KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Ali was a small kid who used to actively attend his class, just like his other schoolmates. But his dire living conditions had always kept him busy thinking how things were going with his family back home: Did his father find work or money this morning that could help him pay the school fees and rid him the trouble of being reprimanded for failing to do so? Did his mother go out for work that can help her get some bread and sugar for the family?
These obsessions continued to make Ali absent minded during the lessons. Repeated failures forced him to drop out of the school and head for work in the sugar cane farms of the Kenana Sugar Company, White Nile State.
Ali had quit the school, but his love for it had always forced his steps to take the school road to Kenana School, often stopping by to see the pupils as they line up in the morning before they get into the classrooms.
One day a friend of his, a former classmate, invited him to get in with them to attend a cultural event the Aflatoan Club was organizing in the school. Ali happily got in the school and was amazed at the lively event. His friend told him he could also become a club member and take part in its activities, though he was not a pupil in the school. Ali joined the club and kept attending its activities. He gradually returned to school and became a regular student.
Some may ask: how could the Aflatoan club return this youngster (Ali) to the classroom at the Wad Almustafa School in Kenana? And how could he break the poverty barrier that took grips of him from all sides?
Ali is not alone in this. He had managed to influence his colleagues in the cane farms and encourage them return to school. Ali and his colleagues are a proof of the success of the Aflatoan international programs.
the coordinator of the program in the Sudan, Mr. Naji Mansoor, who is also secretary of the Sudan Coalition for Education for All, “It is a difficult mission, but it is not impossible!” Mr. Naji said the idea of the Aflatoan program for academic and social and financial education of children has nothing to do with the Greek Philosopher Plato (Arabic for Plato is Aflatoan) as one might think for the first while. The program’s idea was conceived by Jeroo Billimoria in Mumbai, India, in 1991 as an action research project. During her contact with the children she realized their lack of basic knowledge about rights and responsibilities, the major cause of socio-economic equality. She then decided to communicate her message by working with government organizations and teachers to embody economic and social ideas in the school curriculum of children between 6 and 14 years of age.
After she moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, she launched the Aflatoan international organization in 2006 that projected to train ten million children in the world in ten years on their rights and their responsibilities towards themselves, their families and the social environment around them and educate them on money saving and the laying of budgets where the child learns how to strike a balance between his income, though small it might be, and his expenditure.
Mr. Naji said the program seeks to educate children on important living skills such as interaction, respect of others, respect of differences among people, as well as challenging difficulties through scientific and logical thought.
According to Mr. Naji, the program’s name “Aflatoan” was inspired by the children’s love for a cartoon character in a TV series displayed in India at the time. It is an Imaginary inflamed fireball navigating the outer space. The aim of the flying fireball is to help children discover the world around them and integrate them in it via activities, tales and games.
The Aflatoan program is applied by non-profit organizations and societies and the organization’s ultimate target is to integrate the Aflatoan educational program in the national curricula of member states.
Mr. Naji added that the program was Arabicized and was adopted by the Sudan that became the second Arabic speaking country to adopt and Sudanize it with the help of education specialists from the Bakht Errida Teacher Training Institute to cope with the local culture of the Sudanese society.
Sudan’s Aflatoan Program was launched in 2007 within a partnership between the Organization and the Sudanese Coalition of Education for All and the NGO Plan Sudan. The program was first applied in some localities of the White Nile and North Kordofan and was a success.
Mr. Naji maintained that the program had benefited the children too much and contributed a great deal to the reduction of school dropouts, scoring zero dropouts in some schools over the years.
The program makes the school environment attractive to the pupils and has taught children how to save money and learn how to start small businesses. It also taught the children how to economize the use of water and electricity and other resources and how to preserve public properties
School clubs elect their administrations. Pupils are trained to design IDs for the club members and are educated on the concepts, benefits, forms and mechanisms of savings. They also design what is called ‘Aflatoan Fund’ in which the members put materials the pupils can collect from the environment around them which can be used to start a project whose profits are distributed to the shareholders or donated to the needy families.
Ms.Leemya’a Ahmed, education coalition Board Member, said the program had first trained local coordinators to guarantee the program’s continuation. A lot of training programs were conducted in the White Nile State where 80 teachers were trained as future trainers. Some 67 teachers were trained in the localities of Nahr Atabra, Khash Algirba, Halfa and Kasala and 25 teachers were trained in North Kordofan.
“Every pupil who takes part in the program becomes an Aflatoan (an explorer) who operates under the motto “differentiate between fact and fiction and think, make sure and act.” This Aflatoanic philosophy combines three major elements: understanding the self, discovering the rights and responsibilities and saving, spending, planning and laying a budget. The program strives to equip the child with powers for effecting change in his environment and his family,” said Ms. Leemya’a.
Empowering children is achieved through modern techniques via the introduction of active education beside traditional education. This means helps the teacher communicate the syllabus in an attractive manner and it combines school curricula with extra-classroom activity. Drama is used to project the pupil’s personality, develop his imagination. It also can help determine the problems facing deprived children.
In addition to the return of Ali and his colleagues to school, the pupil Sara (10 years old) had lead her fellow girls to launch a livestock project beginning with two goats. Then they bought cows and started cheese processing.
Pupil Ahmed (in the 7th form) had launched a vegetable farm that helped provide breakfast for poor pupils. Called: “The Happy Farm”, the project is located in Abubakr Alsiddiq School in the town of Aldewaim, White Nile State.
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