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"My dream is to study and never stop!"

My dream is to study and never stop
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach
Students at Macunene School have prepared a play, and the message is sharp. As part of their involvement in the school theatre project focusing on social issues, the students are working to inform the community about topics of crucial concern.

Students at Macunene School have prepared a play, and the message is sharp. As part of their involvement in the school theatre project focusing on social issues, the students are working to inform the community about topics of crucial concern. One of these is the importance, for parents, of ensuring that their children complete primary education.

The story in the play presents a common issue in Chibuto district (Gaza province). Because of the difficulties in finding employment locally, and the district's proximity to South Africa, many young people drop out of school and seek opportunities on the other side of the border—or in the capital.

Carlton Juvencio Djedje is one of the students who take part in the school theatre project, promoted by the Child-Friendly Schools initiative. Run by the national participatory theatre association Grupo de Teatro do Oprimido, the children's performances focus on health, protection and social issues.

Carlton is albino, but proudly performs in front of people. He has been part of the school theatre for about a year now, and appreciates all the things he has learned. He is also convinced it has helped him to focus in school. "Before, I could not sit still, I was always restless and I had problems. Now, I can use my energy in the theatre and study well. I have learned a lot from the director. We talk about important things."

He mentions that many girls leave school because they are forced to marry at a young age. "When a girl marries early, it is mostly because her family has difficulties and is in need of extra money … but then there is no turning back." The second part of the play focuses on this problem: a girl has been given away in marriage, and wants to come back home and return to school; but her father has already spent all the money he received as a bride price.

The director of the theatre group, Joao Bernardo Condzo, remembers how two 17-yearold girls suddenly disappeared from school last year. "It is a very difficult problem, because there is no warning before this happens. The girls just stop coming to school one day, and cut off all contact with their friends because they are ashamed. It is very difficult to get them back once they are gone."

Mr. Condzo was selected to take part in his first theatre training five years ago. It gave him greater insight into teaching students about social issues, and he also learned the skills of directing plays and engaging young people in discussion. Mr. Condzo is very proud of his group, and the positive influence the theatre has had on his students.

"In the beginning the parents said their children were wasting their time, but when they saw all of my actors pass their final exams and become better students, they started supporting the group. And of course, they also enjoy the shows!" he says, laughing. Rozita and Sheila, two girls from the group, agree. "We are not only better students, we are also less shy now. When people come to speak to us we know how to answer. We learned how to stand in front of hundreds of people, and we have learned how to talk about difficult questions." Joao agrees. "The only way to protect these children is to convince their parents that school is the most important thing there is. This will change everything," he says, referring to his dream of recording the next play on video and showing it in communities that are otherwise too distant to reach.

The show we are watching contains plenty of comedy, but it does not have a happy ending. The boy who left for South Africa returns home with nothing but a pair of new sunglasses, and the girl who used to be the best student in class is not allowed by her new husband to study (she ends up an ill-treated housewife). Simply put, the play shows us the likely end game for those children in Chibuto who do not finish school.

As all the students in the play return to the stage, the audience is still holding its breath. The actors join hands and lift them to the sky, shouting, "My dream is to study and never stop!"

 

 

 

 

Child-Friendly Schools: Stories from Mozambique

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