A school is not a building
When you read about the Soft Toys for Education campaign funding school projects in Africa, you might picture shovels in the ground and constructions of nice new school buildings. The kids were previously sitting under a tree, you’d presume.
South Africa is different. The country is rich, proud, strong and full of resources – including resourceful people. Still, South Africa is topping the lists on violence, HIV and economical differences. The country has many schools and most kids attend school. For a while. The challenge is to make the children stay in school. Then you need to think differently. Luckily UNICEF does.
UNICEF is creating child friendly schools. But, aren’t schools child friendly per definition?, you might ask. Well, the answer is that not all schools in South Africa are equipped for quality learning. The teaching can be poor, the costs to high and the school can be discriminatory and even dangerous for girls.
UNICEF has initiated the program “Safe and Caring Child Friendly Schools”. The program aims to raise the quality in the schools, and make it a safe, healthy, equal and caring place to be. How? The UNICEF posters on the walls of the schools we visited say the lot:
Rights based – my school supports my right to access quality basic education in an environmental free from abuse, corporal punishment and discrimination
Effective – my school ensures that teachers are teaching and learners are achieving academic excellence
Health Seeking – my school promotes access to health and promotes healthy behaviors
Community based partnerships – My school ensures quality education in a safe and secure environment. Communities that care share the responsibility for learners’ well being and achievement.
Gender sensitive – my school will not discriminate and will allow equal opportunities for girls and boys. I am my sister’s and brother’s keeper!
Making more out of less
What impressed me the most of what I have seen of UNICEF’s efforts in South Africa, is the way they work with both local schools on the ground and with the top authorities. If they are able to convince the government of the success of these kinds of programs, the government will take over and scale it up. In this way more and more schools will become safe and child friendly. UNICEF is achieving great results with small means; making more out of less, as we in IKEA usually put it. When the country takes ownership of the programs, this will create lasting positive changes for the many children and for the society at large: glorious future!