Venkatramanama enjoying her new classroom furniture
By Vikas Verma
4 October was a special day for 8 year old Venketramanama. Arriving at the school half an hour before time, she was asked by the headmaster Mr. A.V.R Girdhar “What’s so special about today, Venketramanama?” Barely able to contain her smile, she said. “Sir, I want to be the first to sit on our new chairs”. Similar excitement was felt in all the 1003 schools in Nellore and Prakasham Districts of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in India, where UNICEF, with the support of the Japanese Government, has supplied colourful new furniture for the school children. Venketramanama’s school was among the first to get the furniture and the entire village community helped assemble it.
UNICEF has developed a package of quality interventions that will help schools reach the quality standards of a ‘Child Friendly School’.
Situated just 500 metres away from sea, this school in Pallipalam village of Nellore district was submerged in water on the fateful day of the tsunami last December. Venketramanama’s fisherman family lost their livelihood and shelter together with their boats and nets.
Just as the whole community has slowly come to terms with the new reality, UNICEF has committed to ‘build back better’ the necessary infrastructure during the recovery phase. Seizing the opportunity to raise the quality of education for children in tsunami affected areas, UNICEF has developed a package of quality interventions that will help schools reach the quality standards of a ‘Child Friendly School’. This is aimed at strengthening the school and classroom as well as empowering educational administrators and communities to manage the educational process.
Before the arrival of new furniture, the children of Palipalam government school took lessons sitting on the floor of the classroom
A child friendly school will include Quality learning environment having toilet and water facilities along with children’s play and recreational activities; Quality content having gender-sensitive curricula and materials for literacy, numeric, knowledge and attitudes, and skills for life; Quality teaching and learning processes through child-centred, life-skills based approaches and Quality teacher support programmes which are need-based, interactive and based on ‘hands on experience’. Providing child friendly furniture to schools is an integral part of helping create such child friendly schools.
The idea of supplying furniture to schools where sitting and studying on the floor is the norm did sound ambitious earlier. The process of designing the furniture was challenging to say the least. “The furniture available in the market was as per the European children’s norm which made it uncomfortable for the Indian children. We redesigned the same keeping in mind the physical build of an average Indian child.”- says Mr. Michel Saint- Lot- UNICEF Representative for the states of AP and Karnataka. Detailed research on all parameters helped design the furniture which is colourful, comfortable, long lasting, easy to maintain and safe for children.
Providing child friendly furniture to schools is an integral part of helping create such child friendly schools.
According to Mr. A.V.R.Girdhar - “The beautiful furniture in school represents hope and new beginning for the whole community. Thanks to UNICEF this has given us new vigour to work for our betterment.”