Learning a distant dream… UNICEF Angola’s Resident Programme Officer Teofilo Kaingona explains

UNICEF’s larger country programmes maintain sub-national field offices to ensure that we have an in-depth understanding of regional contexts, build close working relationships with local government officials, and monitor programmes first-hand. As IKEA Italy will be accompanied in their upcoming iWitness field visit by Teofilo, a Resident Programme Officer in one of Angola’s most deprived provinces, we have no doubt they will be in good hands!

My name is Teofilo Kaingona and I am UNICEF’s Resident Programme Officer in the Province of Moxico, one of 18 provinces in Angola. I joined UNICEF in 2008 and have participated actively in projects that aim to improve the country’s fledgling education system.

©UNICEF/ANGA2016/Laura Alonso
©UNICEF/ANGA2016/Laura Alonso

The Angolan education system is still in reconstruction and faces a host of challenges, which the country’s government has endeavoured to address. These include the lack of adequate school infrastructure and the difficulty of attracting and retaining quality teachers, which means poorly trained or unqualified teachers are often employed. There is also a lack of quality instructional materials and insufficient government funding. If these challenges are the sequels of nearly three decades of war, the education sector suffered another setback in 2015. The oil crisis adversely affected the country’s economy and led to a further reduction in resources for the education sector.

Despite the noted efforts by the Angolan government to address these challenges, the reality is that access for all children to quality teaching and learning remains a distant dream. Progress is marred by late entry of children into primary school, high repetition and premature dropout rates, a low attendance ratio, as well as a very low primary completion rate. Compared to other countries in the region, Angola’s education system continues to struggle significantly in many areas. Because of this situation, UNICEF’s partnership with the IKEA Foundation has been beneficial in many regards.

In a context of reduced resources, UNICEF has been able to continue supporting the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Assistance partly because of the financial assistance provided by the IKEA Foundation.  The resources provided by the IKEA Foundation have helped implement projects in various provinces in the country. Each of these projects has been instrumental in the efforts to reverse the tide and help the government improve the learning opportunities for all Angolan children.

As the Resident Programme Officer in the Field Office in Moxico, I have been personally managing some of these projects. They aim to bring changes not only in the classroom, but also in the lives of Angolan children and in their communities as a whole.

Because of the fruits of UNICEF partnership with the IKEA Foundation, the Child Friendly School pilot project is now in full gear in the province of Moxico. This addresses some of the obstacles to quality education and has made it possible to organise several training seminars for teachers and school directors.

These seminars have provided teachers and children with more knowledge and skills in personal hygiene and sanitation, and teachers have learned about child-oriented teaching.  School directors have learned about managerial skills and leadership styles. The training is critical in the collective efforts to improve the quality of learning.

Thanks to the partnership with the IKEA Foundation, UNICEF has also been able to fund the construction of bathrooms in some of the schools in Moxico. This will help create conditions that are conducive to learning for all students, particularly for young girls, who tend to drop out of school for lack of appropriate hygiene conditions.

All in all, I deem it a blessing to be part of UNICEF Angola and I am particularly grateful for the IKEA Foundation’s financial assistance. Our Country Office will continue using these funds carefully to create better learning outcomes for all Angolan children.