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All together now; promoting social inclusion through music.

All together now; promoting social inclusion through music.

Blandina Imelda practising her violin in an alleyway in Maputo

This is Blandina Imelda Dimande, a sixteen year old secondary school student from Maputo in Mozambique. Like many of her classmates, she is currently preparing for her end of term exams but she is also thinking of her future. Since she was young, Blandina has dreamed of being a doctor – her passion for helping people borne out of her poverty surroundings.

"Ever since I was six years old I wanted to be a doctor. I want to help people to get better, to live longer and to be happy."

 

Mozambique is among the poorest countries in the world, with high rates of HIV, high youth unemployment and with almost half of children under-5 years old malnourished. With few teachers and insufficient resources, the education system is also under pressure, reflected in the average number of years in school being less than four.

For Blandina, a lack of teachers means that the quality education she requires to fulfil her dreams isn’t guaranteed. To reduce classroom overcrowding, school timetables are often split into shifts, with students being assigned to classes in either the morning, afternoon or evening. Blandina starts school each day at noon. This means during the morning, students like her have little to do, often leaving many with a sense of social exclusion and loneliness, which can affect their mental health. Some kids are turning to petty crimes in order to get money for their lunch. Some have turned to alcohol and drugs.   

Six years ago, Blandina, while in primary school, decided to learn an instrument, which she hoped would allow her to keep active and make friends. She started by learning the saxophone at the National Music School of Maputo.  Unfortunately, the national music school also faces a chronic lack of resources resulting in few teachers and opportunity. That is when she discovered a project called Xiquitsi.

Xiquitsi is a locally implemented project promoting opportunities for social integration and inclusion by giving young boys and girls the chance to change their lives through the learning of musical instruments and singing; equipping them with important life skills such as teamwork and respect. It is also confidence building – useful attributes for children reaching their potential in life. It is run by the Kulungwana Association for Cultural Development, and for the last number of years it has been co-funded by Irish Aid. The project received volunteers from all over the world, who are keen to share their knowledge of music and support social development.

Through improving social inclusion, Xiquitsi is contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which all countries have committed to achieving by 2030. SDG 4 aims to achieve Gender Equality, Social Inclusion, and Human Rights for All. SDG 4 strongly recognises the important role that social inclusion can play in reducing poverty, lowering inequalities and promoting equal opportunities for all.

Xiquitsi supports children, particularly from poorer families, throughout Maputo City to come together, to sing, to learn to play instruments and be a part of something exciting. As music instruments are expensive and not easy to come by in Maputo, Xiquitsi maintain a stock of instruments for the children to use for free during their lessons. With Irish Aid funding, Xiquitsi has been able to expand its range of instruments. As many of the children come from vulnerable households, Xiquitsi also provides a meal so that no child leaves their lessons hungry.

Since joining Xiquitsi, Blandina is now learning the violin and she is loving it. She feels her new talent is expanding her horizons and opening opportunities that she didn’t consider.

"These days, I cannot imagine my life without music. Thanks to Irish Aid, through Xiquitsi I have learnt new skills and I have made many new friends. I feel part of something. If I am not successful in becoming a doctor, I will want to study music when I finish school. I want to play in an orchestra."

Every day up to a hundred children, some as young as seven years old, come to the free lessons provided by Xiquitsi. Some are keen to sing, some are keen to learn an instrument; all of them come to have fun through music.

Irish Aid has been supporting the Xiquitsi project over a number of years, in particular in the purchase of instruments for young musicians. In addition, the Xiquitsi Choir have collaborated with the Embassy and in particular performed the Irish National Anthem at official Embassy events. Under the Embassy’s MOBILISE initiative, it is seeking to establish a more permanent partnership with Xiquitsi with particular focus on supporting teaching, workshops, rehearsals and concerts. In 2019, during St. Patrick’s week, a trad group from UCD engaged with students of Xiquitsi in an exciting and motivational workshop session.

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