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How change at school can give access to rights

inclusive education
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012/C.Bach
Every child has a right to participate in an inclusive and non discriminatory education. There are, however, places where prejudice and stigma still stand in the way of many students, sometimes even provoked by their own parents.

When 14-year-old Ana Paulino started school at EPC Armando Guebuza School, she did not expect to take part in many activities—especially not in gym class. "I was used to sitting in a corner and waiting until class was over. I was forbidden to touch the other children," she explains.

Ana joined Grade 6 at EPC Armando Guebuza when she and her parents moved to Changara, Tete province, under a year ago. When her parents came to register her in school, they did not mention that she and one of her younger sisters suffer from albinism; they also did not know that the school was part of the Child-Friendly Schools initiative, which promotes inclusive education and the right of all children —especially girls, children with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children—to equitable education.

"When she started coming to school," explains school Health Focal Point Frasia Joao Baptista, "we knew that we had to make her feel welcome and ensure that she participated in all activities." In her previous school, Ana was not allowed to do sports, or anything else that would put her into close contact with other children. "They were afraid of me," she recounts, "so the teacher always told me to sit away from the rest."

Ana had gotten used to staying apart from other children, and Ms. Baptista had to convince her to participate. "I would find lighter activities for her that I knew she could handle; she needs to move like the other children, and be a part of the group!" The other children were initially afraid, or perhaps curious, as Ana started to take part. "I did not feel different once I started doing sports. I just felt like it was the normal thing to do," Ana says, pointing out how naturally she joined the group.

"Many of my classmates like me now, they are not afraid anymore," she says with a glint in her eyes. Ana invites us to her home, where she lives with her parents and four siblings. She shows us the daily work she usually does: in the morning she goes to fetch water, and she shows us how she then mills and refines corn seeds. "She helps out a lot at home," her father says. "Ana is a very good daughter."

The other day, Ana's father came to school to watch his daughter play sports. "We have realized that Ana can do almost everything. And she is good at playing football too!" he says proudly. Ana feels very much a part of her class now. A boy in the front row shouts, "Ana, come here!" Ana goes and sits next to him, ready for her teacher to start the lesson.

 

 

 

 

Child-Friendly Schools: Stories from Mozambique

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