|© UNICEF Angola/2010|
|UNICEF Deputy Reresentative in Angola Maria Amélia Russo de Sá addresses participants at Angola's second national workshop on child-friendly schools.|
By Lone Hvass
LUANDA, Angola, 17 May 2010 – Angola’s Minister of Education, Pinda Simão, kicked off the country’s second national workshop on child-friendly schools last week. The concept – which centres around the needs and rights of each individual child – is fast becoming a national standard for primary schools in Angola.
Many Angolan children have to walk for miles to get to school. Classes are overcrowded and teachers are frequently poorly trained. With the adoption of the child-friendly model, however, education authorities are aiming to change the experience of schooling in this southern African nation.
Daily life of children
The first national workshop on child-friendly schools was held last December. During the second seminar, which began on 12 May, participants came from across Angola to discuss what ‘child-friendliness’ entails – and why it matters so much in the daily life of children.
|© UNICEF Angola/2010|
|At Angola's second national workshop on child-friendly schools, participants discuss the promotion of universal standards for quality primary education.|
Beyond providing a strong learning environment, said Mr. Simão, child-friendly schools are places where children can “play and be happy.” In an environment where much of daily life is a struggle, finding stability and a safe space at school is essential.
Among the current challenges faced by Angolan school children are crowded classes and poor learning conditions. Many schools have no access to water and sanitation, meaning that girls are often forced to drop out after the onset of menstruation. Less than 60 per cent of primary school-aged boys and girls attend primary school, and many children repeat classes – leading to more overcrowding.
In the face of these obstacles, workshop participants said action must be taken. “Teachers and everybody else involved in the management of schools need to commit themselves firmly to making them child-friendly,” asserted Mr. Simão.
‘An essential service’
Despite today’s challenges, the primary school experience for Angola’s children is set to change gradually with the adoption of child-friendly schools. The new national strategy will include school building construction, teacher training and a push for community involvement in school life, among other elements. Its ultimate aim is to achieve universal access to quality primary education across the country.
Addressing workshop participants, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Angola Maria Amelia Russo de Sá said that child-friendly schools were a core aspect of improving the situation of children in the country. “UNICEF considers quality primary education an essential service for children,” she said.
Mr. Simão, the Minister of Education, highlighted the role of local government in planning and school management. “Municipal administrators need to be more and more involved in education,” he said. “Angola is going through a national process of decentralization, and social services will be managed closer to the population.”
Better learning outcomes
In partnership with the Ministry of Education and several development partners, the current UNICEF Country Programme of Cooperation (covering activities from 2009 through 2013) provides Angola with technical support in the definition of national standards, including a monitoring and evaluation system. In its initial phrase, it directly supports the roll-out of child-friendly school design and management in 5 of Angola’s 18 provinces.
With the implementation of this new learning model, said Ms. Russo de Sá, more children will have a chance to attend – and benefit from – school. “We believe that the concept of child-friendly schools is a cornerstone in the effort to ensure better learning outcomes for Angola’s children,” she said.