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Syrian Arab Republic: Newsline
Child-friendly schools create opportunities for all in targeted districts across Yemen
Times have changed, however, at least in 11 districts targeted by UNICEF. Among the interventions introduced in these districts is the concept of ‘child-friendly schools,’ 90 of which now exist in five governorates around the country.
The principles of a child-friendly school are simple: The educational environment should be safe and healthy. The rights of children should be protected and their voices should be heard. And schools should be staffed with trained teachers and equipped with adequate resources, such as blackboards, stationery and textbooks.
Cleaner schools, happier students
In the targeted districts in Yemen, UNICEF helps local authorities keep child-friendly schools clean and safe, trains teachers and makes sure that they have the necessary resources to provide children with quality education.
“I love the school,? says Haditha, a buoyant sixth grader. “I learn something new every day I go there.”
Sanitation and hygiene
With their emphasis on clean environments and sanitation facilities, child-friendly schools are particularly conducive to girls’ education. In fact, separate lavatories can be a major factor in determining whether adolescent girls attend school.
Most child-friendly schools also sponsor water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, clubs for students. Club members ensure that their schools are kept tidy and promote hygiene and sanitation both inside and outside the classroom. They encourage their peers to wash their hands with soap after bathroom visits and before meals, and advise their families to clean utensils used for food preparation.
“This is very important because it protects our health and saves us from disease,” says Gina, 16, a WASH club member at Amer bin-Alas school in the Al-Sabrah district of Ibb governorate.
Improving girls’ enrolment
In order to boost enrolment of girls – which remains lower in Yemen than in other countries in the region – UNICEF has helped to recruit and contract female teachers in many of the child-friendly schools. The results have been significant.
“In the past, the girls were in the back of the classroom and the boys were in the front. Now the rows are girls-boys-girls,” says Qassim Al-Shathli, Director of the Education Office in Al-Mokha district “Now we have good interaction with families, and we have noticed a change in regard to the children. They have opportunities for learning and playing, and drop-outs have decreased.”
Mr. Al-Shathli points out that the presence of female teachers also has improved the relationship between mothers and the schools.
“In the past, mothers hardly ever came to the school, because only men were present there,” he says. “Now things are different. Mothers come to school with their children and attend ceremonies and other events. Mothers are proud to have daughters at school.”
But what really counts is the positive impact on the children themselves. Mr. Al-Shathli says students in child-friendly schools – girls in particular – are generally more enthusiastic about education than their peers at regular schools.
Gina agrees. “We have started to think about the future,” she says, “because we believe that educated women will bring their children up in a better way.”