By Taleen Vartan
NEW YORK, 16 September 2011 – Despite recent economic development, Angola remains a society deeply scarred by the still-recent civil war. The conflict caused massive internal displacement and refugee outflows, along with the collapse or destruction of key agricultural, health, education and transportation infrastructures, limiting the government’s ability to provide basic public services. This has resulted in a series of barriers to children enrolling and remaining in school.
Appropriate financing, national adoption of best practices and country-level monitoring and evaluation are the essential building blocks of a successful education in emergencies programme. The fourth goal of the Back on Track programme points to evidence-based policies, efficient operational strategies and fit-for-purpose financing instruments to uphold education work in emergencies and post-crisis transition contexts.
In Angola, Back on Track funds were used strategically to build or rebuild institutional capacity and systems and to address key populations of children whose education was interrupted during the protracted conflict. In this context, children of all ages have needed support through education. Below, we highlight interventions for children in the early childhood and adolescence age groups.
School readiness in Angola
Children living in emergencies or post-conflict contexts are often excluded from schooling or start school late. Their educational progress suffers and they lack the necessary tools for learning, leading them to drop out of school.
In Angola, school readiness – getting children, families and schools ready for school – remains a crucial issue. Only 9.3 per cent of children attend preschool programmes, and families do not have access to the knowledge and support they need to support early learning at home.
Last year, UNICEF and Angola’s Ministry of Education drafted a road map for the development of a national early childhood development policy. They outlined technical requirements and the recruitment of national and international teams to support the policy formulation process in 2011.
These support teams, together with the Ministry of Social Assistance and the Ministry of Education, also initiated a situation analysis of early childhood development in the country. The review examined existing national policies, strategies, services, governance mechanisms and finance systems linked to early childhood development and the new processes for decentralization in Angola. This was particularly important because due to the conflict, there was a gap in comprehensive knowledge and ministerial coordination as well as a lack of systematized attention to national education policies.
Accelerated Learning Programme for adolescents
Many of today’s adolescents in Angola were born during the prolonged civil war and missed several years of schooling or never had the opportunity to attend primary school at all. These youth often do not fit in the primary school setting, and classrooms are already crowded with much younger children.
UNICEF’s Accelerated Learning Programme, called Programa de Alfabetização e Aceleração Escolar (PAAE) in Angola, provides a second-chance learning opportunity for literacy, numeracy and life skills for adolescents through a condensed and adapted primary school curriculum, which can be completed in two-and-a-half years rather than the full six years of primary schooling. It thus encourages out-of-school adolescents to complete primary education, come back into the school system and continue to the second level.
“The PAAE is a programme conceived and developed by the Ministry of Education of Angola to support out-of-school children,” said Alvaro Fortin, UNICEF Angola’s Chief of Education. “UNICEF has had the opportunity to contribute to the development of the programme and significant results have been achieved in terms of gender-equitable access to education, particularly for vulnerable over-aged populations.”
“The Accelerated Learning Programme is a critical national strategy of the Government of Angola but what is more important is that this strategy is translated into a second chance and a renewal of hope for adolescents, and girls especially, to continue to learn and develop,” said Paulina Feijo, UNICEF Angola, Education Project Officer.
Back on Track funds also supported an evaluation of the PAAE, which identified lessons learned and best practices for effective programme implementation in Kwanza Sul Province and nationwide. A revision of the national PAAE strategy is planned for 2011. “It has been a difficult trial, but one that PAAE has bravely accepted to face,” said Mr. Fortin.
The way forward
The national adoption of evidence-based policies and practices, through the Back on Track programme, has prompted large strides in achieving quality, basic education for all children in Angola.
Since 2007, the Back on Track programme has directly reached about 6 million children in participating disaster, conflict-affected and post-crisis transition countries and territories around the globe. It has indirectly benefited 14 million children and youth through national-level adoption of best practices in education in emergencies.
As the fifth and final year moves forward, the programme continues to help millions of crisis-affected children regain hope and dignity and rebuild stable futures for themselves and their communities.