African access to educational opportunities was highly limited for most of the colonial period. Until the 1950s, facilities run by the government were few and largely restricted to urban areas. Responsibility for educating Africans rested with Roman Catholic and Protestant missions. As a consequence, each of the missions established its own school system, although all were subject to ultimate control by the Portuguese with respect to certain policy matters.
Education beyond the primary level was available to very few Africans before 1960, and the proportion of the age group that went on to secondary school in the early 1970s was still quite low. Nevertheless, primary school attendance was growing substantially. Whether those entering primary schools were acquiring at least functional literacy in Portuguese was another matter. Primary school consisted of a total of four years made up of a pair of twoyear cycles. Portuguese statistics do not indicate how many students completed each of the cycles, but it is estimated that far fewer completed the full four years than entered the first cycle. Similarly, there seems to be general agreement among observers that a great number of those who entered secondary school did not complete it. In general, the quality of teaching at the primary level was low, with instruction carried on largely by Africans with very few qualifications. Most secondary school teachers were Portuguese, but the first years of secondary school were devoted to materials at the primary level.
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