Education Programme:

The emphasis of the Programme is on improving the quality of education. In addition, the goal is to increase access to primary school children to finish 6th grade.

The Mid Term Review held in July 1999 recommended that UNICEF strengthen its support to physical integration of 5th and 6th grades in primary schools. As a result, UNICEF is planning to support the government, together with Nuova Frontiera, in building two such classrooms at the primary school in Porto Alegre expected to be completed by the end of 2000. At the time of writing, the tender offers have been received and are being submitted to the Regional Office for review. Interestingly, an initial rapid assessment on working children in Caue (which has laid the groundwork for a full study with ILO later this year) revealed that many very young children work in the absence of available education beyond 4th grade. Increasing access to higher grades could thus contribute to a reduction of child labor.

As in the case of health, São Tomé e Principe´s relatively good education indicators are now under threat for a variety of reasons. Many roça (plantation) schools and crêches were closed when the plantations were privatised; remaining schools and crêches are often overcrowded; remuneration of educators is lamentable; and successive strikes by teachers have further weakened the system. Primary school enrolment has begun to decline again, both in absolute numbers and relative to the school age population, since reaching a peak in the 1993/1994 school year.

In October 1999, the government issued a decree introducing uniforms in schools and a student fee starting in 7th grade. However, the decree has not yet been enforced. Uniforms in creches have been in existence for many years.

The Child to Child approach was introduced in several pilot schools in São Tomé as well on Principe island. A foreign consultant trained the Saude Escolar team in the methodology and supervision. Some one hundred teachers, school directors and inspectors were trained in the approach, which stresses participation by children in issues such as health or environment. In 2000, the experiment was continued. UNICEF stands at the crossroads of an evaluation whether to pursue this approach in a substantive way.

UNICEF collaborated with the Ministry of Education in several areas: strengthening teacher training in basic and secondary education; continuation of the Monitoring Learning Achievement exercise, this time with fourth graders, and its extension included measurement of teacher learning achievement (the latter's findings revealed substantial lack of teaching abilities in Portuguese and Math); additional school materials were made available by UNICEF; and the school garden project, begun on Principe Island in 1998, was expanded to various schools in São Tomé. Since the closing of the Teacher Training College in 1997, teacher training consists mainly of upgrading unqualified teachers in the system. Over half of all teachers are in effect unqualified to teach. A new thrust is under way in the area of Eary Childhood Care-Survival growht and Development.

The 1997/1998 annual statistical handbook, Anuario, was published. Results of a study on the Situation of Girls in São Tomé e Principe was submitted to UNICEF in March 2000 but has yet to be presented to government for clearance and approval. Its main conclusions will then be published on this site.

In informal education, UNICEF is expanding its collaboration with NGOs and youth groups. In 1999, a co-operation was started with the Gabinete de Apoio a Juventude (GAJ), a government branch of the Gabinete da Promoçao da Mulher e da Familia, which trains girls in life skills and languages during an 18 month period. In August 2000, a group of 30 girls received a well-deserved diploma in a variety of disciplines. The challenge is now to find them jobs related to the training received. UNICEF will continue to support this course, which is expected to resume in October of this year. Through the Instituto de Apoio a Criança (IAC), Cruz Vermelha, AISEC, Jocum, ARCAR and GAJ, over 200 children benefit from vocational training and literacy.

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