Getting physical in the school yard helps to keep attendance rates up
Mozambique, Chibuto District, October 2010 – Today is a typical day at school for 11-year-old Phumzile Nkavele. Children sit at desks with books and pens, teachers teach using blackboards and chalk.
It’s a typical scene here, but an anomaly in many schools of rural Mozambique. Phumzile’s primary school is one of 750 schools in seven districts of the country that are part of the child-friendly school initiative.
The initiative aims to improve the quality of education through teacher training, improved school infrastructure and facilities, health interventions and community involvement. The aim is to keep more than 300,000 children in the classroom until they graduate.
It’s a response to an education system in which there are too few schools, overcrowded classrooms, and a shortage of trained teachers, teaching materials and recreational equipment.
So while Mozambique has almost universal enrolment, it also has incredibly high dropout and failure rates.
According to 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 have 99 per cent of enrolment in primary education, there are still less than 50 per cent of children completing primary school,” she says.
Sports keep children healthy
Health and physical education are key components of the child-friendly school approach. Teachers have been trained to recognise health problems, and a school health package provides students with immunisations, dental care and life skills education.
The physical education programme also keeps children healthy and helps build their confidence. Girls rule the volleyball and skipping. And they are now even breaking down the barriers to take on the boys in football.
Older children, aged 10 to 14, are encouraged to join school clubs where they can work through issues like violence, sexual abuse and HIV.
High quality and inclusive physical education and sport activities have the potential to enhance basic education and improve learning performance, making schools more attractive to children and parents and increasing enrolment, retention and completion rates.
Four years in, the child-friendly schools programme is already reaping some impressive results – dropout rates have decreased below the national average and retention rates have risen. Pass rates – a key indicator – have also risen in selected districts to around three times the national average.
“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,” says Pedro Macamo, a school Director.
The programme means that children like Phumzile and her friends can get a quality education and look for a better future.
“I like to learn – we can learn in this school – and hopefully we can all go to college together,” says Phumzile.