Maputo — Mozambique plans to reintroduce pre-primary education in 2013, initially covering about 80,000 children in a pilot programme.
Education Minister Zeferino Martins, speaking on Wednesday at the opening of a meeting of his Ministry's Coordinating Council in the southern resort of Chidenguele, said that the programme will be implemented in five provinces - Cabo Delgado and Nampula in the north of the country, Tete in the centre, and Gaza and Maputo in the south.
"It is our conviction that pre-primary education is vital, and constitutes a fundamental pillar to ensure that children have a solid basis on which their later development can be built", said Martins.
He added that the reintroduction of this level of education was inspired by a pre-school experience undertaken in Gaza in partnership with the NGO "Save the Children".
"This was a community-based experiment in Gaza, and it will be expanded to five provinces", said Martins. "People from the communities will be trained for this. Later we shall assess the effectiveness of the programme, and only afterwards will we expand it further in a gradual fashion".
Martins stressed that primary education remains the government's main priority. This year began with 5.4 million pupils enrolled in primary schools - an increase of five per cent on the 2011 figure.
"At the same time as we are concerned with access to basic schooling", said the Minister, "we have defined real learning by the pupils, particularly of reading and writing in the initial grades, as the focus for our interventions in the next five years".
As for secondary education, Martins noted that the demand far outstrips the number of places available in the secondary schools.
"As a result of the progress made in primary education, there is a strong desire among young Mozambicans to increase their knowledge and develop new skills", he said. "So we are trying to find solutions that will increase the supply of places, not only through in situ education, but also through distance learning"
At the same, the Ministry would continue the reforms aimed at a secondary education more directed at acquiring professional skills, in close coordination with the existing technical and professional schools.
In higher education, said Martins, the responsibility facing universities was to train skilled people who can meet the demands of the labour market. Reforms were under way to adopt regulatory mechanisms to check on the quality of the education that universities and similar bodies offer to their students.
Currently 112,787 students are attending Mozambican institutions of higher education.