Goodbye Visit


 

Our last day in Angola just started! It’s been a great journey so far and we had our final school visit, this time in Luanda, in a district called Boa Fe (“Good Faith”).

On our way to - by Gerald Folly

On our way to the Boa Fe district – by Gerald Folly

 

The primary school was still in Luanda municipality, but in the outskirts. We needed almost one hour travel time by car from the city center to reach it. It showed us clearly the size of that capital.

School photo - by Gerald Folly

Street view outskirts of Luanda  - by Gerald Folly

 

Arriving there we got a very warm welcome by both students and staff members. The principal showed us the small grounds, including the six classrooms.

About 1300 children could attend this school, the only primary school in this district. Many of them walk up to two kilometers to reach the school. Although the school has a two-shift system in the morning and the afternoon, but not all children from this area can participate in the education system. Approximately 5000 children are on the waiting list! Some do not get any teaching whilst, some of them attend unofficial private schools, with these exams not normally recognized by state institutions.

Kids and teachers from the - by Gerald Folly

Kids and teachers  - by Gerald Folly

The teachers do their best to enable good education conditions, but the maximum allowed number of pupils per class of 35 is quite often doubled in the classrooms. In contradiction to some other schools we visited before there is no UNICEF support – yet – which easily can be seen. No running water is provided, water supply is done by a tank. The school has to pay it from their own budget.

Photo by Lisa Spitzhütl

Photo by Lisa Spitzhütl

 

The school feeding programme which should provide nutrition for the children seemed not to be implemented. Luckily we had the chance to visit every classroom. They presented us various spontanous dance and singing performances which we enjoyed very much. At the end of the visit everybody of the school and us was invited to a last big picture together. It was not easy to leave but the final meeting in the UN headquarter with UNICEF was on schedule. We shared our experiences.

Photo Maximilian Lauterbach

Photo Maximilian Lauterbach

On our flight back home - by Juli Riegler

On our flight back home – by Juli Riegler

 

About Gerald Folly

I'm an Austrian living in Vienna. I’m 35 years old and have been a sales manager in eCommerce at IKEA Austria for seven months. I have more than twelve years’ experience in customer service and sales at our Vienna North store, where I held different positions, mainly in Showroom departments. During my free time I travel a lot, very often to places that are not frequently visited, where I try to make memorable pictures. During our trip to Angola, I'd like to get in contact with as many local people as possible and learn how capacity building is done, especially in the education system.

Countless happy smiles


 

The pre-school center in Namibe is for children from 1 – 5 years of age.
We were welcomed by the headmaster and invited to visit the classrooms and saw the dormitories, where the little ones get to sleep and rest twice a day. The pre-school is open from 7:30 – 17:30 on week days.

Girl with pretty braids in her hair - by Lisa Spitzhuetl

Girl with pretty braids in her hair – by Lisa Spitzhuetl

The children spontaneously performed songs and dances and were excited and shy at the same time to have so many foreign visitors at their school.

Pre-school kids, happy and excited to meet so many foreign guests- by Max Lauterbach

Pre-school kids, happy and excited to meet so many foreign guests- by Max Lauterbach

At the end of our visit we surprised the kids with a big bag full of gifts, including many soft toys, finger puppets and kipping ropes. The big smile on their faces was unforgettable and worth carrying the bag around with us for the last days.

Lisa giving a soft toy to one of the pre-school girls - by Gerald Folly

Lisa giving a soft toy to one of the pre-school girls – by Gerald Folly

Pedro hading out more soft toys to the children - by Gerald Folly

Pedro handing out more soft toys to the children – by Gerald Folly

Juli having a good time! by Lisa Spitzhuetl

Juli having a good time! by Lisa Spitzhuetl

 A rare photo of Gerald our IWitness photographer with the pre-school children by - Anna Wilhelm (UNICEF Austria)

A rare photo of Gerald our IWitness photographer with the pre-school children by – Anna Wilhelm (UNICEF Austria)

After this fun visit we had to head back to Lubango, a two hour drive to catch our flight back to Luanda, where we went to visit the last school from the IWitness trip. Luckily we had enough time to stop twice for group photos with our friends from UNICEF Angola.

Group selfie with our friends from UNICEF Angola - By Geral Folly

Group selfie with our friends from UNICEF Angola – By Geral Folly

About Gerald Folly

I'm an Austrian living in Vienna. I’m 35 years old and have been a sales manager in eCommerce at IKEA Austria for seven months. I have more than twelve years’ experience in customer service and sales at our Vienna North store, where I held different positions, mainly in Showroom departments. During my free time I travel a lot, very often to places that are not frequently visited, where I try to make memorable pictures. During our trip to Angola, I'd like to get in contact with as many local people as possible and learn how capacity building is done, especially in the education system.

Namibe in the lead for quality education


 

Our fourth day in Angola and second day in Namibe started with a visit to school Emilio Ngongo n 63. A school for children of six years and older.

Photo Max Lauterbach

Photo Max Lauterbach

This school exists since two years and it’s beautiful courtyard is surrounded by all the classrooms. The headmaster also showed us the great hall, which is used for events and activities. In addition the teachers also can be use for bringing the children together to learn social skills and practice speaking in front of bigger audiences. The backside of the school is currently under construction but will eventually host computer and server rooms, as well as a school canteen.

Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

For fun and entertainment we performed the classic German song ”Alle meine Entchen” in front of one of the classes, followed by a short volleyball match with with older kids.

Photo Gerald Folly

Photo Gerald Folly

Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Governor of the Province of Namibe and his administrative staff. He took time for meeting us in order to explain more details about the education system in his province.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

We learned that every school in his province should have a canteen for the children. This is important to keep the attention during class but also it helps to improve school attendance rates.

The province of Namibe currently has 91 primary schools, another 20 are currently being constructed. Once the remaining 20 schools are ready to be opened, the need for primary schools in this area should be fully covered.

The recruitment of new teaching staff is not an issue, as the jobs are highly respected and compared to other occupations very well paid. The main challenge remains in the rural ares, where the population is not so densely populated and children have to travel further distances to go to school. To make teaching in rural areas attractive, the government offers complete relocation packages, which is especially attractive for new teachers. When relocating to a rural area for teaching they will get a fully furnished house.

After the meeting we directly headed to visit a pre-school. Read the next blog to find out more.

About Maximilian Lauterbach

I’m 33 years old, and I have worked in the Logistics Department of the Vienna North store for almost 10 years. I like travelling, especially meeting local people and learning from other cultures. Also, I’m very interested in history and politics. It’s a big pleasure for me to be a part of the IWitness programme, and I’m very excited to travel to Angola.

A school for children with special needs


 

After our visit to scola n°37 we continued driving to visit another school, the only special education center for for children with special needs and disabilities in this province.

The welcome was short but warm, followed us being allowed to visit all classes, listening and observing. Already in the first classroom my breath was taken away, as I saw how the children with bad hearing abilities learned sign language. Out of interest I learn the sign language myself, what in Austria we call ÖGS (“Österreichische Gebärdensprache”). Therefore it was especially interesting for me to follow the class.

 

Both sign languages, the Austrian and the Angolan, are internationally recognized but still there are quite a few differences. I noticed for example that the Angolan sign language does not use as much facial expression as we do in Austria. In Austria that is a very important part of the sign language, as it helps to express feeling, emotions and  can emphasize how we want to tell a story. In the Austrian sign language a lot of the gestures are the same but the expression with the mouth gives each of them a different meaning. This way one can express a lot of things with not too many gestures. In a way its like having an enriched vocabulary.

It was also interesting to see that the alphabet and many words were expressed differently.

After vising all the classrooms, we had the chance to ask first the teachers and then the students some questions and take fun photos together.

Photo of me with some of the students from the special needs school.

Photo of me with some of the students from the special needs school.

Group photo in front of the school. Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Group photo in front of the school. Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

 

About Lisa Spitzhutl

I'm 22 years old. I've been working at the IKEA Store Vösendorf in Austria since November 2013. I'm a customer service assistant, and I'm glad to be part of the IKEA Team. After work I often work out in a fitness studio. I spend a lot of time with my friends, and once a week I learn the Austrian sign language.

100 % school attendance rate


After a short meeting at the education authorities from Namibe we finally went to our first school visit, together with the General Director of Education and some of his Staff.

The 4ht grade children of the school named  ”scola n°37″ welcomed us friendly and kindly with a nice speech prepared in English and in Portuguese. The school looked great! A beautiful courtyard, a well maintained and clean building and facilities like a library, a nursery and bathrooms.

Welcome speech in Portugese by one of the students - photo Gerald Folly

Welcome speech in Portuguese by one of the students – photo Gerald Folly

Then the speech was repeated by an older student in English - photo Gerald Folly

Then the speech was repeated by an older student in English – photo Gerald Folly

This is one of the schools that had received support from UNICEF for child friendly teaching we could see this reflecting in the proud teaching staff and the happy children.

There children try to learn by using modern teaching methods,such as small laptops in order to allow a better and fast understanding. The computer class is an absolute hit, as school attendance rate climbed up to 100%! Non of the students want to miss out on this lesson.

The pilot class for computer lessons is a great success, as the school attendance rate climbed up to 100% - photo Gerald Folly

The pilot class for computer lessons is a great success, as the school attendance rate climbed up to 100% – photo Gerald Folly

But the challenges for education in Angola remain, especially in the rural areas, where such well equipped schools are still rare. And even at this school the number of laptops is limited and not all age groups get the benefit of working with them.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

Gwen who joined us from UNICEF Angola for the entire trip introduced us to the pupils and teachers and explained the reason for visit.

The school also has a Medical room for emergency cases and when children fall ill while being at school. The room is well equipped but the conditions could still be better, as the nurse was missing some more working materials.

School nurse - photo Gerald Folly

School nurse – photo Gerald Folly

 

About Pedro Lukau

I am 38 years old, and I started working at IKEA in 2003 in Salzburg as a logistics co-worker. Now I work at IKEA Klagenfurt fulfilling the same function. I come from Angola, and I have been in Austria for about 14 years. Being a native African, I think I am a perfect image of UNICEF children because I am directly concerned. I like to help people in need as much as I can, and also like to be in touch with other people, and that is why I have decided to take part in the IKEA Foundation's IWitness programme. I like to play football and guitar and sing gospels because I am a Christian.

Let’s talk about shit!


 

Waking up in the hotel and having a shower as well as running water reminded me it’s completely different for a lot of people around Lubango where we stayed that night.

In the capital of Huila province we met in the morning the Head of the Directorate of Energy and Water.

Photo Gerald Folly

Photo Gerald Folly

He gave us a brief introduction into data of the province: out of more than three million inhabitants 59 percent have access to water at their homes or nearby water distribution points. And only 20 percent have access to proper sanitation facilities. That means there is a lot to do for his department.

Together with some staff of the directorate we started a tour in and around Lubango to see what has happened in terms of water supplies and sanitation.

Street view - photo Gerald Folly

Street view – photo Gerald Folly

We started our tour and visited a pastor next to his church and the annexed toilets at this place. This is an important thing to have them there as a lot of development here is a change in mindset of the people. The priest serves here to the surrounding community as a role model to promote the importance to have a proper toilet – to prevent diseases or illness and improve the health situation and quality of life of the people.

Pedro with the local Priest, who helps to sensitise the communitiy for hygeene and sanitation. Photo  Gerald Folly

Pedro with the local Priest, who helps to sensitise the communitiy for hygeene and sanitation. Photo Gerald Folly

Around in the neighborhood we then saw some examples of newly installed toilets next to or inside homes. The owners were very proud of them and happy to show them to us.

Photo Gerald Folly

Photo Gerald Folly

This latrine is inside the house, which increases comfort. Photo Gerald Folly

This latrine is inside the house, which increases comfort. Photo Gerald Folly

The next stop was at a water supply point – a pump from a dwell about 50 meters below surface brought the water up in a tank. This system runs on solar power and is independent. Each family contributes two US-dollars per month and can use the cleaned potable water and in addition the washing facilities for clothes.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Local water supply point, which also provides facilities to wash laundry. Photo by Gerald Folly

Finally we got the chance to see a demonstration site for toilets – in the last two years more than 1000 people got consultancy on how to erect and install a toilet in their home. More than 700 already did that investment. Of course there are costs, but the people can get support in getting cheap material for building them up.

Four types of toilets were promoted fitting to the financial possibilities of the people.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

Here is type four: Investment 2000 US-dollars, with water supply and tiles inside. A ceramic toilet and wash basin is integrated. If you can afford it, this should be your choice.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

Next is type three: Investment 1000 US-dollars, this model is promoted at the site as it fits more to the financial possibilities of the many people but gives a big impact on your hygienic situation. The tiles from Model 4 are replaced by cement and the Washing basin is now two buckets – one for clean and used water each. Not to forget a small plastic mug for carrying the water from one to another bucket – essential for not transmitting bacteria’s!

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

The following type two is an investment of 200 US-dollars, if you build your blocks of the construction by yourself or up to 450 US-dollars if you buy everything. This one is simpler as the two models before but still has a tank with siphon to avoid smell. Most of the people opt for this version as it’s a good compromise between an affordable price and an improvement of the situation before.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

At the end of the visit model one was shown, with an investment of 20 US-dollars only. This is a basic possibility of having a toilet at home. Keeping in mind more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line of 1.75 US-dollars per day is still is a notable amount of money.

Photo by Gerald Folly

Photo by Gerald Folly

In addition practical tips are given to the visitors how to build the future toilet in an efficient way. Summarizing the morning you can be sure it’s good to talk about shit, it really can improve your daily situation at home!

Group photo by Gerald Folly

Group photo by Gerald Folly

 

About Gerald Folly

I'm an Austrian living in Vienna. I’m 35 years old and have been a sales manager in eCommerce at IKEA Austria for seven months. I have more than twelve years’ experience in customer service and sales at our Vienna North store, where I held different positions, mainly in Showroom departments. During my free time I travel a lot, very often to places that are not frequently visited, where I try to make memorable pictures. During our trip to Angola, I'd like to get in contact with as many local people as possible and learn how capacity building is done, especially in the education system.

Do you speak Russian in Austria?


Early in the morning, we were invited to the UN building in Luanda (where the UNICEF offices are located) to get a short briefing about the difficulties for children in Angola. UNICEF also presented us with the UNICEF strategies on how to further achieve improvements.

Briefing meeting at the UNICEF offices - photo Gerald Folly

Briefing meeting at the UNICEF offices – photo Gerald Folly

For example, the mortality rate of children under five years of age is one of the biggest issues in Africa. A large part of the presentation was spent on education, one focus was the integration of child-friendly school principles in teacher training, construction standards and community participation.

Education in Angola - challenges and progress - photo Max Lauterbach

Education in Angola – challenges and progress – photo Max Lauterbach

At the end of the presentation, we handed over the presents we brought from Austria (“Mozartkugeln” and “Mannerschnitten”) to the UNICEF staff.

Before we left for the airport, the Security Manager of the UN told us Angola has the same security level as Paris or Lisbon. One of the main security risks is traffic accidents – so we should keep our seat belts fastened all the time. Gwen and Desire from UNICEF Angola will join us during the next few days, travelling to the south of Angola to visit schools and sanitation projects.

Street sceene, being a shoe cleaner is a common occupation. Photo Pedro Lukau

Street scene, being a shoe cleaner is a common occupation. Photo Pedro Lukau

Street sceene - Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Street scene – Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Street view - photo Max Lauterbach

Street view – photo Max Lauterbach

Street sceene  - photo Gerald Folly

Street scene – a young lady selling her good on the road. Photo Gerald Folly

After a short meal at Luanda airport, we flew via Ondjiva to Lubango.

A good view from the air over the land From the air one could see how the rural populations fences their property. Photo Gerald Folly

A good view from the air over the countryside land, that is owned and farmed by the rural population. Photo Gerald Folly

Stopover at . Photo Gerald Folly

Stopover at Ondjiva on our way to Lubango. Photo Gerald Folly

At Ondjiva aiport. Photo Pedro Lukau

At Ondjiva airport. Photo Pedro Lukau

The IWitness group, waiting for the transfer to Lubango. Photo  Pedro Lukau

The IWitness group, waiting for the transfer to Lubango. Photo Pedro Lukau

At the passport control, one of the police officers who has never seen an Austrian passport before asked Anna if we speak Russian in our country.

We were picked up by Paulo and his drivers from the UNICEF office in Huila province and had a nice dinner together.

At the restaurant, where the also serve traditional food like crocodile and antilope. Photo Gerald Folly

At the restaurant, where the also serve traditional food like crocodile and antilope. Photo Gerald Folly

On the premises of the lodge restaurant, we could visit crocodiles and boa snakes.

Boa snakes outside of the restaurant. Photo Gerald Folly

Boa snakes outside of the restaurant. Photo Gerald Folly

... and two crocodiles. Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

… and two crocodiles. Photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Finally we arrived at the hotel, where most of the rooms were equipped with IKEA furniture – a wonderful night ahead :-)

Feeling like home - our accomodation in Lubango was fully furnished with IKEA products. Photo Gerald Folly

Feeling like home – our accomodation in Lubango was fully furnished with IKEA products. Photo Gerald Folly

About Lisa Spitzhutl

I'm 22 years old. I've been working at the IKEA Store Vösendorf in Austria since November 2013. I'm a customer service assistant, and I'm glad to be part of the IKEA Team. After work I often work out in a fitness studio. I spend a lot of time with my friends, and once a week I learn the Austrian sign language.

Our bumpy road to Angola


We had troubles ahead of the start of the IKEA IWitness trip to Angola. Our fifth team member, Steffi, unfortunately could not join us anymore. And we had to wait for our visas until the very last moment.

Team Austria at Vienna airport - photo Gerald Folly

Team Austria at Vienna airport – photo Gerald Folly

Finally everything went fine. We – Lisa, Max, Pedro and Gerald from IKEA Austria – met Anna from UNICEF Austria on Sunday evening at Vienna Airport. For Pedro this is an especially exciting journey, as he will return to his home country after 14 years.

Stop over at Dubai airport - photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

Stop over at Dubai airport – photo Lisa Spitzhuetl

On the way to Angola we had two flights: first to Dubai and then further to Luanda, Angola’s capital city. In Dubai we met Juli from the IKEA Foundation and continued our travels together.

Arriving at the airport in Luanda, we were picked up by Gwen and our driver from UNICEF Angola. It was quite warm but not so hot as we expected. In addition, we all recognised the dust in the city. Actually we travelled about 24 hours by the time we reached our hotel in Luanda. So everybody was very happy to take a shower.

In Lunada, woman selling bananas on the street - photo Gerald Folly

In Lunada, woman selling bananas on the street – photo Gerald Folly

For Pedro it was a very special evening: After more than ten years he could meet his family members in Luanda. He was very happy to see his cousins again and they spent the evening together catching up about the past.

Group photo with Pedro and his family a happy reunion after 14 years. Photo - Gerald Folly

Group photo with Pedro and his family, a happy reunion after 14 years. Photo – Gerald Folly

Finally we had a nice dinner at the port of Ilha with a large overview towards the skyline of the city. Driving though the city – from the airport to the hotel to the restaurant – we felt the big gap of wealth between rich and poor.

The IWitness team, Lisa, Anna, Juli, Gerald, Max and Pedro - photo Gerald Folly

The IWitness team: Gwen (UNICEF Angola), Anna (UNICEF Austria), Gerald (IKEA Austria online shop), Juli (IKEA Foundation), Pedro (IKEA Klagenfurth) Lisa (IKEA Voesendorf), Max (IKEA na) – photo Gerald Folly

At the end of the day we typed this first blog entry around the table in the lobby of our hotel. We are curious to know what tomorrow will bring us. Good night :-)

About Maximilian Lauterbach

I’m 33 years old, and I have worked in the Logistics Department of the Vienna North store for almost 10 years. I like travelling, especially meeting local people and learning from other cultures. Also, I’m very interested in history and politics. It’s a big pleasure for me to be a part of the IWitness programme, and I’m very excited to travel to Angola.

Why we need to improve education in Angola


Our next group of IWitness Global Citizens is off to Angola to visit UNICEF projects funded by our Soft Toys for Education campaign. Today we have a wonderful post by Désiré Adomou, Education Specialist at UNICEF Angola, about why education is so important.

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My name is Désiré Adomou, and I joined UNICEF Angola four months ago as an education specialist. My current areas of focus include early childhood education and teacher training.

As a youngster, I witnessed first-hand the difference that quality education can make in someone’s life, drawing from the experiences of my own relatives. Early on, I understood that education not only transforms lives but also gives those who are “blessed” with schooling a certain leverage that people who lack academic training do not necessarily possess. As result of this awareness, I decided not only to pursue quality education for myself but also to help others do the same.

Consequently, over my 23 years of professional experience in the field of education, I always feel a sense of personal gratification whenever my students or trainees achieve a major academic milestone. Unfortunately, achieving such academic milestones remains a luxury for scores of Angolan children because of the poor quality of education, one of the results of close to three decades of civil war.

I feel gratified at being part of UNICEF -Angola because of its relentless efforts to help the Angolan ministries in charge of education and social welfare in their endeavours to foster quality education that is accessible to ALL children. We’re working hard to provide Angolan children with that priceless chance that children in other parts of the world take for granted.

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Understandably, UNICEF’s ability to improve the quality of education in Angola is only possible because of the generosity of partners like the IKEA Foundation, and I cannot help expressing my sincere gratitude for all the IKEA Foundation does to help promote a better world filled with educated minds.

 

About Juli Riegler

Juli is the IKEA Foundation's Digital Communications Manager. Next to managing the IKEA Foundation's website and Facebook account she works closely with Save the Children and UNICEF and IKEA's yearly Soft Toys for Education campaign. She enjoys doing a lot of different sports, travelling and connecting with people from around the world.

School Spirit and a Safe Haven


So its day three of our IWitness trip in South Africa and waking up it was a completely different climate, much warmer than the previous morning. Today we travelled to the province of Mpumalangaand visited two different schools not too far from one another, Langa High School and Hokwe Primary School. The drive up was spectacular with views out across large valleys dotted with households. After a good 30 minute drive we arrived at Langa where the welcome was extraordinary, with traditional dancing and drums beating as majorettes lead us into the compound. Here we met the principal (since 2012), school governing bodies and SMT (School Management Team). Not to forget Ceffie the Rhino who is the mascot for the Child Friendly Schools initiative.

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Tuck shop ladies joining in on the festivities outside Langa High School – by Mike Creevy

blog 3 pic 2

School Majorettes dance alongside the school principle at Langa High School – by Mike Creevy

After the welcome the students went back to class as it was important that we did not disrupt the learning for the day. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to split into small groups to observe classes. A group of us joined grade 11 in their accounting class where a small number of students only 15 of them, discussed the costs of running a manufacturing company. Others sat in on a Biology class. This experience was much more informative than any presentation or statistical grade review done by the management. We were able to observe the quality of education the children receive through the interaction and participation in class. UNICEF works with the government to provide schools with workbooks which help improve literacy, numeracy, science and domestic skills. These books are mostly in English providing an extra challenge for the students however it was easy to see that the level of learning is of a very high standard. The learners amazed us by being so well behaved and eager to help each other out as each student was encouraged to contribute to the lesson.

A learner shows another how to work out the manufacturing costs in their accounting lesson - by Mike Creevy

A learner shows another how to work out the manufacturing costs in their accounting lesson – by Mike Creevy

This behaviour didn’t seem like it was just for us as they had so much respect for their teachers and principal. It was just lovely to see how relaxed the relationship is between the pupils and educators. After speaking with a few of the children it was clear how important school was to each and every individual. Not only did it give them an education and a place to socialise but it gave the children a place to feel safe, a meal for the day, healthcare but most of all school gives them choices and options with their life, it gives them a future. We could see how much the children appreciates those things in their determination to get to school each day and work hard to reach their ambitions.

Paul Fishwick shares his photographs and stories from the UK with some very intrigued students - by Mike Creevy

Paul Fishwick shares his photographs and stories from the UK with some very intrigued students – by Mike Creevy

Students queue for their lunch provided by the school - by Mike Creevy

Students queue for their lunch provided by the school – by Mike Creevy

Langa High School has vastly improved their children’s educational requirements as well as participate in the Child Friendly School scheme initiated by UNICEF, allowing them to develop their fullest potential in a safe space. With many children aspiring to be engineers, doctors and scientists.

The second part of the day was at Hokwe primary school with a total of 284 students including 55 grade R students (reception age 5-6). This school has been open since 1983 and faced many challenges since, such as a storm in 2002 that destroyed and washed away part of the school. We began by visiting the grade R class (Reception), full of little ones from the age of 5. Almost 50 children were quietly seated on a floor mat in the corner of the room as the two teachers discussed their learning programme. To show off the childrens skills a few little ones were asked to draw for us. They took out a sheet of paper and one child began to draw different shapes while another drew for us the cutest version of a happy child.

A child from Grade R shows Ben from UNICEF SA his drawing skills - by Mike Creevy

A child from Grade R shows Ben from UNICEF SA his drawing skills – by Mike Creevy

A child from grade R draws a happy child for us - by Mike Creevy

A child from grade R draws a happy child for us – by Mike Creevy

Afterwards we moved into the teachers lounge to be shown a play by the grade R’s. They reenacted the process of going to the doctors with a health problem, being diagnosed and getting medication. It was a wonderful performance that taught the children the importance of visiting the doctor when they feel unwell.

We were led outside and the students continue with traditional dancing (of which Paul Fishwick and Johanna Heuren joined in!). The atmosphere was fantastic with the most satisfying part being the smiles on the children’s faces.

Children from Hokwe primary school perform traditional dance for us - by Mike Creevy

Children from Hokwe primary school perform traditional dance for us – by Mike Creevy

The headmaster discussed some opportunities he believed would improve the everyday lives of the children. One of these was having play equipment for the young ones such as swings. They do have a big field where they play and where they can let their steam off, but swings also help children practice their balance and improve their coordinated movements.

When they rebuilt the school they also built several toilets which are WASH certified, meaning Water And Sanitation Hygiene approved. Another fantastic initiative is that the school grow their own vegetables (tomatoes, onions, cabbage etc.). That is sustainability at is best!

A prowd gardener at Hokwe Primary School waters her cabbages - by Mike Creevy

A prowd gardener at Hokwe Primary School waters her cabbages – by Mike Creevy

Thanks to UNICEF and the support of Ikea through the Soft Toy Campaign, children in South Africa have the chance to learn and thrive. The children we visited today were extremely happy and have the opportunity to have a brighter future through education. What made this school even more inspiring was the strong support the school had from the principle to the school governing body. It was again another inspiring day.

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About Paula Cade

Hej! I’m Paula, 32 years old and from England. I started working for IKEA in 2010 as a customer services co-worker in the contact centre and recently a Unit Project Leader for the More Sustainable Life at Home project. I am currently in a secondment position for Sustainability Specialist. I feel proud to work for a company that works with social and environmental issues to ensure we have a positive impact on people and the planet. It is clear that even the smallest steps combined can make a big difference. I am excited to share with you my experience in South Africa.