Today we visited three different sized schools around Changara district in Mozambique. The number of children varied from 136 girls and 124 boys with five teachers to 1,300 girls and 1,200 boys with 59 teachers. Changara is approximately one hour drive south from Tete city. Schools in the area are supported by different UNICEF projects. Two of the schools also focus on sports and physical education and activities. We had a great opportunity to participate in different sports activities with the children.
The IWitness team played soccer together with schoolchildren in challenging weather conditions; the temperature was around 35 Celsius and the playground was on hot sand. There were around 40 kids playing in two teams and around 500 kids and adults watching the game. Football is the favourite sport in Mozambique and easy to play because it just needs a ball and players. Many times the footballs were made by wrapping fabrics into a shape of ball. While travelling through the countryside, we discovered many football fields with goals usually without nets. Football fields were often located next to schools. During sport classes, children played different games using tennis balls, bottles and hula hoops to train their agility-, speed- and balance skills. Physical education exercises included jumping, swinging and striding.
The purpose of the schools with a focus on physical education is to give the kids the possibility to have comprehensive development. We could see for ourselves that they were not playing soccer for the first time. Other school subjects in their weekly schedule are Portuguese, maths and, in upper grades, even a little English.
Key to life—water
UNICEF’s WASH project (water, sanitation and hygiene) is one of the key programmes creating better conditions in primary schools. UNICEF has set two targets to this programme. The first target is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
One of the first schools we saw the importance of this was Escola Primária de Cassinde in Changara province. We had a long journey to the school through almost inaccessible roads. Surrounding the school was a small village that now can benefit from a working water point.
The community can now get clean water from their village instead of walking hours to get it from other sources. The area is one of the driest in Mozambique and, especially during wintertime, there is no rain and rivers are dry. This we witnessed ourselves and even drove through some of those.
The second is to ensure that all schools have adequate, child-friendly water and sanitation facilities, and a hygiene education programme.
Children now have handwashing possibilities, and new lavatories are important, especially to the health of girls. Lavatories were also separate for boys and girls. When sanitation and hygiene are of a much higher standard, it contributes also to lowering diseases and the child mortality rate.
The mortality rate for children under five years old has decreased significantly. In 1997, two out of every ten children born alive would die in the first five years. By 2011 this was reduced by half according to Demographic and Health Surveys.