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Innovative Solutions: Going Mobile

©UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Hailu Workeneh
In many countries, getting to school can be a daily challenge. Innovative approaches can turn this around and instead of girls going to school, the school goes to them.

In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, Camfed International and Pearson Education Ltd., through funding from the Department of International Development (DFID) uses mobile technology to create a new equilibrium for girls. The initiative is based on a tested Camfed methodology but it features a number of new interventions. This includes the use of mobile technology to extend learning and networking in rural areas and rolling-out a para-educator mechanism through which school graduates reinvest in the local education system and deliver relevant learning for young people. Over 200,000 marginalized girls are expected to be reached through this program.

In Mongolia, getting to school can be a big challenge. Six year old ‘Erka’ lives with a semi nomadic herder family in the remote Khuvsgul province of Mongolia, a very isolated area that is particularly difficult in winter when the days shorten, temperatures plunge and heavy snow plies up outside.

Luckily, there is a mobile kindergarten nearby that she can attend. Supported by UNICEF, the mobile kindergartens are a unique solution to providing education to the children of nomadic communities in Mongolia. Here children can play, learn and socialise with each other while parents work with the livestock making a living for the family.

“I like to come to the kindergarten,” says Erka. “My favourite poem is about a baby chicken and my favourite song is about getting an excellent mark at school. Yesterday I got an excellent mark for my drawing.”

This is not a small achievement for Erka. At only four months old she contracted polio and was left with a damaged right arm and leg and difficulties. She was abandoned by her mother and adopted by her current parents who now bring her to the kindergarten every day. They couldn’t be happier with her improvements. “Erka has learned to sing, dance and play. She says to me: Daddy please take me to the kindergarten in the morning and don’t forget to pick me up in the afternoon,” says Erka’s father.

The mobile learning facilities are built on UNICEF’s Child-friendly principles providing a safe, healthy, protective and inclusive school environment in which, amongst other essential skills, children learn the values of respect, tolerance and democracy through active learning mythologies. As a result, their presence is breaking harmful social norms and making education more accessible for girls in the communities where they operate.

In Ethiopia, Hassena Ibrahim is a 13 old girl from Amibara Woreda, who is determined to become a teacher and fight against child marriage. Hassena is a student at Sedehafage Full Level Primary School, a mobile school that provides education for children of the pastoralist communities who often move during the draught session.

In addition to everyday classes, Hassena is also attending Girls Mini Media Life skills Clubs. But so far, she is the only girl in her class level. “I think the main cause of female students drop outs is cultural influence. Parents force students to get married before the complete primary school,” said Hassana. “I wish to become a teacher and transform this harmful practice by advocating for girls education for pastoral girls.”

In Rajanpur district in Pakistan, the Transitional School Structures (TSS) built by UNICEF have attracted community support and are bringing more girls to school. The structures were initially built in 2010 to respond to the flooding emergency which paralyzed the already over-burdened education system. Two years later, when the floods again washed out many areas in Pakistan, the TSS were the only un-flooded schools in the affected area.

Farhat, 14, is one of the oldest students at the TSS in Basti Poly village. She is not only one of the brightest in her class but she is a strong activist of girls education. Single-handedly, Farhat recruited all of her friends to attend classes in their temporary school. “The elders have realised that girls should receive education. Thanks to the social mobilizers and members of the youth group, the number of girls in our school has increased,” said Farhat.

Gulnaz Jabeen Khan, education officer at UNICEF, explained that the TSS are highly supported by the community and many of them are constructed on the land donated by the villagers. “The enthusiasm and the will of people of Basti Poli to educate their children, especially girls, is exemplary. It is an indication that people of even such a far off, remote and under privileged area, are realising the urgent need of our time – education for their children,” said Mr. Khan.


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