Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Saturday launched a national programme to produce school desks, under which the government intends to distribute, by next year, 140,000 desks.
Since two pupils sit at a standard desk, and each desk will be used in up to three shifts in the schools this could allow almost a million children to study at desks, rather than sitting on the ground.
Speaking at the launch ceremony at the Sansao Muthemba primary school in the western province of Tete, Nyusi said that the wood to produce the desks comes from the timber seized earlier this year in “Operation Trunk”. This was the crackdown on illegal timber operations led by the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development, in which dozens of timber yards, many of them owned by Chinese businesses, were raided, and over 222,000 cubic metres of logs were seized.
Nyusi estimated the current shortage of school desks at 800,000 - which means there are about three million pupils who attend classes sitting on the floor.
“Aware that the availability of desks has a positive influence on the quality of education, the governmnent defined as a priority in its Five Year Programme for 2015/2019 the acquisition and distribution of 700,000 desks”, said Nyusi.
In 2015 and 2016 the government purchased and distributed 151,000 desks. In the third quarter of this year a further 40,600 desks were acquired.
“From 2015 to now we have managed to comply with 27 per cent of the target we planned”, said the President.
Since the unit price of a desk on the Mozambican market is about 5,000 meticais, purchasing 800,000 would cost four billion meticais (about 65 million US dollars), he added.
Nyusi noted that the country is rich in forestry resources, inclusing a wide variety of trees that can provide timber. But these resources “have been exploited in an unsustainable and irresponsible way”.
The government, he said, had therefore introduced new forms of forestry inspection and was confiscating all illegally logged timber “in order to halt the delapidation of our forests”.
Producing more desks, Nyusi added, now depended on Mozambican businesses seizing the opportunity provided by Operation Trunk, and turning the raw logs into clean and dry wood which would then be used to make school furniture.
The President urged the school managements and all of society to look after the new desks and ensure they have a long life. “The pupils and parents should be involved in measures that guarantee the conservation of the desks”, he said. “District education directors and headmaster should be aware that there is nothing normal about being headmaster of a school where the children sit on the floor while they study”.