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Promoting girls’ education to provide all children a healthy start in life

© UNICEF/MOZA-02619/ Thierry Delvigne-Jean
A teacher reads to her students in a classroom at Diba Primary School, District of Maganja da Costa, Zambezia Province.

8 September, International Literacy Day

Maputo, 08 September 2008 - “Literacy is the best remedy” is the theme of International Literacy Day this year.

Lack of literacy is directly correlated with low life expectancy, high rates of child mortality, unemployment and, consequently, with insufficient incomes to guarantee the basic need of a household.

“We know that children’s access to adequate health care and education is directly related to the level of education of mothers”, says UNICEF Mozambique Representative Leila Pakkala.

Research has shown that educated women are less likely to die in child birth, more likely to have healthy babies and more likely to send their children to school. They are also better able to protect their children and themselves from HIV and AIDS, trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

In Mozambique, around 52 per cent of the population is not literate, with significant disparities between rural and urban areas.

However, significant progress has been achieved over the last years, and Mozambican children now have a much better opportunity to learn than before. Today, 83 per cent of children are enrolled in primary school, up from 32 per cent in 1992. During the same period an average of 500 new schools have been built and 3,500 teachers recruited every year.

But many challenges remain. There is one teacher for every 74 children in the classroom on average.  More than half of all primary school children leave school before they complete grade five. Children living in the poorest families, orphans and girls are especially at risk of dropping out of school or not going to school at all.

To address these challenges, UNICEF and partners have been supporting the Government to increase access to school and improve the quality of primary education, especially for girls and vulnerable children.

With UNICEF support, an innovative school improvement scheme is being implemented in seven districts from 2006 to 2010. The Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative, a model with the potential to be replicated throughout the country, is a package of interventions that create a teaching and learning environment which is inclusive, child-friendly, gender responsive and protective of all but especially girls and vulnerable children.

The CFS  initiative includes provision of learning and teaching materials; training of educators in teaching and school management; life skills education on topics such as HIV and AIDS prevention and girls’ empowerment; school water and sanitation facilities; school-based health and nutrition education; protection, psycho-social support and access to social services for children; as well as community social mobilisation to promote children’s rights, girls’ education and HIV and AIDS prevention.

By the end of 2009, this initiative will reach more than 300,000 school age children in 750 schools.



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