CHIBUTO DISTRICT, Mozambique, 22 October 2010 - 11-year-old Phumzile Nkavele loves to go to school and to learn; she also loves playing games, but most of all she loves her classmates and has already decided that they will be going to college together.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on a Child-Friendly Schools initiative reaching across several districts of Mozambique. Watch in RealPlayer|
“I think school is important”, she explains “because many people, they like to learn and me, I like to learn and we can learn in the school and we can go to college together”
But for most children living in rural Mozambique, the idea of going to university or college is a very distant dream. Most children in rural Mozambique attend over crowded schools with untrained teachers and often no classrooms. Despite the country’s almost universal primary school enrolment rate, most children dropout before they graduate. For Anjana Mangalagiri, UNICEF’s Chief of Education in Mozambique, the lack of retention in schools is the biggest challenge facing education in the country.
“While we may have 99,2% of enrolment in primary education, we still have less than 50% of children completing primary school, less than 15% complete lower secondary and less than 4% complete higher secondary education.”
Improving the quality of education
In response to the retention challenges, UNICEF in partnership with the Mozambique Ministry of Education launched the child friendly schools initiative in 2006. Targeting 750 schools in 7 districts of the country, the initiative aims, through teacher training, to improve school infrastructure and facilities, health interventions and community involvement, to enhance the quality of education. The aim is to keep more than 300,000 primary aged children in the classroom until they graduate.
Phumzile and her friends attend 25 de Junho EPC School, in Chibuto district, one of the school targeted by the initiative. They learn in classrooms, seat at wooden desk and they have books and pens. Today’s lesson is mathematics and as their teacher calls out the seven times table, the class repeats in unison. The teachers here have all been through teaching training and they now have the skills and the tools to impart knowledge to their classes.
|© UNICEF video|
|A boy writes on a blackboard at a primary school in Chibuto district, Mozambique.|
Alongside teaching materials and skills, health and hygiene are key components of the CFS approach. Separate latrines for boys and girls have been built; this alone has had an impact on the number of girls dropping out of school as they reach puberty. Teachers have been trained to recognize health problems and school health packages provide students with immunizations, dental care, eye care and health education.
To keep the pupils healthy and build their confidence, physical education is also part of the curriculum. Girls rule the volleyball and they are now even breaking down the barriers to take on the boys in football. The boys are also learning new games, becoming the undisputed hula hoop champions.
Creating a safe environment
Older children aged between 10 to 14 are encouraged to join school clubs where they can work through problems and are better equipped to tackle issues like violence, sexual abuse and HIV.
For children who have lost parents, support is given to make sure they have their uniforms and books to stay in school.
|© UNICEF video|
|Children in Mozambique's Chibuto district queue up to be vaccinated against preventable illnesses.|
After four years, the CFS initiative is already reaping the desired results, dropout rates have decreased and retention rates have risen. Pedro Elias Macamo, Principal of the Canhavano Primary School, has seen a marked difference since the introduction of the initiative. With the improvement in education quality and facilities, fewer and fewer children drop out each year, which means the school has had to cater to more children wanting more education.
“There is definitely an improvement in terms of the quality of education that is being provided here, including the capacity that the school now has to absorb more children, for example this year we were able to introduce the 6th grade, which we didn’t have before and now we think we’re ready to introduce the 7th grade next year, so that the whole of primary school is complete.”
The pass rates have also risen in the selected districts, at around 3 times the national average. Children like Phumzile and her friends, are getting a quality education and are able to look to the future.