Using Art Education and Therapy to Help Preschoolers in Mozambique Fight the Effects of HIV/AIDS

Veronica Photo Veronica

Guemulene Village, Gaza District, Mozambique

June 15, 2010

In
the rural areas of Mozambique where Save the Children works, almost all
children have been affected by the AIDS crisis, losing family members
and teachers to the disease.   

Save the Children, through funding from the Charles Engelhard Foundation and the 2007 Idol Gives Back
TV fundraising event, began piloting an innovative program using visual
arts to help give children a voice to their emotions about difficult
events in their every day lives in rural Mozambican preschools or
“escolinhas” in 2008.

As part of the “Healing and Education through Art” or HEART program, preschool teachers participated
in three training sessions. Monica, a
preschool teacher, shares her thoughts about how the training has helped improve her work with children:

“Children need to feel free to express whatever happens to them – good or bad.  But I cannot force them to express their feelings or thoughts.  Still, I am surprised at how much young children remember what they see and hear, but do not have the language to express themselves. 

We created a space at our preschools with art activities for children. Through art, children can finally express themselves and things they remember seeing and hearing.

Let me tell you about a little girl in our preschool named Gracindabel. When she first arrived at school, she would not speak or participate in activities with other classmates. She would often urinate in the classroom. During art activities, she would break her pencil or start drawing violently on her paper.  

My training had taught me to recognize the signs of a child who needs special attention. I was patient with Gracindabel, and over time, during the art activities, I noticed that she started to talk more with her classmates, participate in group work, and stopped going to the bathroom in the classroom. 

One day, she made a doll out of clay with one arm. She then went on to tell me a detailed imaginary story about a girl whose arm was bitten off by the crocodile that lives in the river behind her home. This was such a remarkable change from a child who started out afraid to speak or participate in class!

Before the teacher trainings, when I saw a child like Gracindabel who didn’t want to participate, talk or play, I would just let that child be and not do anything. Now, I have learned ways to find out what’s wrong with the child, helping that child to try to resolve her problems. I like my job so much now and have a lot of fun with the children.”

16 comments

  1. Hi, my name is meseret belachew. and ECD advisor for save the children in Ethiopia program.

    I want to comment on and ask if it’s possibe to share some of the tools and others that helped Monica identify the special need of that child and other.

    It’s a remarkable change and rewarding to see a change in a childs life.Thanks for sharing with us and well done!Monica

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