Copyright 2020 - Bem Vindo

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Jailson Cruz Carvalho, aged 34, is the chair of the ‘Dar as Mãos’ association. A teacher by profession, he has been Tarrafal’s municipal delegate since December 2013. Education is a cause close to his heart.

Interviewer: Annette Helle

Annette: Why is it important to invest in education?

Jailson: For one thing, education is the basis for earning one’s day-to-day living and a regular income. In terms of work, there used to be only two options in Tarrafal: fishing and farming. Today, many other alternatives and occupations are available – if, that is, the relevant training can be undergone. This opens up a whole new world of aspirations and visions; it encourages ambition and creates future prospects. Nowadays it is no longer the case that, when asked what they would like to be one day, half of the children reply ‘a fisherman’ and the other half ‘a farmer’. For another thing, a higher standard of education is empowering in terms of social attitudes and social development overall. To give an example: one becomes better at resolving conflicts. And, of course, the community benefits if it includes teachers, medics, skilled tradespeople and businesspeople.

Annette: What are the opportunities for school education in Tarrafal?

Jailson: In Tarrafal, the children can go to primary school, i.e. attend years 1 to 6. To attend secondary school after that, they have to go to the other side of the island – to Ribeira das Patas, Porto Novo or Ribeira Grande – or even move to the neighbouring island of São Vicente. There they tend to live with relatives or with friends of the family, as it’s too far to travel back and forth every day. Porto Novo now also has a boarding school for pupils who have no relations nearby. After completing year 12 at secondary school, one option is to begin university studies. There are a number of private institutes of higher education in Cape Verde, and since 2006 there has also been a state-run university with branches in Praia and Mindelo.

Annette: How many primary-school pupils are there in Tarrafal?

Jailson: We have two primary schools – one in the town proper and one in the district of Covão up on the hillside – at which there are 82 pupils and seven teachers altogether. Some of the pupils have lessons in the morning, with the rest being taught in the afternoon.

Annette: What subjects are taught? And what’s the school day like?

Jailson: The subjects taught are Portuguese, maths, science, PE, music, art and citizenship. For the morning pupils, school begins at eight and ends at 12.30, with a meal break at 10 a.m. The afternoon pupils come at 1 p.m., eat at 3 p.m., and classes then continue until 5.30.

Annette: What do the pupils have for lunch? Do they have to pay for it?

Jailson: A hot dinner is always available. The government provides the school with rice, pasta, oil, beans, flour, milk and gas for cooking, and we have to obtain vegetables, fish and other items ourselves. Each pupil contributes 50 escudos per month.

Annette: What overall costs does attending primary school entail?

Jailson: Five hundred escudos for meals, 450 escudos for the end-of-term exams, 1,000 escudos for the school uniform, and around 1,500 escudos for text books, exercise books and school materials. And on top of this there are two major school festivities – one held on International Children’s Day and the other being the end-of-school-year event – to which each child contributes 100 escudos. This adds up to 3,650 escudos for a school year, equivalent to about 35 euros.

Annette: And what does secondary school cost?

Jailson: It’s three or four times as expensive. Parental contributions are means-tested: 1,500, 3,000 or 9,000 escudos per annum. On top of this are the costs for the uniform, as well as PE kit, textbooks and school materials – an additional 5,000 escudos or so. Over a school year, costs are also incurred for the many photocopies provided, and accommodation away from the parental home must also be taken into account. For those who don’t have anywhere to stay (e.g. with relatives) near the school, it’s a costly business: boarding school costs 6,000–8,000 escudos a month. However, boarders are the exception; most pupils stay with members of their extended families.

Annette: How many children from Tarrafal are currently attending a secondary school elsewhere?

Jailson: Fifteen. Of these, most go to school in Porto Novo, followed by Ribeira das Patas, then Mindelo (São Vicente), then Ribeira Grande.

Annette: So, out of around 1,000 inhabitants, Tarrafal has 82 primary-school pupils and 15 secondary-school pupils. That sounds promising ...

Jailson: Yes, we have plenty of bright minds here! A judge at our Supreme Court in Praia comes from Tarrafal, as do several doctors and a large number of nurses, accountants, teachers, computer professionals, independent entrepreneurs, etc. In recent years, two pupils from Tarrafal have won the Cape Verde mathematics competition, and two famous Cape Verde footballers also come from here: Rolando and Vandi. We certainly have a great deal of potential...

Annette: You yourself were born in Tarrafal, underwent training in Mindelo, and then returned to Tarrafal. Is that the norm?

Jailson: No. Most people who leave don’t come back. Tarrafal is very remote and does not have the advantages of a town, and there aren’t enough jobs for skilled workers.

Annette: Do you still work as a teacher?

Jailson: Not at the moment. I taught at the primary school in Tarrafal for nine years and I can see myself returning to this profession. At present, however, my work as municipal delegate does not allow this. Nevertheless, I do teach two IT classes a week, as I feel computer skills are of the utmost importance and a key to better education.

Annette: How can outsiders help?

Jailson: What we need more than anything else is financial support. This could involve sponsoring a primary-school or secondary-school pupil, or donation to a scholarship. People can donate food to the school or gift a computer to a pupil at secondary school. Any contributions will be most gratefully received.

Annette: What is the procedure for making such contributions?

Jailson: On our website, www.damtarrafal.com, there is a form headed ‘Educational support’ on which you enter which kind of support you wish to provide; the desired amount can be paid into our account by bank transfer. We will then pay the school fee and meet the costs of the resources required by a pupil we select.

Annette: Who enjoys financial assistance, and what are the selection criteria?

Jailson: We support only pupils from families who lack the resources to pay for their children’s education themselves. Other criteria are motivation on the pupil’s part, i.e. the express desire to learn, and of course the necessary intellectual capability. We choose the candidates after consulting with the teachers, and monitor their learning success over time.

Annette: What is the aim of this kind of assistance?

Jailson: The approach adopted is very much ‘helping people to help themselves’. In Cape Verde, there are very strong family ties. The older children who have already finished school often contribute to the family income and help to make it possible for the younger ones to attend school. Ultimately, therefore, it’s not just individual pupils who are helped, but usually the entire family.

   

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