’Tis the season for the national census. Primary and secondary schools have been given an especially long break between the second and third trimester for this once-in-about-every-ten-years special occasion. As I packed my bags to cumprimentar minha familia in Europe, I didn’t think twice about the census, but the week I got back to Malema, two men in bright yellow t-shirts and matching hats knocked on my quintal door.
“Oh, this is for the census?” I asked, hating myself for saying that after having read their shirts that said in clear bold capital letters: CENSUS 2017- 4th Population and Housing Census of Mozambique. “I’m not sure if I’m allowed to answer though, I’m not Mozambican?” (Clearly…. Eléonore stop stating the obvious.) I could hear the crianças next door giggle.
As the yellow-clad men explained that the census was for every person in Mozambique, I invited them to sit in my bright orange chairs.
“Eleonora van Tulder” I glanced over to see how they spell it. L-i-o-n-o-r-a V-a-n-t-u-t-e-r, close enough.
“Where were you born? City and province please.”
“Nova Yorke…. uhh New York, qualquer” N-e-w I-y-o-r-k, I watch them spell, not working up the courage to correct them.
“Vente e dois”
“Do you live here alone?”
“Yes, makes it easier for the paperwork right?” That got a chuckle as they skiped over the next couple of pages.
“No kids? Aren’t you lonely? You should have a baby in Malema!!” This went on for a while, as it always does… but the next questions are the ones that got more interesting.
“You speak Portuguese, and English right? Mahkuwa? Any other languages” I chuckled as I watched them fill in a blank for French.
“How do you get around, you have a car right?” I chuckled and pointed to my bike, “só isso.”
“Do you use a phone? Computer? M-Pesa?”
M-Pesa is the mobile banking system that started off in Kenya over a decade ago. It is credited as the reason why Africa is known as the leader in mobile banking services, and being able to reduce barriers to situational poverty because of easier access to money when banks and ATMs are not available.
Some of my friends even got asked whether or not they owned an iron to iron their clothes. Though I’ve never been responsible for filling out a census in the U.S., I’m sure the questions aren’t as telling as the ones here in Mozambique. With a census done every ten years, it is a valuable way to track development in the country, and in the specific locations within this country. The last census, done in 2007 recorded 20.8 million inhabitants, the number estimated to reach 27 million this year. Despite there having been some logistical difficulties during the first week, the census teams have already recorded 6 million people and are on track to finishing by August 15th, in time for the first day of the third trimester— August 21st.