By Jonah Fisher
SOFALA, Mozambique, 23 August 2011 – The young crowd of students standing on the perimeter of the sandy football pitch erupts into shouts of joy as a goal is scored. In this poor coastal province of Sofala in central Mozambique, football is a game of great dreams and aspiration.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Jonah Fisher reports on ‘International Inspiration’ initiative in Mozambique, a global effort led by the London Olympic Committee, UNICEF and other partners to bring the benefits of sport for development to 12 million children for the 2012 London Olympics. Watch in RealPlayer|
“My favourite sport is football, it is fun and also good for our bodies” said Isac Basilo, 15, a seventh grader at GuaraGuara Primary School. Last year, the school’s more than 2,000 students received a sporting boost.
It is one of hundreds of schools across the country benefiting from ‘International Inspiration,’ a global effort led by the London Olympic Committee, UNICEF and other partners to bring the benefits of sport for development to 12 million children by the beginning of the 2012 London Olympics.
|© UNICEF video|
|The focus of the iniciative is to use sport as a child development tool and equipping teachers with the best methods to bring children together.|
Using sport as a child development tool, the main goal of the effort is to teach children to learn from structured exercise, to play emotionally, as well as physically and psychologically, and equip teachers with the best methods to bring children together.
Under the shade of a couple of tall leafy trees, Arminda Veronica, the third-grade teacher at the school, gets her 57 students to gather in a circle. She is one of a team of teachers from the school that received a teacher training course.
“After the seminar, I have learned how to incorporate physical education into my teaching,” she explained. “We are better equipped to use sport to bring girls and boys together. When we notice a child is not playing, we see how we can coach them to engage.”
Investing in education
The school is not untypical in the poor rural parts of this Southern African country, where 11.5 million of its population are under the age of 18. Since the end of the country’s long civil war in 1992, there has been a massive effort to invest in education. Today, 83 per cent of children are enrolled in primary school, up from 32 per cent in 1992. Primary school fees were abolished in 2005 and there is a no school uniform policy, so few children are turned away.
Headmaster Abias Zacarias, who has been in charge of GuaraGuara primary school for almost a year, is proud of the progress they are making. Under the umbrella of a child-friendly schools initiative, UNICEF has helped build seven new classrooms and several toilets have been constructed.
|© UNICEF video|
|The child-friendly school initiative is seeking to set new standards and improve the quality of learning so more children complete their education but also make schools a safe, relevant and stimulating environment.|
The classroom size has been reduced from around 100 to 65 students but the aim is to reduce it even further to fewer than 50 students, though this may prove difficult. “Since we live near the flood plains, many families have moved to higher ground,” he explained. “This year we have more students coming to seek places.”
His team of 40 teachers, who earn around $150 dollars a month, manage two school sessions a day. The child-friendly school initiative, which now operates in 750 schools in seven districts, is seeking to set new standards and improve the quality of learning so more children complete their education but also make schools a safe, relevant and stimulating environment.
Sport as inspiration
“The mix of older and younger children in the same grade can add complications like teenage pregnancy,” said Mr. Zacarias. Last year, 150 children dropped out, many related to teenage pregnancy. And across the country, numerous incidents of sexual abuse by teachers have been reported.
Mr. Zacarias believes the combination of the smaller number of students in the classroom, the improvement to the physical infrastructure and now the sports for development activities are all helping to improve the quality of education.
“We have seen the benefits that the investments in the school have made,” said Mr. Zacarias proudly. “The children are benefiting from more structured sport. It builds their confidence and keeps them active and entertained.”