A dream of many years, shared among the few remaining Greeks in Mozambique, has finally been realized, after many decades. The newly established Greek school is operating in the capital, Maputo, since the beginning of January.
The efforts to build the new school, inaugurated on the Three Hierarchs Feast, on the occasion of a school feast organized for that day, began around three years ago, through the appointment of a teacher from Greece, who is teaching the 22 children (aged between 7 to 18 years old) studying in the school, among which two natives and two of Russian descent.
“This is a very special moment for all of us, as our primary goal has been fulfilled. Our children are now being taught in a decent, modern environment, with new desks, autonomous sanitary facilities and air conditioning, a necessity for the conditions here. Suffice it to say that the temperature reached 37 Celsius degrees today and humidity reached 92%”, states the Consul General of Greece in Mozambique, Gerasimos Marketos.
Meanwhile, facilities next to the school have been reformed to a fully equipped apartment, to host detached Greek teachers, appointed on a consistent basis by the Ministry of Education in Greece, since 2008.
“We greatly appreciate the support of Greece in this project, the sacrifice it makes in these bleak economic times, by appointing detached teachers in the faraway place we live in, covering our children’s needs. Therefore, we decided to do something creative, within the misery of our times. We decided to state our presence in a Greek, luminous reality, which will only be achieved if we want it, in spite of the current times and in spite of inactivity. This is what I stressed during the inauguration of our school, thanking all those who contributed in its completion and especially the Foreign Ministry, which through the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, substantially contributed to its realization”, states Mr. Marketos.
The efforts being made by the teacher Lambrini Kolaiti – Anjulet have already been fruitful. In 2010, three of her students excelled in their examinations for the certificate of attainment in Greek, conducted by the famous Greek SAHETI school in Johannesburg.
A hope shared among Greeks of the community, is to also continue the hospitality programes by the GSGA, especially for children, who come back feeling “more Greek”, as Mr. Marketos states. The participation of five students from Mozambique to the 2009 Annual Mathitiada in Serres, was of great importance for the children of the Greek community. There are however, senior members of the Greek community who are destitute and have yet to visit Greece, for over past 30 years.
Among the immediate plans of Greeks in Mozambique, who have very good cooperation with SAE Africa/Middle East Region Coordinator, Harris Gouvelis, also present at the school’s inauguration, is the establishment of a Community and the enlargement of the library.
- From yesterday to today
A once thriving Greek presence in Mozambique, which was comprised of around 2.000 Greeks until 1974, is limited to 70 families today (approximately 150 individuals) in Maputo and three Greeks living in the second largest city, Beira.
The robust presence of Greeks in the years before independence, especially in Maputo, can be witnessed through the infrastructure left by pioneer Greeks, explains Mr. Marketos. The oldest Orthodox Church in Sub- Saharan Africa is the St. Trinity Church, located in the centre of Beira, built in the end of the 19th century by Greek immigrants, who formed their own community. Also, a very large church, compared to the local circumstances, is the church of the Archangels in Maputo center.
For historical purposes, it is worth mentioning that the first and largest community in Mozambique was formed in 1899. Two Greek brothers from the island of Limnos, Panagiotis and Demetrios Paraskevas, are reported as the first Greeks to settle in Beira, who opened a bakery in 1892.
During that period, at the end of the 19th century, a mass immigration of Greek people coming from islands, especially Crete, Kasos and Limnos, is recorded, who mainly worked on the construction of the railway by the Portuguese, which would connect Beira with Solsbury in South Rhodesia. With the completion of works, most of our fellow Greeks remained there and were engaged in commerce and agriculture. A few Greeks became land owners. In 1899, the Greek community of Beira was a fact.
The Greek Community of Maputo was established approximately two decades later, in 1928. It is worth mentioning that the Greek community, which was the second largest, after the Portuguese, had its own school and church. A large and prosperous Greek community was also established in Villa Perry province.
Upon the declaration of independence in 1974, most Greeks abandoned the Mozambique, as there were no prospects for the development of private initiative, notes Mr. Marketos. Among those who departed at that time, was the family of his wife, Maria Markopoulou. Her parents, as many others, settled in Mozambique with the first, large wave of Greek immigrants, after the destruction of Asia Minor. Eventually, Gerasimos and Maria, who had married in Greece, went to the Mozambique in 1994, two years after the peace treaty, which ended the 17 year long civil war.
“We consciously chose with my wife to come to the Mozambique, even though the conditions are not the best for entrepreneurial activities”, states the 40-year old Gerasimos Marketos. Among the most prominent problems, as he reports, is the high illiteracy rate, poverty, high infant mortality rate, etc. Problems our fellow Greeks are concerned with and take action, such as the Patriarchate of Alexandria which upgraded the Diocese in Mozambique. The enthronement of the first bishop of Mozambique, Ioannis, will be held the forthcoming Sunday.
“We are greatly pleased from the decision of our Patriarch, Theodore II, which practically signifies the development of missionary work in this country, of great importance to all the countries of Africa”, notes Mr. Marketos.
He also did not omit to refer to the sincere relations between Greeks in Mozambique and its locals, “who greatly appreciate us, even though we are few”, making special reference to the initiative taken years ago for the provision of scholarships to the people of Mozambique, by the Greek Ministry of Defense. “This is an investment for Greece, as these youths are potential Philhellenes, people who will be in charge of higher positions in Mozambique”, concludes Mr. Marketos.
Source: ANA – MPA