By Eric Lubisi
The Mpumalanga Education Department has set aside R20 million to increase the number of no fee schools from 952 to 1 440 this year.
Chairperson of the executive council committee on social services, MEC Jabu Mahlangu, told a social services cluster meeting this week that 408 196 children currently benefited from the programme.
He said by the end of this year 75 percent of public schools in the province would be no fee schools, which means that parents will not be expected to pay school fees.
"[This will be] a significant performance above the national target of 60 percent," he said.
Mr Mahlangu also expressed concern at the reluctance of adults to take advantage of government's Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programme.
He said illiteracy created barriers that prevented many people from participating in the economy.
"Our ABET programme presents hope to many of our people who were denied the opportunity to receive education. However, we are concerned by the slow pace at which these opportunities are taken up by adult learners,' he said.
The province has 332 public adult learning centres, which helped 1 752 students through its literacy units last year.
Mr Mahlangu said 23 337 students accessed formal ABET programmes last year and the aim was to recruit 28 000 students in 2008.
Meanwhile, R91 million has been allocated to increase the number of children who start school at Grade R level.
The department wants to increase the number of Grade R learners from 42 729 children to 52 000 this year.
By 2010, the target is to have 72 000 children in Grade R.