“I love going to school; I want to be a strong good person”
Story of a dreamer who receives UNICEF’s support to chase her dream in school.
It has been a year since 7-year-old Zeinab and her twin sister Zinat left Mazar Sharif in Afghanistan with their family and moved to Kerman, the capital city of Kerman Province in central Iran. Zeinab’s dream is to become a doctor. “I want to go to school, study hard and become a good person,” she says, “I love to go to school, to do sport, and become strong.” And now, she accompanies her father and sister to Moallem School to take her first step toward realising her dream.
As part of a UNICEF-supported national programme, Zeinab and Zinat, participate in a series of tests that examine students’ hearing, vision, overall health and school readiness upon enrolling in first-grade primary school. The tests will diagnose any special support children might need to enter school.
The Health Screening Programme is also an opportunity for the screening staff to raise parents' awareness on how they can better support their children, especially in terms of health and hygiene, including for parents like Mohammad Hossein, who has six children and today accompanies his youngest, 7-year-old Zeinab, for the testing. “All our efforts are for our children to have a bright future,” says Mohammad Hossein while waiting for his daughter’s private testing session.
The Health Screening Programme is a mandatory school entrance test each child must take before enrolling in grade one school. Annually, more than one million children in Iran participate in this programme. However, there is a price tag attached to it, and despite being a small fee, it discourages mostly low-income parents from enrolling their children.
As part of a cooperation between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, UNICEF covered the financial costs of the school entrance health screening programme for the Afghan refugee children, nomad children, and children in disadvantaged areas of four provinces, namely Sistan and Balouchistan, Hormozgan, Kerman, and Lorestan. As a result, 97,454 children, including 46,923 girls, benefited from free screening services.
Two of these children are Kolsoum and Masoumeh, who visited the testing site at a school in Kerman with their mother Bibi Noor. Mother of six, Bibi Noor says that both she and her husband are illiterate, but they don’t want the same fate for their children. All six children of this Afghan refugee family are currently going to school in Iran.
Thanks to UNICEF support, this year, the screening programme has accomplished an outstanding achievement. While the less advantaged south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan suffered the lowest rates of screening coverage in the past three decades, in the current school year 2022-2023, the participation rate increased significantly, winning this province the highest rate of participation in the National Health Screening Programme. The results of this program have also provided evidence for the Ministry of Education to advocate for increased public finance for health screening for 2023.
UNICEF will continue its collaboration with the Ministry of Education on health screening through the procurement of equipment for hard-to-reach areas, provision of technical assistance to improve test quality, and expanding coverage to disadvantaged families.
Hand in hand and having finished the screening process, Zeinab and Zinat left the school knowing that they would have the opportunity to make their dreams come true; to study, get more knowledgeable and become “a strong good person.”