SIKATO, Angola, 1 December 2010 – Albano Natal expertly twists and cuts a length of metal reinforcement rod for the school latrine he is helping to build. To watch him work, you would hardly guess that he learned the skill less than a year ago. He beams proudly with the dual satisfaction of a job well done and a new toilet block for his children's school.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Steve Felton reports on UNICEF-supported child-friendly school construction to improve the learning environment and facilities for children in Angola. Watch in RealPlayer|
The latrine is in a new UNICEF-supported child-friendly school here. It’s part an initiative that reflects the Angolan Government's determination to improve the learning environment and facilities for primary schoolchildren.
Working with the community
At the core of the concept of child-friendly schools are better teaching methods, sanitation and proper buildings. That's where People in Need comes in. The Czech development organization is building new schools throughout Angola with UNICEF funding.
Architect Vladimir de Lima takes a break from work as the rain sweeps across the central Angolan hills, and explains the importance of building schools.
|© UNICEF video|
|A new UNICEF-supported child-friendly school under construction in Angola.|
“Primary education is bad in this area,” he explains. “Forty per cent of the children are not in school. That's why we are here. We work with the community and one result is a new school."
A school built to last
Mr. de Lima goes on to point out an additional benefit of school construction. The workers – all of them parents – learn new skills that will help them to find work in the future.
Between the old mud buildings and the new classrooms is a pile of freshly made bricks. A new machine provided by People in Need presses the bricks into solid, durable blocks. The NGO also supplies concrete and steel, but the rest of the material is local.
Mr. Natal and his team have learned to make wooden frames to set the reinforced concrete. This will be a school built to last.
There is no parent-teacher association at the school yet, although the director does call in parents from time to time to talk about their children's education.
|© UNICEF video|
|Builder and parent Albano Natal expertly twists a length of metal reinforcement rod during construction of a child-friendly school in Sikato village, Angola.|
Another part of the child-friendly school concept is the active involvement of communities. As the UNICEF-supported Ministry of Education rolls out this approach, discussions will take place between local officials, teachers and parents to make plans for schools in which parents can take an active part.
After safety, the next priority is sanitation. “If you don't have water and sanitation, then the children should not be here,” says Mr. de Lima, the architect. “The first thing we do is build a well. We need the water for building, but when we have done, there will be a well for the school.”
These solutions are simple and do not involve high technology. Most of the villagers don’t have latrines, so the school will act as a showcase for sanitation – as well as providing separate clean toilets for boys and girls, and handwashing facilities for children and staff alike. Seeing another school built gives Mr. de Lima great satisfaction.
"What I see in Europe – kids don't want to go to school,” he says. “But here in Africa, parents know the importance of learning. They know that being illiterate means only working on the fields. Primary education is the base. Without it there can be no development.”
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