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From Mozambique to Sydney: escape from the poverty trap



14 March 2013

Mozambican student Emidio Vicente Mavila
Mozambican student Emidio Vicente Mavila

For Emidio Vicente Mavila, a Mozambican student at the University of Sydney, education is the key to lifting himself, his family and his country out of poverty.

The 37-year-old public servant from Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is studying for a Master of Economics on an Australia Award scholarship sponsored by the Australian government. He hopes to gain new skills that will enable him to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment when he returns home.

With 23 siblings, Emidio is the first member of his family to attend university. He says: "I came from a poor family and without the moral support of my mother, I would not have been able to go through university successfully.

"She was illiterate but she was clever enough to recognise the importance of education to a good future. She was right, and I hope I can be a role model to my family and other families in Mozambique."

Emidio says the problems posed by unemployment are especially severe in Africa. "Natural gas and coal mining in Mozambique will sustain the impressive economic growth the country has been witnessing for around 15 years but there are still high levels of poverty," he says. "The mining industry uses a lot of specialised labour and heavy equipment which excludes young people who are physically capable but lack training."

As the general director of the National Institute for Employment and Vocational Training, Emidio hopes to gain the knowledge to shape policies that prioritise youth unemployment and tackle poverty.

"I fell in love with economics as a child," he says. "Economic theory and models can explain why some countries are rich and others poor. I hope to learn these tools so that I can contribute to the challenge of promoting economic growth that brings about a reduction in the level of poverty in Mozambique. It's important to study countries like Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan that were able to lift themselves out of poverty in just a couple of decades."

A Portuguese speaker, Emidio has also improved his language skills in Australia. "Studying here has provided me with an opportunity to improve my English, which is very important because even though I have 15 years of work experience, it has often been a challenge to attend meetings with current and potential foreign partners."

Australia Awards are international scholarships funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of leaders from around the world the opportunity to study, research and undertake professional development in Australia, while high-achieving Australians can do the same overseas.

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