IKEA Norway visits South Africa to learn about Safe and Caring Child-Friendly Schools
To IKEA customers the months of November and December are synonomous with the annual Soft Toys Campaign. For every soft toy bought in IKEA stores the IKEA Foundation donates 1, 30 USD towards education projects. Last year’s campaign raised a total of 12 million USD.
In South Africa, the Safe and Caring Child-Friendly Schools Programme enjoys the support of this highly successful campaign. But the buyers of the soft toys are not the only heroes. IKEA staff members play a crucial role in advocating for the rights of children by telling customers how the funds are making a difference. In June 2013, IKEA Norway sent six staff members to South Africa for an eyewitness account of the impact the campaign has on the ground, specifically related to the Safe and Caring Child-Friendly Schools Programme.
The Safe and Caring Child-Friendly Schools Programme is based on a framework that attempts to define the provision of quality education in a holistic and integrated manner. A school that adopts the framework should strive towards being effective, rights based, gender responsive, health seeking and promoting, safe and secure and partnership oriented.
To see how the principles are applied practically, the group from IKEA Norway visited two primary schools, a secondary school and an early childhood development centre. All schools visited are based in Mpumalanga where the programme was rolled out in 2012.
Safe and Caring-Child Friendly Programme already reaping results in Mpumalanga
“Despite the relatively recent implementation of the Programme in Mpumalanga, its impact is already evident,” said UNICEF South Africa Education Chief Nadi Albino. “The results that we are seeing can be attributed to the commitment of our government partners and educators working on the ground.”
Not only does the programme have an impact on learner achievement rates, socio-culturally it is also making a difference.
“Since the onset of the SCCFS programme one school was able to report that teen pregnancy rates have dropped and learner achievement rates improved,” said Albino. “One school reported that in January 2012 the schools had 14 reported teen pregnancies and by end May 2013 they had only two. This is a significant reduction. In addition, the pass rate increased from 13% in December 2011 to 33% by December 2012 - only five months after the program started.”
IKEA Norway staff members’ able to view successes of the Programme firsthand
Communities in rural Mpumalanga face a myriad of social challenges, but the commitment of the educators and government has led to a dramatic improvement in the quality of education.
“IKEA’s commitment to children is far-reaching,” said Norway Committee for UNICEF Corporate Partnerships Manager Elisabeth Rytterager. “This field trip provided an excellent opportunity to show the group from IKEA Norway how UNICEF is utilising their funds in a systematic manner.”
The delegation observed classes in session and also had the opportunity to engage with learners and educators, learning more of the successes gained, but also challenges that remain.
The store manager for IKEA in Stavanger, Norway, Hans Inge Skadberg has been with IKEA for over a decade. An IKEA store welcomes up to 10,000 customers through its doors every day. Skadberg, therefore, is no stranger to the importance of strategic and effective partnerships to ensure success.
“We learnt that UNICEF has very particular challenges in South Africa,” said Skadberg. “Through the week we realised the importance of UNICEF’s commitment to work with all stakeholders involved, and not in isolation,” said Skadberg following the group’s visits to the schools. “By empowering learners and educators, the Safe and Caring Child-Friendly Schools Programme equips schools to stand on their own feet.”
UNICEF and IKEA Ambassador looking forward to share his experience with customers
For U&I Ambassador Sindre Kalve Jonassen, the trip was particularly memorable. U&I ambassadors are dedicated IKEA staff members appointed to share the story behind the “UNICEF and IKEA” (U&I) partnership with IKEA customers.
Sindre works at an IKEA store in the Norwegian city of Åsane. As someone who works closely with customers in communicating the vision and cause behind the UNICEF and IKEA partnership, the visit is among the highlights of his role as ambassador for the partnership.
“I will now be able to share what IKEA and UNICEF’s partnership means with even greater depth,” said Sindre. “I came to South Africa not knowing exactly what to expect, but whatever expectations I had were overwhelmed by the passion and dedication of the children and educators. The experience moved us all to tears of joy and amazement.”
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