Mozambique pledges bilingual education by 2017

Education ministry to teach Portuguese as foreign language

Education is to become fully bilingual in Mozambique, with the country's primary school children being taught in 16 Mozambican languages from 2017, according to the education ministry.

Children will be taught in their local language and Portuguese will remain on the curriculum but will be taught as a foreign language.

Until now Portuguese has been the language of instruction for school children, even though most of them – particularly in more rural areas – have never heard the language, a relic of the country's colonial past.

The policy change follows a ten-year pilot bilingual programme around Mozambique which, according to the ministry, proves that children who are taught in their mother tongue fare better in school than those who are taught through Portuguese. Some 50 per cent of Mozambicans can speak Portuguese but only 489,000 – or three per cent – are classified as mother-tongue speakers.

The 16 indigenous languages in Mozambique, in order of their usage, are: Emakhuwa, Cisena, Xichangana, Elomwe, Cishona, Xitswa, Xironga, Cinyungwe, Cicopi, Ciyao, Shimakonde, Ekoti, Kimwani, Swahili, Swazi and Zulu.

Over four million Mozambicans, almost 25 per cent of the population, speak Emakhuwa while just 3,500 – or 0.02 per cent – speak Zulu. Mozambique's shift in education policy follows a similar move in Tanzania which recently announced moves to drop English as the language of instruction, in favour of Swahili. similar move in Tanzania