Everyone wins when schools become child friendly - and Angola shows why
Trained teachers and schools with wash and sanitation services are conditions to create the environment children need to learn
When 10-year-old Felicidade joined the school n.º 141 in Cuenha, Moxico province, students were forced to bring water from home. There was no running water available in the school premises. Toilets were closed and smelled bad. The bathroom? The school surroundings.
"Today we have water that comes out of the tank. We also use it to irrigate the plants", says Felicidade, now a 3rd grade student in what is called a Child Friendly School (CFS), a UNICEF-supported approach which has been implemented in three provinces in Angola. In Moxico, fives schools are part of the program.
Felicidade Bernarda is among the 8,000 students reached by the project in the province. She wakes up daily around 6 am and starts her 30-minute walk to school after breakfast. She does not hide her happiness with the new learning environment that awaits her: she feels loved by colleagues and receives attention of the teachers.
A healthy and cozy ambiance for children is one of the preconditions for improving the quality of teaching and learning according to the Child Friendly School approach. The aim is to create an educational environment where all children can acquire positive learning experiences with the participation of parents and the community, in a rights-based, academically-efficient, gender-sensitive, safe, protective and healthy setting.
Focusing on the teacher
In addition to promoting sanitation and water access, the approach devotes attention to teachers, as many in the country see themselves suddenly responsible for packed classrooms with energetic children, but without proper training.
"I used to come to school without preparing myself and the class. I came with books in my hands and just gave lessons", reminds Felicidade’s teacher, Anabela Camisa, 42, who has made classrooms her second home more than two-decades ago.
Even though she has taught for a long time, she acknowledges that through the trainings she learned innovative ways to interact with students and involve them in her classes.
"One valuable lesson is, that not only the teacher must speak. When I give the students the opportunity to express themselves, learning is improved"
Like Anabela, more than 140 teachers from Moxico province have been trained since 2014 to improve their teaching methods and student participation as well on content as hygiene, sanitation and adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
There is an African saying which states that it is needed a whole village’s effort and attention to educate a child, which highlights the importance of the community in educating every boy and girl.
The Child Friendly Schools approach seeks to reinforce this aspect, with one of its principles guaranteeing the participation of the community and students in the development and improvement of the school.
Through regular meetings between the school, parents and the parents commission, some activities are defined for the institution’s maintenance and management. "The advantage is that the school can’t decide anything without the parents and teachers participating as well. When we want to do something, we sit together and we see whether we can move forward", says Teresa da Conceição Muteji, Director of School No. 174, located in Zorró neighborhood, outskirts of Luena and part of the project since 2014.
The activities carried out by parents and school management are listed on the School Education Project, developed in a participative way at the beginning of the implementation of the Child Friendly School. This project identifies the problems and solutions to the school’s challenges as well as the responsibilities to be shared between parents and the school.
For Teresa’s school, the directorate and the parents commission’s next challenge is building a wall on the back of the institution to improve children’s safety. In addition, it was through participatory management that both the school and the surrounding community could now benefit from the water tank installed at the school and working on full mode.
And it is water that allows all Child Friendly Schools to keep green spaces available for children to care for and play. Felicidade and her friend, 10-year-old Domingas Gabriel, are part of the group of students who help teachers to maintain the green spaces by watering plants twice a day.
You may think that this is the girls’ favorite part of the day – or even playtime after the bell rings in the middle of the morning – but what Domingas likes the most at her school is something she receives more each day: valuable information for a safe life. “Among many things, the director and the teacher have taught me the importance of washing hands”, she remembers, saying that all knowledge she gains she tries to take home to her beloved’s benefits.