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Vulnerable children benefit from child-friendly schools in Mozambique

© UNICEF Mozambique/2010/Machiana
Delfina, 9, attends 3 de Fevereiro Primary School in Buzi District, Mozambique. Her bag contains basic education supplies that are distributed to all students in the district's child-friendly schools.

By Emidio Machiana

BUZI, Mozambique, 1 March 2010 − Muchindo Alberto, the fifth-grade teacher at 3 de Fevereiro Primary School, is proud of his child-friendly school. "Until recently, many children had to sit on the on the floor, but today we have enough school desks for all," he says.

The school is part of the Child-Friendly Schools Initiative, a partnership between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, introduced to Buzi District in 2007.

Mr. Alberto is quick to call attention to the visible changes that have improved the school over the past three years. He notes, for example, that the construction of five new latrines has played an important role in keeping students in attendance. "The school only had three latrines in very poor condition," he explains, "so the children were reluctant to use them. They often had to miss school as a result."

But Mr. Alberto also acknowledges that building new child-friendly facilities is just one aspect of creating a learning environment that addresses the needs of all children, especially the most vulnerable.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2010/Machiana
Children study in a newly built classroom equipped with new school desks at 3 de Fevereiro Primary School in Mozambique.

More vulnerable children

In Mozambique, the effects of AIDS, poverty and food insecurity have eroded the traditional support system provided by families and communities, giving rise to a rapid increase in the number of orphaned and vulnerable children. There are an estimated 1.4 million orphans in the country, including some 400,000 who have lost parents to AIDS.

Responding to these challenges, the Child-Friendly Schools Initiative aims to improve the quality of education in primary schools through the implementation of an integrated package of school interventions and quality standards. In this context, schools have become entry points for delivering a range of essential basic services.

The package of school interventions covers five main focus areas: education; water, sanitation and hygiene; health; protection of vulnerable children; and community participation. The initiative promotes caring for the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of every child, with special attention to vulnerable children and girls. Districts in seven provinces of Mozambique are targeted.

'A range of support'

"Teachers, parents and school council members work together to identify vulnerable children in the community," says Mr. Alberto. "We try to provide a range of support, giving priority to school materials, and referring the most vulnerable to social services."

In collaboration with local health authorities, the child-friendly schools facilitate access to primary health care. Mobile health units come to the schools regularly to provide vaccinations, de-worming and nutritional screening. "Students also learn life skills such as the importance of preventing HIV and most common diseases, how to better clean their teeth and follow a good diet," adds Mr. Alberto. 

Mozambique's child-friendly schools programme, which is part of the Schools for Africa initiative, now covers all primary schools in seven districts, benefiting approximately 750 schools and over 300,000 school-age children.



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