School Clubs: Small Steps, Big Benefits - child participation in school
MAPUTO, Mozambique, 8 August 2011 - One Friday afternoon, thirteen boys and girls were gathered around a table in a small room to plan their school club activity on Saturday. They were deciding how to start the program, what games, songs, and other group exercises they would undertake and how to end the program. They then agreed on who would be in charge of the different parts of the program. Everybody was eager to contribute to the plan. Some minutes earlier, the room was filled with loud talking and laughing. Suddenly, they fell serious and focused on the preparation of their plan. Professor Judite was in one corner of the room watching the children and interceding only when they asked her opinion.
The children, aged 10 to 13, are members of the School Club - Estrelas Do Amanha (Stars of Tomorrow) in Escola Primaria Completa Ngungunhane in Chibuto, Gaza, in Mozambique. School clubs were initially piloted by a national NGO known as N’weti in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS (RENSIDA) in various districts. They provide children a space to express themselves in school and a structure for organizing school-based activities to advance their rights. They are also closely linked with Radio clubs, which increases their impact at community level.
Earlier during the week, Professor Judite had invited members of cultural groups in four schools in Chibuto, Gaza, to participate in a Children’s Book Exhibition in the school. Come Saturday morning, the children participants came and enjoyed a day of games, singing about child rights, talking about health issues (malaria and cholera) and learning about children’s books. The Club members announced that the books were available for reading in the Club’s own office anytime during the school days.
The children noticeably had fun participating in the games and meeting new friends. The Club members were happy to have carried out the activities according to the plan they developed the day before. The activity was small and simple, but it was a big opportunity for the children to show they could manage their activities on their own.
A few months back, the Club had visited some primary schools around Chibuto, where they talked and performed songs and dances about children’s issues, such as violence against children in school and at home, malaria, cholera, child trafficking, child sexual abuse, early marriage, birth registration, personal hygiene and child labor. The children got their information from teachers and activists, as well as from journals, pamphlets, flyers, magazines and other reading materials provided by UNICEF and N’weti. In all their presentations, they made it a point to talk about child rights.
Professor Judite Eulalia Tembe has been the School Club Coordinator for over two years. She has witnessed the development and transformation of twenty children in the school club from being shy boys and girls into what they have become now: active, dynamic, helpful and committed to the promotion of child rights. She has been like a second mother to them. She gained skills in dealing with children from a training supported by UNICEF and facilitated by the Ministry of Education, N’weti and Kuvumbana, a local NGO based in the provincial capital of Xai Xai.
In partnership with the Government of Mozambique and selected NGOs, UNICEF promotes the participation right of children by providing spaces for them to express their views, feelings and opinions on issues affecting the majority of Mozambican children, through radio, TV, theatre, school clubs and other community-based activities. Through these forums, children are able to meaningfully exercise their participation right through what may be considered small activities, but activities that have benefits in a big way, as far as the children’s development is concerned.
Professor Judite proudly stated that because of the Club child beating has almost completely stopped in Escola Primaria Completa Ngungunhane. Before the Club was organized, teachers used whipping sticks and board erasers as instruments for teaching and disciplining the pupils. The Club members posted stickers and posters around the school to remind teachers to respect child rights. The children also said their parents used to beat them, but because they always talk about what they learned from the Club on child rights, parents, too, have stopped beating them.
Neiva Constacia Carlos Nunzunga, the President of the Club, thinks that there are still many children who do not know their rights. “I want to be able to reach out to them so that they can also tell their parents about their rights.” Neiva is only thirteen years old. But as the club leader, she said she has “learned not to be afraid to reason with teachers, parents and with other leaders, because we have a right to speak.”
For more information, please contact:
Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: email@example.com