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UNICEF and local partners promote child-friendly schools in Rwanda

© UNICEF Rwanda/2007
Both girls and boys in class at Rubingo Primary school outside Kigali, Rwanda.

By Cyriaque Ngoboka

KIGALI, Rwanda, 3 July 2007 – Rubingo Primary School in Gasabo District, approximately 20 km from Kigali City, has all the hallmarks of a child-friendly school.

Six new classrooms have been constructed and equipped with learning materials for orphans and vulnerable children, and teacher-training courses have been organized. UNICEF has provided a water tank where students can wash their hands, and drinking water is available in all classrooms. There are separate latrines for girls and boys.

An engaged parents committee co-manages the school and helps to ensure protection of the children.

Recognized for performance

Rubingo Primary School is recognized for its good performance. Records show that 616 girls and 610 boys are currently enrolled. The estimated drop-out rate for this school year is 1 per cent. And Rubingo students’ transition rates from primary to secondary school have increased from 56 per cent in 2004 to 69 percent in 2006.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2007
Girls play volleyball while boys practice basketball at Rubingo Primary School.

Ranked first in Gasabo District in 2003-04, Rubingo generated the district’s two top-ranked female students; the girls received the First Lady’s Award for achievement.

The school’s performance can be attributed, in part, to parent and community participation, the commitment of the teachers and active campaigning on girls’ education.

Focus on the ‘whole’ child

The child-friendly school, or CFS, model that is embraced at Rubingo Primary School is UNICEF’s approach to promoting quality education for all children – especially among the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations – both in everyday circumstances and in emergencies. Child-friendly educators focus on the needs of the ‘whole’ child (which include his or her health, nutrition and overall well-being) and care about what happens to children in their families and communities before they enter school and after they leave.

“The CFS model has not only created a conducive school environment for reconciliation, healing and hope, but has also helped to increase school enrolment and retention,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Rwanda, Dr. Joseph Foumbi. “Children, especially girls, are more motivated to stay in school.

During the annual joint review of education under the Sector Wide Approach programme in Rwanda, UNICEF officials and partners visited Rubingo to see how the CFS model is taking shape on the ground and share best practices from the school.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2007
Girls and boys exhibiting their 'Tuseme' (Speak Out!) club sign.

Working closely with partners

UNICEF and the non-governmental Forum for African Woman Educationalists are working closely together to support child-led clubs and encourage participation and mentoring of children at Rubingo and other schools. Peer support groups include anti-AIDS and ‘Tuseme’ (Speak Out!) clubs organized by dedicated teachers.

A communication club was recently formed at Rubingo Primary School with the objective, among others, of tracing the Grade 6 drop-outs to establish their whereabouts and inform the appropriate authorities if they are not in school.

Right to Play, an international NGO, promotes sports for development – central to the CFS model – in the school as part of its psychosocial support role. Both girls and boys are encouraged to participate in sports activities, and playgrounds are being rehabilitated by parents.

School Campaign under way

Meanwhile, a five-year School Campaign, which focuses on improving retention and achievements of girls, was launched by the First Lady of Rwanda in March. A series of district-level campaign launches are being organized to mobilize communities, civil society and other key stakeholders around the effort.

The campaign also supports a CFS model promoting a healthy, safe and protective environment for children’s emotional, psychological and physical well-being, both in primary and secondary schools – especially for girls.



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