Before 1976, I had paid no attention whatsoever to Mozambique, a country on Africa’s east coast. But that year, Bob Dylan released his song “Mozambique” and I have been captivated by the nation ever since. Traveling there and doing nothing for a time on the beaches in Dylan’s song has been high on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.

Mozambique’s stock is rising. After a long civil war that ended in 1992, the country has stabilized and since 2001, “Mozambique’s annual average GDP growth has been among the world’s highest.” (Wikipedia)

But challenges still exist. Among those challenges are the education of the country’s poorest people for even though basic education is required of all children by law, many families keep their children working to help earn money on which to survive. Until that cycle is broken, Mozambique will never realize its full potential.

About eight months ago, I was contacted by a representative of the Minister of Education in Mozambique’s Nampula province, which is located in the northeast section of the country. Nampula is primarily a farming region – one of those areas in which kids work the fields instead of going to school.

The representative told me that a personal acquaintance of the Minister had been visiting Orange County last year during election season and read some of my ideas about how to improve schools by using proven methods that have yet to be embraced by America’s mainstream education establishment.

The visitor tracked me down and invited me to lunch. That type of thinking, he told me, was exactly what they needed to jump start the education system in Nampula. “We must invest in our children today if we have any hope of creating success for tomorrow,” he said. And he invited me to visit Nampula.

So, last month, I went. During my five days there, I was given the full tour and saw the good, the bad and the ugly, after which, I fell in love. I fell in love with the climate, the people, and the vision. At dinner the night before my departure, I told the Minister how much the country had affected me and how I hated to leave.

“Then why don’t you stay?” he said.

He told me that they needed someone to help them develop a new system of educating the province’s poorest families – particularly the children – and that they needed someone with no political ties and no preconceived ideas of how things must be done.

“We need some new minds here,” he said, “because the old minds think the old ways.” Then he offered me a job as the architect, so to speak, of their education system. And I took it.

By the time you read this today, April 1, I will probably have left via Air Canada and two other airlines you’ve never heard of, making my way to Mozambique’s capitol city of Maputo, then by car to Nampula.

The job doesn’t pay much, but as I was told, it doesn’t take much to live in Mozambique. I once heard that our underpaid national parks rangers “get paid in sunsets” so I am figuring that I will be paid in the smiles of the families who are learning in schools that have yet to be built.

Those of you who know my personal history know that this decision is not as difficult as it would have been a few years ago. In fact, at this point in my life, it’s a no-brainer. And even though I have not yet set foot in my new home, I already feel a revitalization and vigor I have not felt in a very long time.

I’ll be gone at least two years and if things continue as I hope, I may never return.

I’m leaving because I still have one more mountain to climb – the tallest one, in fact. Helping children out of a cycle of poverty – children without the options we have here in America – may be a tall mountain, but as the saying goes, it also has the best view once you reach the top.

This is my final blog post and quite likely the last time you will read anything from or about me. It has been my pleasure to write for you all these years and I wish you much success and happiness.

Steve Smith

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