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