique’s higher education sector, relying on the empirical material presented in the chapter.

How Does “Socialist Solidarity” Integrate into the Mozambican History of Education?

To evaluate the aid provided by the GDR to Mozambique it is useful to assess the notion of “solidarity” inherent in the East German concept of aid.Footnote 21 In general terms, the East German aid provided to developing countries was related to the concept of “antiimperialist solidarity,” and was formally defined in opposition to the non-socialist concept of “development aid,” current in the Western world.Footnote 22 From the GDR’s point of view, Western aid endeavors resembled international dominance between the wealthy and industrialized countries in the North and West and the poorer, less developed countries of the Southern Hemisphere, ultimately leading to new dependencies on capitalist goods and services (imperialism), and not to independent (socialist) development.Footnote 23 Accordingly, GDR officials were keen to emphasize the concept of “mutual benefit” and “socialist solidarity” in reference to foreign trade relations, rather than highlight economic motifs.Footnote 24 Moreover, the GDR was offering a range of partly cost-free education and training programs to socialist-orientated partners in the framework of “solidarity,” both in the GDR and befriended developing countries.Footnote 25 For the most part however, both variants of aid pursued goals linked to the modernization of recipient countries, and almost unanimously, in most African countries, promises connected to (European) modernity were integrated into the overall imaginary of post-independence development by local governments.Footnote 26

While belief in progress was true for both capitalist- and socialist-aligned countries in Africa, a set of designated features characterized socialist-orientated states. Extended discussions on the scope of socialist development and modernity in Africa have been conducted elsewhere.Footnote 27 Therefore, for our context a brief summary of the Mozambican vision of socialist modernity shall be sufficient: “FRELIMO opted for a modernization project that entailed mechanization of farming, collectivization of peasant production through communal villages (aldeias communais), spread of industries and an expansion of the commercial network in the countryside. The success of such project, it was argued, depended on universal literacy. Literacy campaigns were undertaken at the national level with a great deal of enthusiasm.”Footnote 28 Such enthusiastic development plans, however, were affected by exigencies of the “transition state”Footnote 29 in the aftermath of colonialism, and correspondingly the burden to deal with colonial legacies in education was a major challenge for most new governments across Africa. In dealing with this burden, African governments often chose to link development plans to school expansion plans in the transitional phase following independence. This was especially true for governments that opted for socialism: “The revolutionary state generally makes mass basic education its first priority because those peasants and workers and their children who have been denied access to such schooling are potentially the most important supporters of transition reforms.”Footnote 30 But simultaneously, state bureaucracy and economy registered a high demand for qualified cadres, so that higher and technical education became equally crucial for socialist development policies, since skilled personnel were “more directly related to capital accumulation and filling short-term needs for administrative cadres.”Footnote 31 The balancing act between educational expansions at different levels was momentous for Mozambique’s post-independence development—actually this quest has not lost its relevance in present-day Mozambique.Footnote 32

Another feature in Frelimo’s strategy of coping with its past in terms of education, was its wish to overcome certain traditions—those stemming from its colonial past as well as other certain African traditions. In this context, Frelimo opted for a modernity-driven discourse that would reflect Euro-socialist societal standards, composed of “‘modern’ norms and values, including the ideal of the nuclear family, monogamy, scientific knowledge, and rationality,”Footnote 33 in a somewhat idealized manner. In accordance with this, from the point of view of a (Swedish) foreign aid agency, the Mozambican education sector in the 1980s was described as “a ‘modern’, job-intensive sector, which provides employment for thousands of teachers, administrators and subsidiary personnel of all kinds.”Footnote 34 In how far this post-independence development in education was triggered by foreign-induced impulses, stemming from “socialist solidarity,” shall be discussed in the following text.

While the Mozambican government was struggling to redesign the post-colonial state apparatus and the social system, the wider context of the Cold War gained relevance to the local context. Referring explicitly to higher education, Katsakioris highlights that “with decolonialization, higher education became one of the most important issues in the international culture politics of the global Cold War.”Footnote 35 In their competition for “soft” or cultural influence on the African continent, educational actors and agencies of both ideological camps agitated in the field of African education and interfered in local development discourses.Footnote 36 In this framework, and with the explicit intent to support socialist development in Mozambique, the GDR delivered “solidarity” services to the Mozambican education sector in the 1970s and 1980s, ranging from the printing of schoolbooks to the training of Mozambican cadres in GDR institutions. Such services were embedded in bilateral agreementsFootnote 37 and included sending GDR cadres to Mozambique where they worked as educational advisors for the Ministry of Education, as schoolteachers, curriculum planners, or lecturers at university.Footnote 38 For the higher education sector, estimations suggest that about 115 lecturers from the GDR alone worked at the UEM during the period between 1976 and 1989,Footnote 39 while many other socialist cooperantesFootnote 40 from the East and West collaborated.

Mozambican Ideas for Post-Independence Development in Higher Education

The vision of development through education that the FRELIMO government chose to pursue was deeply intertwined with the country’s colonial past. Considering that at the time of independence more than 90% of the Mozambican population were illiterate,Footnote 41 educational policy primarily concentrated on countrywide literacy campaigns for children and adults to address the overwhelming patterns of exclusion inherited from the colonial education system.Footnote 42 With regard to under-representation in higher education, it might be helpful to note that, although in 1970 about 98% of Mozambique’s population were of African origin,Footnote 43 by 1975 only 1–2% of university students were African.Footnote 44 Such figures illustrate the unequal access to higher education that existed during the colonial period, resulting in a severe lack of academically and technically qualified Mozambican cadres. In addition, the colonial administration and economy had heavily relied on Portuguese and immigrant personnel to fulfil leadership positions. This meant that the FRELIMO government inherited a state apparatus with mostly underqualified Mozambican cadres in 1975. Furthermore, by 1976 about 200,000–250,000 Portuguese citizens left the country, resulting in a dramatic loss of expertise and technical knowledge in the young nation state’s administration and economy.Footnote 45 Consequently, the lack of local clerks and functionaries became a major problem facing the state-building process after independence, and a key obstacle to the prosperous development envisioned by FRELIMO.

In response to this twofold colonial legacy, FRELIMO’s priority was the education of a national intelligentsia, alongside the general goal of introducing education for all.Footnote 46 Education was perceived as a prerequisite to securing national independence; this somewhat heroic stance on education was vividly demonstrated in slogans like “study, combat, produce!”Footnote 47 Unfortunately, FRELIMO had to build up its leadership cadres and “prepare the ‘working class for the control of the economy’ […] without an adequate social base,”Footnote 48 while facing a serious lack of financial resources. In such a situation, FRELIMO resolved to rely on the experience it gained during its struggle for independence from Portugal (1964–1974), during which, the areas under its control (zonas libertadas) successfully introduced an embryonic education system for liberation fighters and their children.Footnote 49 Besides this experience for self-relianceFootnote 50 in education, FRELIMO relied on educational aid from socialist states, as well as from supporting actors from around the non-socialist world, to realize its educational goals.Footnote 51

Gradually, nationwide educational policies were introduced by the FRELIMO government, starting with the nationalization of all educational institutions as decreed in September 1975, and followed by the foundation of the Mozambican Education Ministry (MEC), which started to function in February 1976.Footnote 52 In May 1976, the country’s only institution of higher learning was renamed Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), after the founding member and first president of FRELIMO.Footnote 53 A year later, the decision for socialism as a state ideology was officially confirmed during the III FRELIMO Congress, during which FRELIMO turned from a liberation movement into a “vanguard party” (called the Frelimo Party) with a Marxist–Leninist political orientation.Footnote 54 As a consequence of the congress of 1977, “Education for Socialism”Footnote 55 became the leitmotif in the following orchestration of educational policies. Nevertheless, in 1979 the majority of students in most UEM faculties still originated from middle-class backgroundsFootnote 56; in the mid-1980s only about 11% of university students were from families with worker–peasant backgrounds.Footnote 57 These statistics did not fit the socialist outlook of the university as planned by the Frelimo Party, because it was doubted that middle-class members would support Frelimo’s path of socialist development. To counteract trends labeled as “petit bourgeois” at the UEM, Frelimo introduced regulations favoring students with worker–peasant backgrounds for entry to university, hoping that they would naturally align themselves with the socialist project.Footnote 58 Thus, the educational goals set by Frelimo involved “an education system to cater for workers and their children at all levels, the development of an education system at the service of society […], and the breakdown of the barriers between theory and practice or study and production.”Footnote 59 These post-independence socialist goals were integrated into the first Mozambican national education system (Sistema Nacional de Educação, SNE), which only came into effect in 1983.Footnote 60

In the field of higher education, the SNE regulated that the UEM should, first and foremost, educate scientific and technical cadres to meet the demands of the state, economy, and society. The teaching conducted at the UEM was meant to contribute to the overall (socialist) development of the country, by providing politically, culturally, and not least ideologically educated graduates. Furthermore, Frelimo’s development goals did materialize in the organizational structure of the UEM when, for instance, two new faculties were created: one exclusively devoted to the new state ideology of Marxism–Leninism, and another meant for the explicit qualification of adult students with worker–peasant backgrounds. Curiously, from 1983 onward, this later faculty was also in charge of training former FRELIMO fighters and experienced workers (worker students), who actually did not have an adequate educational background for entry to university.Footnote 61 Another such exception was made for students applying for minor teacher-training courses at the Faculty of Education, where nine years of prior schooling was accepted as a pre-requisite to university entry.Footnote 62 Despite offensives to promote university access, graduate numbers stagnated, while the demand for national and loyal cadres in state apparatus and state enterprises remained high throughout the post-independence period.Footnote 63

Ironically enough, while the UEM was responsible for educating university-trained personnel, the university itself suffered from a severe lack of academic staff. To enhance national university staff qualifications, a practice of “training on the job” became widespread at the UEM; Mozambican assistants, so-called monitores, were included within the teaching staff. Such monitores were mostly undergraduate students of Mozambican origin, who were already delivering lectures to younger fellow students and assisting regular—mostly foreign—lecturers at the UEM.Footnote 64 In that light, the massive employment of foreign advisors and teaching staff served first as a relief mechanism to keep the university functioning, and second, contributed to the training of local UEM staff. This was especially true for the ad hoc qualification of national cadres, as exemplified in the case of Mozambican monitores. Nevertheless, by 1980 this employment policy led to a situation in which 79% of the teaching staff employed at the UEM were of foreign origin.Footnote 65 We will later see that the recruitment of foreign cooperators “had serious political and pedagogical implications”Footnote 66 for the whole education sector. Still, a partial success in the “Mozambicanization” process of UEM structures was reported by East German cooperators in 1981, when leadership of three university faculties was handed over to Mozambican cadres.Footnote 67 Details in East German reports reveal that the cooperators were well aware of their “mission” to improve the level of qualification of Mozambican staff; such reports also hint that East German cooperators perceived themselves as supportive colleagues at the UEM.

East German Involvement in Mozambique’s (Socialist) Development and International Cooperation in Higher Education

While exerting their “socialist solidarity” duties on campus, East German lecturers were formally embedded in a wider system of bilateral cooperation. Notably, educational cooperation between Mozambican and East German protagonists began during the struggle for liberation, namely in a FRELIMO school based in Tanzania set up by Mozambican exiles in 1967.Footnote 68 Before that, FRELIMO President Mondlane visited the GDR in 1966,Footnote 69 looking for support for Mozambican liberation.Footnote 70 FRELIMO was not yet a political party, but an anticolonial movement, therefore, an intergovernmental basis for regulating services of “socialist solidarity” was temporarily missing. Nevertheless, on behalf of GDR’s “Solidarity Committee” (Solidaritätskomitee) a handful of GDR teachers and educational advisers were sent to Tanzania, and later to the “liberated zones” in northern Mozambique, to support FRELIMO’s educational programs prior to independence.Footnote 71 Interestingly, at that time knowledge about Mozambique and the liberation movement FRELIMO was very limited in the GDR, illustrated by the East German authorities’ uncertainty about Portuguese as lingua franca within FRELIMO.Footnote 72 The first GDR “expert” sent to a FRELIMO-run school,Footnote 73 for instance, only spoke English. As no suitable Portuguese language course was available in the GDR, he brought a Spanish dictionary with him to improvise communication. Official instructions concerning the mission of GDR cooperators in FRELIMO-run schools appeared to be rather vague during that period.Footnote 74 This initial situation changed over time and Mozambique became a priority in the framework of the GDR’s solidarity engagement in Africa, and educational aid came to play a major role within the concept of “socialist solidarity” for the young People’s Republic.Footnote 75 In the field of higher education, at times, up to 42 GDR cooperators were simultaneously working at the UEM, distributed among all twelve faculties.Footnote 76

Concerning the practice of recruiting at the UEM, it is relevant to mention that the GDR sent advisors and lecturers only on the request of its Mozambican counterparts. East German cooperators were then contracted to carry out specific tasks that were defined by the Frelimo government.Footnote 77 One such project was the creation of a special “workers’ faculty” at the UEM.Footnote 78 Although the creation of this faculty represented a comparatively small part in the overall scope of responsibilities carried out by GDR cooperators at the UEM, its founding process may serve as an interesting example of the practice of international cooperation at the university. To begin with, the requested faculty was supposed to take in adult students from the working class at pre-university level and prepare them in an accelerated manner for entry to university.Footnote 79 Comparable institutions called “worker–peasant faculties” existed in East German universities until 1963,Footnote 80 and cooperators from the GDR brought with them their own ideas about how a similar faculty could be implemented into the Mozambican context.Footnote 81 The actual founding process of the Mozambican “workers’ faculty” lasted from 1979 to its opening in 1983 and personnel from Mozambique, the GDR, as well as Portugal and Chile were prominently involved in the conception of the faculty throughout the process. Although possible “role model” institutions existed in the GDR—and other socialist countries, such as Cuba or the Soviet Union—cooperators in charge remained reluctant to push through homegrown concepts where they considered them unsuitable. Final decision-making power on the design of a “workers’ faculty” at the UEM resided with Mozambican actors, that is, the Frelimo Party.Footnote 82 As a result, a rather Mozambican version of a “workers’ faculty” was established and fittingly named the “Faculty for Former Combatants and Vanguard Workers,” because former liberation fighters constituted one of its target groups. The formation process of this “workers’ faculty” exemplifies that educational transfers from abroad did not work in one direction only at the UEM, and that foreign cooperators were not always able or willing to assert their homegrown models within the framework of multinational cooperation.Footnote 83

East German Advisers at the UEM and Internationalist Practices “on the Ground”

The everyday work of East German cooperators at the UEM will be depicted in the following sections of this chapter mainly through examples from three university departments, namely the Faculty of Education (Teacher Training Faculty), the Faculty of Marxism–Leninism, and the Faculty for Former Combatants and Vanguard Workers.Footnote 84 The findings collected indicate that “socialist solidarity” at the UEM was accompanied by intercultural misunderstandings and ideological differences. But, besides these rather negative aspects of international cooperation, the remarkable motivation of GDR staff “to make things work” was noticeable.

Intercultural Encounters

In relation to their Mozambican partners, interviews and memoirs produced by GDR cooperators point toward a relative openness for intercultural learning. But GDR cooperators also had to deal with partners from non-socialist countries, and many GDR cooperators encountered some—more or less harsh—diversity shocks during their mission at the UEM. In 1981, for example, the Faculty of Education had “a very international teaching staff with lecturers from socialist countries (USSR, GDR, Cuba, Bulgaria), approx. 26 lecturers from non-socialist countries, and 8 Mozambicans.”Footnote 85 In face of this situation most GDR cooperators kept a critical distance to their colleagues from non-socialist countries, even though many of them had left-wing views. Apparently, the left-wing background of people from non-socialist countries was quite different from the experience of state socialism that was familiar to GDR citizens. In official reports, “Western” socialists were sometimes labeled as “left-wing extremists” by GDR cooperators.Footnote 86 Nevertheless, GDR cooperators embraced the possibilities of observing the unknown “other” and, in some cases, even chose to befriend some of their left-wing colleagues from the “West.”Footnote 87

An anecdote from the Faculty of Combatants seems telling in the context of diversity at the UEM. The pedagogical director of that faculty was a communist Chilean and generally recognized for his expertise in the field of adult education. He was described as a person who had a very positive influence on the students within the faculty, but due to his spontaneity, used to come up with new pedagogical concepts once in a while.Footnote 88 His East German colleague, on the other hand, was respected for this systematic working routine and his well-planned course of action. The collaboration of both characters within the international team of the faculty thus lead to frequent quarrels, and to amusement on the side of their Mozambican supervisor: “Jorge and Hans were always discussing with each other, all the time, all the time, all the time. Hans was very German, and Jorge was very Latin … [laughs] so Hans was very organized, and Jorge had a new idea every day. And Hans did not really like new ideas on a daily basis. [laughs] He preferred to bring things to an end. So both of them had [intercultural, AP] shocks, but these were friendly shocks. They hang out together from the beginning until the end [of the project, AP] … And the Russians were kind of Latin, as well. The Bulgarians, too” [all names changed in this quote].Footnote 89 Interestingly, both the Mozambican and GDR staff of this faculty partly disapproved of the leadership qualities of their Chilean colleague. But at the same time, all of them respected most of his pedagogical attitudes and teaching methods, which they perceived as being innovative and having a positive effect on students.Footnote 90

Ideological Disputes

The relative diversity of ideas at the UEM resulted in an, at times, ideologically contested campus. Ideological differences between Frelimo functionaries, socialist cooperators, and personnel from non-socialist countries caused sophisticated quarrels between colleagues.Footnote 91 Such ideological disputes between members of the teaching staff took place on occasion, but they persisted in the Faculty of Marxism–Leninism (ML). The Faculty of ML came into existence in March 1981 and was directly subordinated to Frelimo, whereas all other faculties were affiliated to the rectorate of the UEM. By June 1981, a Frelimo group started to work on a new concept for teaching ML without consulting the international staff of that faculty.Footnote 92 Although GDR and Soviet teachers insisted on their interpretation of ML and tried to instill “correct” interpretations of ML philosophy into their fellow lecturers and students, their overall mission failed dramatically. Students used to mock dogmatic interpretations of ML and humorously renamed the subjects historical materialism and dialectical materialism into “hysteric and diabolic materialism.”Footnote 93 One Mozambican staff member mockingly compared the quality of ML teaching, concluding that “a Canadian lecturer and an East German lecturer certainly do not teach in the same way.”Footnote 94 Finally, in 1985, the rector asked GDR staff to make some alterations to their highly theoretical mode of teaching. To sum up, GDR lecturers of ML were openly criticized for their lack of flexibility in the application of ML to the Mozambican context. Furthermore, their focus on theory seemed unsuitable in terms of meeting the country’s demand for practical answers.Footnote 95 Consequently, events at the Faculty of ML fostered a rather negative perception of GDR lecturers in the field of political and ideological education, and obligatory training in ML was abolished at the UEM.Footnote 96

Dialogue and Cooperative Attitude

Besides their inefficient ideological endeavors at the UEM, the GDR staff were largely respected for their professional knowledge in other fields, and their cooperative behavior in most aspects of collaboration was perceived well by their Mozambican partners.Footnote 97 GDR cooperators usually looked to Frelimo’s educational guidelines for pedagogical orientation, and a corresponding mode of conduct was officially promoted by the GDR ministries of education (MHF and MfV) when sending staff to the UEM. GDR advisors working at the Faculty of Education, for instance, were instructed “not to copy GDR-plans” and to rather do the “necessary and right” according to Mozambican conditions.Footnote 98 Bearing this in mind, GDR cooperators at the UEM proved quite open to acquiring new teaching skills proposed by their Mozambican counterparts or—in some cases—by their international colleagues.Footnote 99 Beyond this, more pragmatic factors may also have played a part in the cooperative behavior of GDR staff. Documents indicate that GDR teaching staff were not always sufficiently prepared to meet the Mozambican realities on the ground, consequently, newly arrived GDR cooperators may have been more amenable to follow Frelimo guidelines.Footnote 100 In addition, experienced GDR staff members were reportedly keen to maintain a high level of recognition both at the UEMFootnote 101 and in relation to the Frelimo Party. Therefore, experienced staff members made some effort to effectively integrate new GDR cadres, in order to prevent losses in working standards.Footnote 102

Available sources reveal a mixed view of GDR cooperators at the UEM. Retrospectively, former GDR cooperators mostly picture rather positive images of their encounters with Mozambican partners.Footnote 103 Considering the GDR perspective, “Cooperantes da RDA” (cooperators from the GDR) were perceived as “comrades” and accordingly treated in a friendly manner.Footnote 104 This affirmative view on “socialist solidarity” is congruent with the views expressed by Mozambican counterparts for the most part.Footnote 105 But with reference to ideological divergences, Mozambican contemporaries were very explicit when describing the problems encountered at the faculty of Marxism-Leninism as “wars between socialist countries.”Footnote 106 Therefore, one can conclude that in terms of organizational tasks and teaching practices “socialist solidarity” worked well at UEM. However, in the field of ideology some major differences between international cadres prevented such a cooperative attitude.

Wind of Change and the Legacy of “Socialist Solidarity” at the UEM

In the late 1980s, changes in educational policies began to manifest, after the Frelimo government started to implement a program of “structural adjustment” as favored by their financial aid agencies (mainly the World Bank and International Monetary Fund). Under these circumstances, the influence of socialist ideology in the Mozambican education system declined, as did the influence of advisors from the GDR within the framework of the UEM. The East German model of “socialist solidarity” came to an end after the GDR’s reunification with West Germany in 1990.Footnote 107 Two years later, the Frelimo government passed a new law on education, which abstained from socialist goals in education.Footnote 108

Nevertheless, educational projects realized in the framework of “socialist solidarity” seemingly supported a symbolic “Mozambicanization” of the UEM in the aftermath of independence. The history of the Faculty for Former Combatants, for instance, showed that educational ideas “borrowed”Footnote 109 from socialist partners were useful for the consolidation of the new education system (SNE) and, thereby, were conducive to the decolonization process of the newly independent country in a broader sense. This faculty not only successfully promoted the education of former independence fighters within the UEM, but also qualified a certain number of Mozambican cadres to contribute to post-colonial state building, as envisioned by the (then Socialist) Frelimo government. Although the design of the faculty combined different foreign as well as local educational concepts, in the end the integration of them all resulted in an educational institution specific to the Mozambican context. Fittingly, the perception of the Faculty for Combatants as a Mozambican institution was highlighted by a former member of the Frelimo Central Committee (Marcelino dos Santos) when he stressed that within the UEM it was was “truly our faculty.”Footnote 110 Besides this rather symbolic interpretation of the faculty, the gradually rising number of its Mozambican teaching staff was regarded as a “Mozambicanization” process by the East German advisors at the UEM. GDR cooperators were officially instructed to contribute to the long-term “Mozambicanization of the academic staff” at the UEM,Footnote 111 and consequently GDR reports kept track of the proportion of national, in relation to foreign, cadres at the Faculty for Combatants, and regularly delivered statistical data on the faculty’s staff development. Finally, in the 1984/1985 academic year, more “national” (17) than foreign (8) lecturers were reported to be teaching at the faculty. GDR cooperators perceived this parameter as an important contribution to the “Mozambicanization” of the UEM.Footnote 112

The tales of everyday cooperation at the UEM exemplify how different notions of socialist education were—sometimes more and sometimes less successfully—reconciled under the overarching category of “socialist solidarity” in post-independence Mozambique. And interestingly, the overall narrative of “socialist solidarity” at the UEM points to a positive way of remembering by protagonists. This retrospective needs to be completed with further critical insight from the international staff at the UEM. Yet, for the time being, this research indicates that Mozambican counterparts perceived most acts of “socialist solidarity,” delivered by East German cooperators, as rather friendly contributions to Mozambique’s post-independence development.Footnote 113 At the same time, the Frelimo government remained eager to channel various inflows of “socialist solidarity” at the UEM toward the Party’s envisioned development path. East German actors were thus influential in the first decade after the country’s independence when Frelimo favored socialist educational policies. But with the introduction of structural adjustment programs in the late 1980s and, related to this, the country’s gradual shift toward a market-orientated, multi-party democracy, the overall standing of “socialist solidarity” at the UEM declined, with new sources of educational aid gaining importance.Footnote 114


My preliminary conclusion is that while the post-independence period was marked by “socialist solidarity,” and the contribution East German advisors made to the construction of the first Mozambican education system remains recognized, the effects of socialist aid on the development of higher education in Mozambique turned out to be rather sort-lived. It seems that the technical knowledge delivered by East German advisors proved to be more valuable in the long-term, as opposed to their ideological contributions on campus. To sum up, I would argue that Frelimo’s attitude toward “socialist solidarity” in higher education was rather receptive, but selective. Mozambican counterparts did not always embrace East German or other foreign advice unanimously. This perceived selectivity may be illustrated by the following statement of a Mozambican university lecturer, commenting on the practice of accepting foreign aid at the UEM during the post-independence period: “You want to support us? Great! But you don’t want this, you don’t want that … Well, that’s your problem! We will receive your suggestions … But the steering wheel is ours! In this aspect Mozambique has always been very bold.”Footnote 115 I find this self-understanding very telling, and I tend to sympathize with Mingolos’ view in my interpretation of post-independence events at the UEM. Mingolo reminds us to restrain from categorizing post-colonial developments too fast into liberal or socialist developments, and encourages researchers to challenge epistemic patterns of thought related to modernity and developmentalism, since these ideas were crucial for installing the colonial systems at the beginning.Footnote 116 This argument is applicable to the Mozambican case, because socialist and liberal aid agencies alike preached a rather developmentalist discourse in terms of Mozambique’s higher education since independence.