Adventist Church to Open Literacy Centers

nder a new literacy education program, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mozambique is partnering with national leadership to address the country's abysmal illiteracy rates, including among new Adventists.

An agreement signed November 20, 2007 by the church's Education director, Miguel Simoque, and Maria da Conceicao Bila, secretary for Mozambique's Ministry of Education, is an attempt to boost the nation's estimated 47 percent literacy rate. At the signing, Bila noted the Adventist Church's worldwide emphasis on education. With the partnership, "we are saying that we want to learn and grow with Adventists," Bila said.

AGREEMENT: Miguel Simoque, Education director for the Adventist Church in Mozambique and Maria da Conceicao Bila, secretary of the country's Ministry of Education, agreed to a partnership that will result in 20 new literacy centers in the country. Less than half of Mozambicans are literate, with statistics even lower among women and those in rural areas, national estimates indicate. [Photo: Mozambique Union Mission] 
"The church has grown rapidly among recent migrants to the city, often faster than church buildings can be erected," church leaders said in an outline for the Mozambique Literacy Program, which is set to begin this month. The launch will include 20 literacy centers throughout the country.

Illiteracy among new Adventists is "glaringly evident," the program outline continued, calling for programs that "enable [these new Adventists] to move into the mainstream of church life and [into] more active participation in the economy."

Church leaders in Mozambique report that the country's war for independence, beginning in 1962, and ensuing civil wars left the nation's educational infrastructure in shambles, resulting in at least two generations without a functioning school system.

The conflicts and civil unrest also led to mass migrations to the outskirts of the country's urban areas, particularly its capital, Maputo. There, church officials said, many subsistence-farming families -- no longer able to practice their former livelihood -- are crammed in ramshackle shantytowns made of mud brick, thatch and tin sheets.

Today, less than half of the country's overall population, and less than one third of Mozambican women, can read and write. In rural areas, an estimated 81 percent of women are illiterate.

Under the agreement, the Adventist Church is responsible for running and staffing literacy centers throughout the country, which will be located at newly built Adventist churches. Church leaders plan to hire an initial staff of 700. Mozambique's Ministry of Education will train staff and stock the centers with literacy curriculum. "We are praying that God will find resources not only for 20, but for 200 facilities by 2010," Simoque said at the signing.

Simoque and other church leaders said they anticipate the program will not only improve literacy in Mozambique, but also build a strong relationship between church members and the communities where they live.
                                                                                            -- by Elizabeth Lechleitner, Adventist News Network



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