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Sao Tome and Principe: Newsline

After-school computer classes on volcanic São Tomé

9-year old Paula, proudly displays her newly learned computer skills at São Tomé’s most unique, child-friendly school: the only one on this country’s 2 volcanic islands.

São Tomé, February 2006 - It’s only her third lesson, but Paula is a quick learner. She moves her right hand in swirling circles, her eyes intently following her target. Click. Fully concentrated, she sweeps her hand to the right. Unclick. Then up again towards the top of the screen. Click. She scrolls down until her cursor highlights ‘72’. Click. Paula’s huge smile erupts and her fellow students burst into laughter and applause as “Paula Beatriz Aguiar Trigueiros” appears boldly on the screen in Times New Roman, 72 point font.
On the left side of a pot-holed road winding upwards through the dense rainforests of banana, pineapple and mango trees smothering these small volcanic mountain islands, you’ll find ‘Escola Primária Manuel Bragança’. A unique primary school in São Tomé e Príncipe, it is the only one in the country that has five desktop computers for use by both pupils (for learning) and teachers (for teaching).

“Most of the children here have never seen a computer in their life”, says Walter, the school’s full-time first grade teacher and part-time computer teacher. “But it doesn’t scare them. They’re having so much fun that I don’t think they know they are learning all kinds of different skills as they type their names and write small stories about themselves.”

UNICEF has supported the school (and many others), on these 2 lush-green, volcanic islands, for years with education materials and diverse activities that have earned it ‘child-friendly’ status. These include the rehabilitation of the school’s safe water supply system and the separate toilets for girls and boys. In partnership with WFP, the school kitchen has been improved and every day the school’s pupils (almost half are girls) are given a free, protein-rich lunch consisting of fuba mexida, papa and pirão. UNICEF also provides seeds & tools for the school garden, which is tended by the children and provides additional, iron-rich green-leaf nutrition for their lunches.

To qualify, ‘child-friendly’ schools require the planning, participation and full commitment of pupils, teachers, parents and the community to meet a strict set of criteria. “We focus on the basics to provide quality education, and the computers were supplied through a private donor to help the teachers in lesson preparation”, says Batilloi Warritay, UNICEF São Tomé’s program coordinator. “Some of the teachers volunteered to give small groups of children computer lessons at lunch and after-school and the children are really enjoying this new experience.”  Especially Paula. “I like going to school. My favorite subjects are Portuguese language and history”, says Paula. “Now I like computers, too! They help me to learn how to write and to read, and they’re fun.” A few seconds later, Paula is hard at work, writing a paragraph about her day. Then it’s time to save her document and let her one of her classmates take over the keyboard.


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