Maputo — Nampula (Mozambique), 10 Jun (AIM) - The number of children in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula who are obliged to sit on the floor in the province's schools has been cut from 1.4 million to 200,000 over the past five years, according to the provincial director of education, Judite Massacula.
Speaking at a provincial education planning meeting that ended on Saturday, she said that, during the five year period, the province acquired about 1.5 million desks. Of these, 90,000 came from wood that was seized in the drive against illegal logging, known as Operation Trunk.
"We took 1.2 million children off the floor", said Mussacula - but there are still about 200,000 children in Nampula schools who have no desks.
Nonetheless, Mussacula thought "a great advance" had been made, and "we can say that these five years were the period of the distribution of desks. Throughout the districts of Nampula province, we find that in many schools the children are sitting at desks".
In the rest of this year, she added, the Nampula education sector intends to acquire a further 58,000 desks, 40,000 of which will come from wood seized during Operation Trunk. The needs for the 2020 school year would be another 190,000 desks, "and we shall continue to make desks available for our children".
The challenge now, she added, was to keep the desks in good condition. Otherwise, Nampula schools would risk returning to the previous situation, with the majority of the pupils sitting on the floor.
"We are working with the communities to ensure that locally teams exist that will look after the maintenance of these desks", said Mussacula. The desks suffer great wear and tear from the pupil, "and at the end of the year many are damaged. The school councils have the job of identifying artisans in the communities who can deal with the repair task".
Mussacula told the meeting that cyclone Kenneth, which hit the northern coastal districts of Nampula on 25 April, had damaged 234 classrooms. "We've managed to restore about 170 of them", she said. "In the other places we have tents, and classes are continuing normally".
In addition to the provision of desks, Mussacula believed that giving the pupils a snack, and the spread of mother tongue teaching in the initial years of primary education was reducing the drop-out rate in the province.
In 2017, 9.3 per cent of primary school pupils dropped out, but in 2018 the figure fell to 2.5 per cent, and she believed that this year "the percentage will drop still further".
Nampula is the most populous province in Mozambique, with 5.76 million people, according to the 2017 census. It has a network of 2,294 state schools. 2,204 of these are primary schools, and there are only 90 secondary schools. In addition, there are five teacher training colleges and 1,578 literacy centres.