For the last month or so, Mozambique has been in the process of conducting it’s fourth national census. The census occurs every 10 years, and since the last one in 2007, the population of Mozambique is estimated to have risen by more than 7 million. I remember once as a kid (probably during the 2000 census in America) sitting down with my mom at the kitchen table as she filled out our little census booklet at home. With no real functioning mail system, and the fact that many people cannot read and write, the census here is carried out mostly by teachers, who physically walk from house to house and sit with the families to complete the booklet. Because the primary work force on the ground is teachers, primary and secondary schools have a 5 week break for the census to be carried out. Unfortunately for me, our work here at the IFP is “too important” to stop (direct quote from my co-worker when I asked why we don’t get this break) and I have been stuck at school while pretty much every other education volunteer in Moz has had a 5 week vacation.
This week, the census workers apparently made it to Nakhololo, and were promptly escorted to our house, literally the only house in the entire town that contains non-residents. As we explained to the census worker and the school employee who escorted him to our house that we cannot participate because we are not residents, we were told that a resident is anyone who is residing in Mozambique at the time of the census… making us residents. They also said we would be “setting a good example for the community” by participating in this important event.
We were both in the process of lesson planning and quickly tried to clear a space on our very cluttered table for the census worker. Most of the questions were pretty straight forward such as name, age, race, religion, etc. There were some questions about whether we grow plants, and the worker laughed and surreptitiously marked “no” when I showed him my tiny sprig of a basil plant. There were also questions about how and how often we access the internet, whether we have a bank account, and if we use online banking. All and all, it was a pretty painless process, but was kind of interesting to have the census experience that everyone has been talking about for the last month.