Maputo — The Mozambican Education Ministry has come nowhere near meeting its target for enrolling children into the first grade of primary education in 2020, according to a report by the independent television station STV.
Citing Ismael Nhaza, general director of the National Institute for the Development of Education (INDE), STV said that between 1 October and 31 December, only 1.97 million children, out of a target of 1.55 million, registered to enter first grade - or just 77 per cent of the target.
Although the deadline has now passed, the Ministry will allow parents and guardians to enrol their children in those schools that still have places available. This will require coordination between school managements to channel parents to the nearest schools which can accommodate their children.
The provinces which came nearest to meeting their targets, said Nhaza, were Sofala (91.4 per cent), Cabo Delgado (86 per cent), Nampula (82.6 per cent) and Maputo City (82.1).
The worst enrolment figures came from the southern provinces, with the exception of the capital - Inhambane (59.8 per cent), Maputo province (55 per cent) and Gaza (52.9 per cent).
Nonetheless, Nhaza remains optimistic, noting that leaving enrolment to the last minute is a frequent problem. "In no year have we failed to comply with the target", he told STV. "What happens is that, when the parents see it is February 3rd or 4th (the start of the school year), and see that their children have nobody to play with, they rush to the schools to enrol them. That's the great problem".
Nhaza said that, in the 2020 school year, 12,894 new teachers are being hired, 11,595 for primary education and 1,299 for secondary schools. This will marginally reduce the pupil-teacher ratio from 65 to 64.8 in the first five grades of primary education.
Throughout the country, 13,116 primary schools will operate, 235 of which are new. There will also be 667 secondary schools, 40 of them new. These schools will cater for 8.41 million pupils (7.08 million in primary education, and 1.33 million in secondary education).
Armed attacks in parts of the central province of Manica, believed to be the work of the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta", are likely to keep thousands of children out of school.
The spokesperson for the Manica provincial education directorate, Joao Tricano, said that in Gondola district, one of the districts most affected by the attacks, only 3,000 students had enrolled for 2020 (at all levels of education), rather than the 10,000 expected.
The attacks have displaced households from several localities in the district. Some people are beginning to return to some of the places hit by Military Junta attacks, such as Muda-Serracao, Pindanganga and Chipandaumue, but most of the houses in these localities remain abandoned.