A glimpse into the world of PEPE Mozambique – the challenges and triumphs.
Curious little faces turned to stare at the strangers standing in the doorway. “Bon dia,” was followed by a kiss on each cheek from the teachers as the team of two from BMS World Mission entered the Mozambique preschool education program (PEPE) classroom.
BMS mission worker Liz Vilela kindly translated the Portuguese into English for us as we were introduced to the class. More children entered after us, but one was unwilling to leave the familiarity of her father’s arms. Liz soothed the crying girl while the teacher settled the other children. The sniffling child was seated between two girls on a bench, one of whom placed a comforting arm around her distraught classmate.
So, the session began.
BMS Action Teamer teaching her students their vowels.
PEPE Mozambique’s aim is to provide a safe and healthy environment where the children can learn and grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Liz’s role is to support PEPE’s national co-ordinator by delivering training on nutrition, hygiene and discipline, and then evaluating progress. She also supervises the BMS Mozambique Action Team as they teach short lessons to the children.
The Vilela family
Liz recently completed a round of training and evaluation on nutrition where she taught the value of giving children healthier snacks with slower burning carbs. “Very often you’ll see the kids come in with an entire packet of biscuits and a fizzy drink,” she says. Neither of these are filling and students are often hungry and tired shortly after eating. While these two are inexpensive in the short term, parents end up spending more. Liz explained that giving a child something healthier and more substantial (like a bread roll and one biscuit instead of the whole pack) not only saves money but helps the students to focus better. “After one training session, a parent came to tell me how surprised she was,” says Liz, “she saw a great difference in her child.”
Sparing the rod
Discipline is another area where Liz is evaluating and training the PEPE teachers. Together, they discuss different and more effective ways of keeping order. “Corporal punishment is still a part of schools here,” says Liz. “We’re hoping that teachers will adapt their methods to, for example, understanding why a student is disruptive instead of striking them when they don’t stop.”
Liz also emphazises the value of movement. “No three-year-old wants to sit for three hours,” she says. So teachers are encouraged to do more active lessons – standing to sing or adding a dance activity – to engage their students and keep learning fun. The BMS Mozambique Action Team has employed this method by teaching the children songs like Head, shoulders, knees and toes. A little way into the lesson, the scared girl who had cried when her father left was happily singing alongside her classmates.
The sad girl (left) chatting with an Action Teamer and her classmate
PEPE has been running for a long time, celebrating 23 years of BMS supported education and smiles from Brazil to Mozambique. Thank you for your generosity and prayers for Liz and the local teachers as they work together to maintain the standard of excellence and help more children love to learn.
This piece was written by BMS Writing Intern Vickey Casey who recently traveled to Mozambique to write about the BMS projects there.