Saturday, July 2, 2016

Education in Angola: RISE!

Areas where RISE International is working in Angola.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and peace: what better inspiration than this report from my friend Melissa about her work with RISE International in Angola. I'm so grateful to Melissa and RISE for this!

I have just returned from my sixth visit to Angola. I so appreciate the support and interest in my work while I am there. This year we embarked on a new, very exciting project. Over the past twelve years, RISE International has built 159 primary schools in 3 provinces of Angola. There are now over 100,000 children attending these schools. This year RISE received a grant from BP to install five school libraries. This June we have just completed installation on two of the libraries. I am so invested in books, education, and children and this adventure has been among my favorite experiences.

A bit of context may be helpful. The two villages that we visited, Jimba Silili and Kuquema, are located in remote areas near the city of Kuito. The children in these villages have not previously had access to books, with the exception of a few government provided textbooks (workbooks, really). Typically children attend school for half a day, and while in class, there are 50 students with one teacher. Due to a myriad of additional issues (weather, health problems, lack of clean water, lack of food, teachers not being paid, gas shortages, parental illiteracy, school being closed unexpectedly for odd reasons…), school is not always in session five days a week. As you can imagine, learning in this setting is slow, and it is not uncommon for fourth and fifth graders to still be emergent readers.

New classroom ... ready for learning!
When we arrived in each village, our team worked to install the furniture and the books. We developed a simplified card catalog using a modified Dewey Decimal system. We hung posters, we labeled and stamped the books, and we filed the cards and worked solidly for an entire day. We were even fighting the sunset as we attempted to finish in just one day. And since it is winter in Angola just now, it was fully dark at 6pm.

During our installation process, we also held teacher trainings about use of the library. Topics ranged from “What is a library?” to “How to choose a good book”. The teachers were interested and engaged and it was a pleasure to work with primary school colleagues and administrators.

We also held a community session with village leaders, parents, children and the principal. During this meeting we introduced the parents and community members to the library. We discussed why reading is important and how it can change one’s life.

Books!
I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this plan. I enjoyed every minute of the organizing and the teacher workshops. It felt really wonderful to be a part of something very significant and to be able to share my areas of interest with others.

As always, I am so glad that I went and pleased that I can help with one aspect of the needs of the people that we visit. With dropping oil prices in the past few years, the economy is quite bad and the people are suffering even more than I had experienced before. There is more prevalent starvation, an insurgence of malaria, and a disastrous outbreak of yellow fever. Hopefully the medical community will be able to respond to the overwhelming need. And hopefully the kids who learn to read in these schools and libraries will be part of the solutions in the future.


(For background, check out this informative timeline reflecting Angola's recovery from colonial rule and civil war in recent decades.)


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It will benefit us antiwar activists in the US to attend to and reflect upon the importance of these Sustainable Development Goals to achieving the goal of ending war.

(See PEACE DAY 2016: What comes first? Demilitarization? or Development?)












Let's face up to the impossibility of peace without education -- in fact, to the virtual congruence of peace and education! -- and expand our commitment to making education the real thing.

(See Education for Peace? or "Education IS Peace"?)