|Alexandru, 17, participates in a UNICEF-supported programme bringing education to institutionalized children in Moldova.|
By Lina Botnaru
CHISINAU, Moldova, 20 January 2009 – With support from the Swedish International Development Agency, UNICEF has recently launched basic education programmes for children at four preventive detention facilities in Moldova.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to education is universal. Unfortunately, the children held at the centres have long been denied this fundamental human right.
When the programme began in 2008, approximately 80 per cent of all the detained children were illiterate or lacked basic elementary education. Since the initiative began, many of these children were drawn into getting a proper education by dynamic, well-trained teachers from surrounding communities.
“It’s not easy to work with a child who has experienced trauma,” explains Ana Vivdici, a teacher at the Penitentiary for Women and Girls. “Getting through to these children can be challenging, but the impact one can make is quite significant.”
In addition to basic elementary education, the programme aims to foster trust and build self-confidence in imprisoned children by creating an emotionally comfortable environment.
“I feel I have learned more during one month of detention than over my entire life before prison,” says Alexandru, 17, a beneficiary of the initiative. “I only studied up to grade five before going to prison. School was not important to me. Now I understand how important education is, especially when you want a chance to start a new life.”
“Sometimes I am so captivated by classes that I forget about the guards,” says Alina, a 15-year-old detainee. “These are the moments when I feel happy and free. It gives me the power to work for a better future.”
The youth education programme works for children in all preventive detention facilities in Moldova, including women’s penitentiaries. Courses were developed by the Ministry of Education and Youth together with the Ministry of Justice.
UNICEF, through funds provided by the Swedish Government, helped the Moldovan Government start this innovative program. The government will ensure the continuity of the programme, in order to give every child access to an education.
“Since I’ve started the programme, I feel that my time is not a waste anymore,” says Nicolae, another young detainee. “I want to have the chance to develop a profession and start a new life.”