Vitória, heroine of the village

Annual Report of UNICEF Mozambique 2014

Well, well, it was quite a surprise my parents had prepared for my 12 birthday. I feel strong, enjoy living in my village andam doing very well in school. Now I even have a program in the community radio and soon I will be going to Maputo with my friend Aurora to participate in a Child to Child training about Radio communications.

- Hi, Vitória. Can I tell you something?

Rosita came running to meet me, a 13 year old girl from another class.

- this true? Is he new?
- Yes, he just recently and now everyone wants him replaced.
- Xiii... I do not know what to do now, but I will think of something. Let us talk tomorrow.
- Excuse me, are you Vitória?
- Yes, that is me. Who are you? What’s up?
- My name is Zé.
- What can I do for you, Zé? Are you in school? I have not seen you before.
- No, I am not in school, but I would like to study.
- And why don’t you come?
- Because I do not have a birth certificate.

I was surprised and intrigued to hear the story of Zé and his family. They had arrived at the village because his father had travelled to the mines in South Africa to look for a job. It had been a long time since he had last written or called. Many people said that he was living with a woman in that country. That is why Zé’s mother had to leave the bush abandoning the hut where they lived to look for a job and assistance. However, no one registered Zé’s birth or the birth of his younger brothers, and now they are not able to study.

- It’s all right, Zé. I’ll see what I can do.

Before our lesson started, I spoke with Zacarias, the teacher, and explained the two cases of Rosita and Zé. He committed to finding a solution with help from the Headmaster of the school and APE, called Feliciano. That day I went to bed very worried and it was difficult to fall asleep.

The next day, Zacarias the teacher told me Feliciano would come by in the afternoon. Then he asked me to go get Rosita and her classmates. When they came, they confirmed that the new teacher hadn’t arrived yet. Then Zacarias the teacher began explaining to them what they should do to motivate their new teacher into changing his behavior. They quickly began to do what he had suggested, writing messages on posters of all sizes and colors for the new teacher.

The first message was placed in the entrance of the classroom and when the teacher arrived he read:

- "Welcome teacher, we are eagerly waiting for your brilliant lesson"
Perfectly written on the board in front of the room, was another message:
- "We hope you slept well so you can share your wisdom and knowledge"
He looked at the students seriously and sat in his desk, where there was yet another message:
- "We are flowers thirsty for knowledge, do not let us dry up"

During that morning, every time the teacher would leave or fall asleep, when he returned or woke up he would see a new message. He began feeling so uncomfortable by that situation that he was motivated into giving his first complete lesson.

When it was time for the break, I saw Zé atschool staring at me. I went to meet him and we started talking. He told me how he was disappointed he did not have a birth certificate and how ashamed he felt to say that his father had abandoned his family.

- I am still young, and there are many things I do not know. I did not know that a birth certificate was that important.
- Well, Zé. Zacarias, the teacher, says that everyone, children and adults must have a birth certificate.
- Xiii... I thought moms pulled their babies out of their tummies with a paper signed by Father God and he was the one that gave the names of each person in that paper, said Zé.

I smiled, it was a good idea, but then I explained to him that it was most likely that his parents forgot to get the certificate.

- Well, yes... My father never registered us because he was always traveling. That is why I think Father God could send the babies with their registrations. Think about it, Vitória. That is the only way no father would ever forget to document their children, and since God is so smart he would give his children the prettiest names.

Zé and I laughed. Then I asked him if they had tried getting him registered.

- We went to the district’s administration office, but the man in the balcony told my mom that my dad had to be with her. She tried to explain our situation but the man would not listen. He insisted we had to solve our problem before getting the registration. That man said that if my father had “fled” we should file a lawsuit; my mom told him we did not have any money and that I needed to be registered urgently so I would not miss my school year. But the man replied that was not his problem. Vitória, do you think it is possible to study without a certificate?

I remained silent but Zé asked another question:

- Vitória, what does the word “fled” mean?
I returned to my classroom and told Mr. Zacarias about my conversation with Zé.
- You know, Julia, don’t you? Do you know who she is? – asked the teacher.
- Yes, she is the girl who broadcasts on the radio.
- Well, yesterday she was talking about a project of the government with support from UNICEF that helps people with similar problems to get a certificate.
- Xiii... Seriously? Let’s contact them.
- Feliciano will come with a team at 2 pm and Julia from the radio will be there too to cover the story. Let Zé and his mother know so they can be here at that hour.

I was very happy, I was finally going to meet my heroine, the one who inspired me to collaborate with my school’s community radio, but most importantly, we were going to solve Zé’s problem.

Before 2 pm Zé and his mom arrived and it was a big surprise for them to find APE Feliciano, the school headmaster, Mr. Zacarias and the personnel there to make the certificate. Julia was there too, she was in a wheelchair. I hadn’t imagined her like that and my admiration for her grew even more, because, in spite of the distance and her disability, she had become an important person to our villages. She explained to me that she did not receive her vaccines when she was a baby and had caught an infection that left her without any movement in her legs.

I was so excited I even shed tears of joy when they finally gave the document to Zé and his mom. Since that day I have begun enjoying my work in the community radio more and my wish is to be like Julia.

When we left the classroom toward the school entrance, we saw Rosita and her classmates running after the new teacher. We had to slow down our step because the students would send more and more encouraging messages through paper planes as the teacher left.

In that moment, Mr. Zacarias asked Zé’s mom if she knew where her husband was. She did not reply. He walked up to Zé and asked what he thought of his father. Zé thought for a moment and said:

- I like my dad. I know that wherever he is, I’m still important to him.

Zé’s mom could not take it anymore and began to cry, he went over to her side and began tickling her and saying:

- Don’t cry, mommy.… We have my certificate, I can now go to school.

We said goodbye and watched Zé and his mother walk away happily, crossing paper planes from some students who continued to throw them merrily.

All of us make a school, learning is a universal right."

RESULTS: Education with support from UNICEF

A proposal for the Global Partnership for Education for 57.9 million USD was developed.The prioritisation of quality and learning was leveraged (Primary Education Plan 2015-18).

Built capacities of 6,000 teachers in 7 districtsin “Child Friendly Schools” districts as well as of the teacher training institutions at national level.

Six hundred (600)primary schools implemented quality standards and guidelines on the quality of education and shared lessons learnt for nationwide roll-out of standards, their monitoring and supervision.

Twenty-two (22)teacher training institutions in 11 provinces integrate cross-cutting issues on school health, HIV/AIDS prevention, life skills, gender, prevention of abuses and practice of sport.

UNICEF supported the inclusion of school-based emergency preparedness plans in curriculum.

RESULTS: Child protection with the support of UNICEF

In 2014, 319,871 children were registered during the National Health Weeks. It is estimated that 60% of all children under 5 years old have been registered.

The National Operational Plan for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics was designed by the Government with the support of UNICEF and partners.

Technical and financial support from UNICEF contributed to an increase in the commitment of the Government and of other partners to child sensitive social protection and to revising the Social Security Strategy.

The Case Management manual was endorsed by the Government, and 1,400 Community Committees were trained in Zambézia, Inhambane and Gaza provinces, which could thenidentify protection cases involving 141,000 vulnerable children that require intervention. Evidence of the role and function of these committees which counted on support from UNICEF is being documented.

By court decision, 2,000 children were reunited with a foster family, with the technical and financial support of UNICEF.

National Campaign against Child Marriage launched by the Prime Minister, with the contribution of development partners, including UNICEF, through advocacy, and technical and financial assistance.