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"We are alone, but we still want to finish school"

Silvino invites us to his home, and we meet Orfa outside the family’s hut.
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach
With the highest HIV infection rates in Mozambique, Gaza province is home to many children whose parents have died of AIDS. Due to its proximity to South Africa and the number of people transiting through the area, every fourth person is living with HIV.

The children are dancing and singing at EPC Chaimite Bairro 2 School in Chibuto; they are performing the traditional dances of their province, Gaza. One of them, 14-year-old Silvino Masinge, continues dancing after the formal show is over, and there is no doubt that the boy has talent; he makes the entire crowd laugh. The school director smiles.

"We have a lot of orphaned children in the school," Ligia Mateus Chongo explains. "We are working hard to support them in order that they stay. The School Council tries to make sure that they are identified and taken care of, and with the support we are receiving, we can provide these children with school supplies and uniforms. We try our best to help."

School Councils are a vital bridge between communities and schools, as they advocate for and promote children's right to education in their communities—especially on behalf of girls, orphans, children affected by HIV and AIDS, and disabled children. The School Councils contribute to, and participate actively in, school development and school management.

Later the same day, Silvino and his friend Agostinho Alberto Manjane, both Grade 7 students, are back at EPC Chaimte Bairro 2. The boys have lost their fathers to the South African mines that many men from Gaza work in. "My father came back sick and died last year, now I have only my mother; she works the fields of others to support us," says 15-year-old Agostinho.

There is no doubt that going to school will help them in the future. "When you study, you have more chances of getting a job. Studying is actually the only way of getting a good job," Silvino explains while Agostinho nods in agreement.

"My father also died from the mines," 14-yearold Silvino continues. "My mother is still alive, but she also works in South Africa. I actually see her only for the Christmas and Easter holidays. My sister, Orfa, takes care of us now. She is a smart girl! You should meet her."

Silvino invites us to his home, and we meet Orfa outside the family's hut. Orfa is only 16 years old, but a very calm and warm young woman. "I do not have anything in particular that gives me the strength to take care of my siblings—I just do it," she says.

Orfa wakes up at 5 am every morning to take a bath, then goes to school. She comes home by noon, to cook and take care of the household. The fact that she continues studying despite her situation is astonishing, as it is difficult enough for orphaned children to stay in school at all. "I want to be a nurse. It is hard, but I have to continue studying - and Silvino helps out."





Child-Friendly Schools: Stories from Mozambique

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