2011 moments of inspiration (part 1 of 4)

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UNICEF education staff share their stories

NEW YORK, 4 January 2012 – We asked UNICEF education staff around the globe to tell us about their most inspiring moment they experienced in 2011. Something that they would not forget and reminded them why they chose this profession. Here are some of their stories.

©Elena Duro/2011
Children having breakfast in the indigenous rural school of the Province of Salta, Argentina. The school is located at 3,500 meters high and some children have to walk several hours through the mountains to get there.

Elena Duro
Education Specialist
UNICEF Argentina

One of the most moving and motivating experiences this year was a visit to an indigenous rural school in the province of Salta, located at an altitude of 3,500 metres. There are many difficulties with regard to access in this area.

Arriving at the school after a long journey, we shared breakfast with children who had walked for hours through the mountains to get there. We spoke with teachers and principals who make daily sacrifices to provide these children with not only a quality education but also affection, comfort and shelter – this really inspired and motivated my daily work.

That school is one of 1,500 around the country participating in an educational quality self-evaluation programme. This participatory and democratic methodology, developed by UNICEF in partnership with provincial governments, instills an evaluation culture in schools (both primary and secondary) and has the main objective of increasing inclusiveness and quality of education.

Photo courtesy John Ekaju/2011
Jogi children attending a Community Based School CBS in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

John Ekaju
Education Specialist
UNICEF Afghanistan

I visited a Jogi community school in Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan with colleagues from the education section and Save the Children. This minority group is excluded from mainstream society as well as formal schools because of their cultural and linguistic background. Negative stereotypes and biases that have existed for generations have led to extreme discrimination and disadvantage.

Jogi children don’t have Afghani citizenship or birth certificates, rendering them stateless in their own country. Because of discrimination and derogatory language, they are forced not to attend regular government schools.

UNICEF, in partnership with Save the Children, initiated classes for these communities in Mazar-i-Sharif. The special classes provided an opportunity for the children to learn with a renewed sense of self-esteem and confidence. They are excited to come to their own school, where they do not face prejudice and discrimination. The young volunteer teacher we met was trained in pedagogy by UNICEF and Save the Children, thus ensuring that the classroom was interactive and the children enjoyed the learning experience.

A recent qualitative survey organized by UNICEF revealed signs of an emerging Jogi identity, with an increasing awareness about their rights and a growing, if still limited, assertiveness in denouncing the discrimination they suffer. I am excited to be part of this drive to advocate for these children, who are the hope for the future generation of this great country.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-0531/Brooks
Rafah School for Girls in al-Husseineh, a neighbourhood southeast of Damascus. Syrian Arab Republic. 2008.

Siham Zakaria
Education Project Officer

I joined the education section at UNICEF Syria three years ago because I wanted to see the positive results of education interventions reflected on children, schools and the education system as a whole.

In 2011, I was strongly reminded of these initial motivations by a school theatre project we implemented in a very poor village in Raqqa governorate, in the northeast of Syria – an area that needs a lot of support.

The theatre performances were part of hygiene promotion activities focusing on child and community participation. Conducted with Secours Islamique – France, the activities promoted awareness of hygiene and environmental issues, and aimed to enhance good behaviour among children in school and at home.

All the children in the school attended along with school staff and families from the village. Girls and boys, as well as some of the family members, participated in role playing, singing, dancing, answering quizzes and winning prizes. The children were very happy for the wonderful job they did, and I was very happy that the education programme of UNICEF, through its equity lens, targeted so many children, whoever they were and in spite of where they came from.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-0590/Holtz
Central African Republic, 2008. Girls in class at a UNICEF-supported school in a camp for refugees from neighbouring Sudan, in the town of Sam Ouangja in the north-eastern province of Haute-Kotto, near the Sudan border.

Farid Boubekeur
Chief of Education
UNICEF Central African Republic

My most inspiring moment this year came when I visited the town of Berberati, in southwestern Central African Republic.

We were there to introduce indoor “solar light bottles” to one of its primary schools. These solar lights require only a disused water bottle filled with water and a small amount of bleach to prevent bacterial growth. The bottle is placed inside a hole in the roof and sealed to prevent roof leakage. Sunlight passing through the bottle refracts and disperses in all directions, generating the equivalent of a 50-watt lamp.

When the school director climbed up and installed one on the roof of the latrines, I stood back and enjoyed the smiles and excited exchanges between the students and teachers. The director promised to install these new lights in every room in the school, which until now were dimly lit even during daylight hours because of a lack of electricity in the region.

This simple, low-cost technology will allow UNICEF to illuminate 50 new schools in 2012, saving money and helping to limit global warming. Education officials and the local press recognized that, in addition to influencing educational policy and capacity, UNICEF delivers practical solutions for improving the well-being of students and the larger community.

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