When schools become child friendly
Maputo, 16 May 2006- Schools are each day becoming more friendly for children in Maganja da Costa, a district in the northern Province of Zambézia. UNICEF and Government partners have been joining efforts to significantly improve the school environment for thousands of students across the region.
The first phase of the Child-Friendly Schools project was introduced in Maganja da Costa at the end of 2005 and will be expanded throughout the country in the following years.
The project is part of the Schools For Africa campaign launched in 2004 by Nelson Mandela, UNICEF and the Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy in six countries of Africa: Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The aim is to achieve good quality basic education, with a focus on the poorest and most vulnerable children, especially girls and orphaned children due to HIV/AIDS.
12 year-old Dedina is in grade three at Mualana Primary School in Maganja da Costa. The young student wants to be a nurse when she grows up. But she says it is very hard to stay in school when there are no latrines and students have no choice but to resort to using the surrounding fields.
“Many of my friends miss school because they are sick with diarrhoea. There are no health services in the community to help us when we get sick. What makes it even worse is that we don’t have hygiene education at school.”
So far, 192 teachers from Maganja da Costa have received training on school health, and a comprehensive health package was implemented by health professionals in schools. In addition, 11 boreholes are under construction in primary schools of the district for 3,800 students.
Orphaned and vulnerable children are among those facing major barriers to access education. In many cases, they are only able to attend classes if the school can provide materials for them.
11 year-old Atanásio looks after his younger siblings: Anita, 8 years old, Molida, 6 years old and Sozinho, 4 years old. They have lost both their parents to AIDS two years ago. Their older sister died the following year. Since then, Atanásio stopped going to school so he can provide for his younger siblings, helping them to continue their education.
“Our neighbours are not able to assist us,” he explains. “My younger siblings only manage to attend classes thanks to the materials they receive from the school.”
20 activists have received training in identifying and assessing the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children in their communities and 35 have been trained in psycho-social support. School uniforms as well as learning and play materials have been distributed to 4,000 children.
Bringing and keeping every child in school is a challenge for communities in Maganja da Costa. In Namurumo Primary School, the school council is leading the construction of new classrooms and latrines, with the participation of community members. The school is also planning to build playgrounds, provide sports equipment and school uniforms.
“We have been working closely with local activists to identify and integrate orphaned and vulnerable children into the school, says Emílio Rufino Santos, president of the school council. “We have enrolled 158 orphaned children from our community and have provided them with school materials as well as birth certificates, he adds.”
The active participation of teachers is crucial to improve the school environment. So far, 149 teachers have been trained in child-friendly teaching methods.
Fernanda Augusto recently started teaching at Mutange Primary School says she likes to interact with children. Fernanda is already a role model for female students.
“When I first arrived here, the community was surprised because their children had never been taught by a woman before. Now, parents are sending their daughters to school in the hope that they will become teachers like me,” she says.
Fernanda emphasizes the importance of extra-curricular activities and community theatre to keep girls in school. “Our school has already formed a theatre group involving both boys and girls,” says Fernanda.
Up to now, 60 teachers from 60 schools in the district have been trained in community theatre and 30 students from 5 schools were trained as mobilisers to raise awareness on the importance of education and children’s rights in their communities.