The entrance of the Njinga Mbandi School, students’ usual meeting place before and after class, has a new look. Behind a door, doing everything they could not to be seen, was a group of students wearing white gowns. Waiting on the other side were a group of teachers, students and guests eager to see what was about to happen. The school entrance of the Maianga district of Angola had become a new scene. In addition to the bust of Queen Njina, the queen of the Ambundu people, different hand-crafted natural landscapes could be seen on a long L-shaped table, among them the Pungu a Ndongo stones, as well as other natural features characteristic of the Angolan landscape.
As everyone waited to see what was about to unfold, suddenly two boys in white gowns and previously hiding behind the door, began to walk slowly towards the centre of the courtyard loudly asking: “What world do we want?” Other students followed suit, each with their own answer to the question; the most resounding was: “We want a world without pollution that is healthy for children.”
This was a play. It was the way a group of students at the school found to express their message about environmental protection and the Global Goal 13, after having received some information about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Njinga Mbandi was the first school in Angola that participated in the wide-reaching global initiative called ‘’The World’s Largest Lesson,” which aims to spread the SDGs to schools everywhere in the world, placing children at the centre of the global agenda.
The initiative is part of a larger project by the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Department of Education of Luanda, supported by UNICEF, intending to extend the project to as many schools in the country as possible. This initiative aims to provide the school community with the knowledge and tools to work to achieve three global goals for 2030: to eradicate extreme poverty, combat inequality and injustice, and contain climate change.
UNICEF and partners conducted a pilot training session about SDGs nine teaching directors and a representative of the association of private schools. The training also focused on tools and mechanisms needed to implement “The World’s Largest Lesson,” namely through lesson plans and printed materials.
Theatre and crafts
At the Njinga Mbandi School, about 15 students learned about the topic. Among them was Hélder Félix, 15, who loves theatre. He and a group of fellow students had the support of a performing arts teacher to help share messages on the importance of environmental protection with other pupils. To Hélder, it was thrilling to create this representation after having read information from manuals provided by UNICEF and to receive clarifications from teachers. For this 10th grade student, the best way to improve the environment is by ending pollution and planting more trees.
Beyond theatre, students also worked on arts and crafts representing different natural landscapes and the consequences of not protecting the environment.
This work was made possible thanks to the support of Dinamene Tavares, teacher and coordinator of extra-curricular activities. The teacher was drawn to the enthusiasm that the children showed in preparing the entire project, adding that this initiative is trying to build a better future for generations to come.
The school’s director, Mariana Bessa, was delighted by the work as it displayed an understanding of theories the students learned in the UNICEF-supported initiative. She said the school’s objective for the following years is to promote the SDGs, as educating children means educating a nation.
UNICEF’s Chief of Education in Angola, Pieter Potter, thanked the school for its commitment and congratulated the students for their active participation. “What we are trying to achieve with this lesson is really an active and practical participation of children,” he concluded.
About ‘The World’s Largest Lesson’
“The World’s Largest Lesson” encourages children and young people to reflect on the Sustainable Development Goals and how they can contribute to reaching them. It is an initiative of Project Everyone, which counts UNICEF and UNESCO and other non-profits as members, as well as diverse personalities at the global level.
In Angola, UNICEF’s Education team and partners will continue to train primary and secondary school directors on implementing this “World’s Greatest Lesson,” as well as promoting educational initiatives to improve knowledge and practices toward achieving the SDGs, thus helping to make them a reality in the country.
Heitor Lourenço is a Communications Officer at UNICEF Angola