Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Supporting Child Friendly Schools in DPR Korea

Ms. Ri Kyong Hui, Head Master of Koksan Senior Middle School
© UNICEF EAPRO/2013/Cliff Meyers
Ms. Ri Kyong Hui is smiling brightly as she welcomes us to Koksan Senior Middle School. As Head Master, she is responsible for the 500 students and 45 staff in the largest Senior Middle School in Koksan County, North Hwanghae Province in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Ms. Ri has been Head Master for 5 years, serving as a teacher in the school before that.

“As a Head Master, I have so much more responsibility. Before, I only had to be responsible for my own classes. But I am lucky to be a mother – and can use my experience in my own family to lead the school. I try to make all of our staff considerate – and to pay attention to the details that affect students’ lives in the school. I want to create a nurturing school environment where children can thrive.”

UNICEF has supported renovations to Koksan School, in line with national Child Friendly School Standards. All children have the right to education and UNICEF is committed to securing quality education for every child. With this in mind, we have created a rights-based, comprehensive educational model – Child Friendly Schools (CFS). The CFS model is the concept that schools should operate in the best interests of the child and that educational environments must be safe, healthy and protective and follow child centered methods and participatory approaches to teaching and learning.

Ms. Ri Kyong Hui outside Koksan Senior Middle School
© UNICEF EAPRO/2013/Cliff Meyers
Renovations at Koksan School have included building a new roof and repairing the second floor and the toilets, improving the kitchen and lunch room facilities, replacing windows with double pane glass, and providing sports equipment and musical instruments. In addition, UNICEF has assisted teacher training on student-centered methods. UNICEF’s support to the school is matched with contributions from the community and county government, including cement, bricks, wooden beams and labour.

“We are so grateful to UNICEF for the renovations. Our school is 33 years old and has not had any large scale renovations. Thanks to the new windows, our classrooms are 5 degrees warmer in the winter, which the students really appreciate. The old roof was leaking and looked so sad. Now, cars passing along the highway can see the new blue roofing sheets of our school. It makes me feel so proud.”

When asked to share her biggest achievements in her 5 years as Head Master, Ms. Ri is self-effacing. “Oh – I haven’t really done anything – we work together here as a good team.” But when pressed further, she is able to identify what makes her most proud. “Our school is becoming more and more successful academically. Last year, over 40% of our students, and more girls than boys, went on to join University. A lot of our girls enrolled in the medical university, which I think is quite exciting.”

As we leave the school, we see a lot of students playing in the park across the street. Boys and girls are playing a football game together and others are in a circle practicing volleyball. Ms. Ri is talking with a group of boys holding soccer balls whilst awaiting their turn to play – and everyone is laughing.

Children play outside Koksan Senior Middle School
© UNICEF EAPRO/2013/Cliff Meyers
The author
Cliff Meyers is UNICEF Regional Education Advisor for East Asia and the Pacific

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