School programmes improve quality of education
Laici Nércio Gomes is ten years old but looks a lot younger. He is withdrawn, shy and uneasy with being the centre of attention, away from the spotlight, he cracks a smile. The Grade 3 student, at the Escola Primária Completa de Coalana, lost his parents in 2013 at the age of seven.
Laici now lives with his uncle, aunt and cousins, in a small mud house not far from the school. He sleeps in a dark, cold, room that resembles a storage space. In the middle of the room, hangs a hammock and over that dangles a mosquito net from the very low ceiling. The net only covers a fraction of his body. There is no blanket in sight.
"I never get enough food here. I have to wash all the laundry, clean and fetch water from far away," says Laici. He chokes back tears as he recalls life with his parents.
"I miss them so much, they were so good to me. I never went without food. I wish I could go live with my aunt, maybe it would be better then," he says.
"I miss my parents so much, they were so good to me. I never went without food" - 10-year-old Laici Nércio Gomes.
Life is tough for Laici, but the situation is even worse for many Mozambican orphans.
UNICEF Mozambique's Chief of Education, Iris Uyttersprot, says they are aware of widespread mistreatment of orphans and, sadly, this is not only confined to orphans.
She says there are also multiple reports of abuse and violence against children. Many children suffer at the hands of relatives, teachers and parents. An estimated 1.2 million children, mostly girls, do not attend school during their primary years.
In Nampula and Niassa, UNICEF is involved in supporting the Government's zero tolerance of violence against children programme.
"The programme is creating awareness not only in schools, but within the broader community. This year we are promoting reporting mechanisms through boxes in schools to report instances of abuse. We want school councils to be actively involved in the fight against sexual abuse, early marriages and early pregnancies," says Iris.
"This year we are promoting reporting mechanisms through boxes in schools to report instances of abuse. We want school councils to be actively involved in the fight against sexual abuse, early marriages and early pregnancies" - UNICEF Mozambique's Chief of Education, Iris Uyttersprot.
Together with the Mozambican government, UNICEF developed a more comprehensive approach to improve schooling conditions in Zambézia and Tete provinces. The new strategy includes the establishment of School Councils. This has already had an impact on Laici's life.
On International Children's Day, which is observed annually on 1 June, the children were asked to bring food to school to celebrate Children's Month. Laici had nothing; the Council and the children came together and contributed food for him.
School Council President, Christina Jaime, says "The morale of children from poor homes is low. They come from families who often do not pay attention to their needs, we try whatever we can do to raise their spirits."
Laici's underprivileged school in Zambézia province has 2160 children with up to 60 per classroom, the average in Zambézia is 73. The classrooms have the bare essentials, a chalkboard, desks and cold cement floors. The outside walls of the classrooms are, however, covered with beautiful cheerful art.
School Council Treasurer, Marinho Vircziolio, says, "Having a School Council has come with some benefits because now there is transparency and accountability."
A School Council manual, which was funded by UNICEF, also ensures financial accountability and monitors teacher attendance. Laici's school Director, Maria Cândida Paulo, says that the overall performance of children has improved.
"We saw a 70 per cent increase in the children's academic performance in the first quarter of this year as a result of the School Council's actions," says Maria.
In the meantime the manual has been adopted as a national education tool and will be rolled out across the country in 2016.
UNICEF also supports teacher training in Mozambique. Ângelo Evaristo Varela works at the Teacher Training Institute. In the first phase of the project they trained 83 teachers, which in turn will train others. Ângelo boastfully displays a variety of handmade teaching aids, folded paper that was turned into colourful fruit and a hand carved globe.
"Many schools cannot afford equipment and teaching aids, so we train teachers to be creative, innovative and how to use natural resources," says Ângelo.
Vánia Luis Assanaio, 19, and Sergio Victorino, 21, are student teachers at the Teacher Training Institute and are being trained in methods that they will apply when teaching at primary schools.
There are about 200 teacher trainees in the institute, which is not enough to cover the teacher shortage in Quelimane district. The student teachers also learn how to manage overcrowded classrooms and children with behavioural problems.
"Many schools cannot afford equipment and teaching aids, so we train teachers to be creative, innovative and how to use natural resources" - Ângelo Evaristo Varela.
- UNICEF integrated best practices from the Child Friendly Schools project in 2015, including quality learning as well as access and retention.
- UNICEF together with the Ministry of Education developed a School Councils' manual.
- In Nampula and Niassa, UNICEF supported the Government's zero tolerance of violence against children programme.
- UNICEF provided technical assistance that led to the development of the national in-service training strategy for primary teachers.
- National strategy for in-service teacher training addressed teacher capacity which greatly impacts on quality of education.
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