Soft toys for education

Personal stories

11 million children have benefited from the Soft Toys for Education campaign.
Here are just a few of their stories.
No Youtube Player
A boy reading a book in bed. Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone. Close up of a girl in a pink shirt. Close up of a boy laughing. A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
Sam ‘Manjo’ Manjomasy, 13 years
Sam ‘Manjo’ Manjomasy, 13 is a student at Ankilimanintsy II primary school. This year he will repeat the second grade for the third time. Today is the start of a new school year. I am glad that school is starting. I like it. This year, I will be in the second grade again. I really want to go on to grade three, but my school only goes to grade two, and my mother can’t afford to send me to another school.
Ten other children in my class are also repeating the second grade. Only one of them has repeated as many times as I have. Others drop out instead of repeating and repeating. They stay at home and help their parents work in the fields. I feel sad about having to repeat, but rather than drop out, I prefer to stay in grade two. I like to learn, and I believe — I hope — one day they will send a second teacher to our school and then I will be able to move on to grade three.
Going to school is good. I can help my mother. She asks me to read letters and count money. She has me write any letters she needs to send. I also teach my family. I have taught them to wash their hands, their faces and their feet.
“I have taught them about washing their hands before they eat and about washing the plates and spoons.”
Now they do these things. Before they did not.
Because I know everything we are learning in school it is my job to help the teacher: I help her to bring in the school materials at the start of the day and put them away at the end of the day. Sometimes she asks me to help the younger children with their reading or to keep the first grade quiet. I like it because it feels like I am a teacher too. When I was younger my mother wanted me to be a doctor. Later, when I could think for myself, I decided I wanted
A boy reading a book in bed.
Sam ‘Manjo’ Manjomasy, reading a book in his bed.
to be a policeman. I like the look of policemen. I like their uniforms. I also know that policemen have money to buy things. There are policemen on the road not far from the school. I always see them buying things to eat, like beer and meat. I am not sure how many years I would have to go to school to become a policeman. Maybe six years? I don’t know. But whatever I do — doctor or policeman — I know I can only do it if I go on to the third grade.
Mameno Rova Teacher, Ankilimanintsy II primary school
Mameno Rova Teacher, Ankilimanintsy II primary school I have been the teacher here for two years. It is a small classroom and it is very crowded with 132 students inside. The parents in this community worked together to build this classroom with their own money and labor. They wanted their children to be able to go to school, but they didn’t have enough money to build a second classroom or to make this one bigger. Nor was there money to build a latrine.
It is really hard to teach so many children. It is especially hard to supervise what they are doing. Every child is different and some of them have problems. I need to work with them individually, but I can’t. The second graders sit in the desks.
that, I told Manjo and his mother that they should send him to another school. Manjo said
“No. I know that my mother does not have the money to send me to another school. I will stay here until they open grade three.”
Manjo is the leader of the class. He helps me with the younger children by listening to them read and keeping them in order. When I need someone to help me in any way — for example, to go with the children to do agriculture — Manjo is my assistant. I am sad. I worry that soon it will be too late for him to finish his education. That’s why I keep telling him to go to school elsewhere. But he says ‘No, I have to stay.’ I really want to see him get an education. I have even thought about paying for this myself, but I don’t have the money to send him to school elsewhere. That is why I have insisted that the district education chief send us another teacher and then we open the third grade.
Most of the first graders sit on the floor. There are so many of them that I can’t even get to where they are sitting. I have asked the district education chief to send another teacher to help me, but I am not sure if that will happen or not. When the children here finish grade two, if their parents have enough money, they can send them to school in Ambovombe (9 mi away).
If their parents don’t have money the children stay here and repeat grade two with the hope that one day the district education office will send another teacher. If a new teacher comes we can open grade three. This year I have ten children repeating the second grade. Some parents take their children out of school and have them help at home rather than have them keep repeating. Other parents prefer to keep sending them because they hope that one day grade three will open.
Most of the parents here believe that it is important to send their children to school, even if means repeating the same grade. They want to see them going to school. They know it is a benefit. Manjo is a good example. He is an excellent student. By now he would be in grade five if he could have continued to progress in his education. Last year, and the year before
A boy reading a book in bed. Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone. Close up of a girl in a pink shirt. Close up of a boy laughing. A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
Rahimatha Saíde Habiba, 11 years
Rahimatha Saíde Habiba is only 11, but she is already working as a child-to-child (C2C) radio program producer at the Namialo community radio station, in Mozambique’s Nampula province. Bright and articulate, she told us about how her program helps raise awareness in her community.
The child-to-child media program is at the core of UNICEF’s communication for development strategy in Mozambique.
Nationwide, over 1,500 children and young people like Rahimatha are actively involved in the development, production and presentation of radio and television programs for and by children, in 11 provinces
across the country. Using an edutainment, peer-to-peer approach to media production, the program seeks to involve children, young people, duty bearers and service providers in intergenerational debates on key issues related to girls’ education, HIV prevention, life skills, prevention of cholera and malaria, and prevention of violence and abuse against children.
Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone.
Why is the program important?
Adults need to know that children have the right to an education, to an opinion, to play, and that no girl should be married before the age of 18. They need to know that children need to grow in a loving and caring environment and protected from any kind of violence and abuse. The program addresses many other issues for our community, for example, that people have the right to speak their own language, and to follow their tradition and religion. Even if they belong to a minority group, they must be respected. For example, I’m a Muslim and a few months ago one of my school teachers was not so comfortable that I wore a headscarf, but slowly he started to accept it. I believe it’s partly due to our radio program. The program also provides a good opportunity for children to discuss many issues with their parents, siblings, and friends.
Does your family listen to the radio program?
At home I spend most of my time with my father as my mom travels a lot for her work. I enjoy listening to the radio program with my father, and he provides me with useful feedback and tips on how better to address the topic under discussion. That helps me to improve my skills as a radio producer.
Do you have any extra activities or hobbies?
I like helping with our house chores and looking after my two younger siblings. In my free time I usually study and practice drawing outfits. When I grow up I want to be a journalist or a fashion designer.
Do you have any message to your community and listeners?
I think that the first step to improve children’s rights in Mozambique is to reduce adult illiteracy. Both children and adults should be equally sensitized on child rights. Those adults who missed the opportunity to go to school when they were young should go back to school and learn more on child rights. It’s never too late to learn something.
“Children need to grow
in a loving and caring
“It’s never too late to
learn something.”
A boy reading a book in bed. Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone. Close up of a girl in a pink shirt. Close up of a boy laughing. A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
Chan Samoun, 10 years
When Samoun was late for school again, or when she missed a day, her teacher beat her with a stick and made her stand in shame next to the blackboard. Samoun is ten years old and lives in southern Cambodia. Even without the abuse, it was hard for her to go to school. She often missed classes because she was too exhausted from household chores and it was a long way to school. Her family is very poor and all the children have to work to help support the family.
– I really wanted my children to go to school and get well educated and get good jobs in the future, but I couldn’t even buy notebooks for them, Samoun’s mother says. A project supported by Save the Children and funded by the IKEA Foundation has changed the way the community looks at education and how teachers treat children in school. The change has been radical and quick – and for Samoun, it means she is back in school on a regular basis and no one is making her feel ashamed any more.
– I am happy that I am at school again, but I am very shy because I have been coming and going, Samoun says.
Through the project school support committees were formed in over 140 schools across six provinces in Cambodia. They work with local authorities, teachers, village elders and other community members to get more children to attend school.
The committees also initiate discussions in the villages about the importance of education and ways to support those who can’t afford to send their children to school. Local resources are pooled;
school uniforms and books can be used and reused so those who can’t afford their own can still attend. Poor families, like Samoun’s, can also get food support so they can afford for their children to go to school instead of working. In addition to supporting children to come to school, workshops and trainings on new and better teaching methods that respect children were held in Samoun’s school. At the start of the academic year Samoun’s teacher had a completely new outlook.
– I have realized that the way I was keeping discipline in the class before was wrong, Samoun’s teacher says. I’m sorry for what I have done, I did not know about positive discipline.
yellow background
Country: Cambodia
Project information: Fighting Discrimination and Violence in School for inclusive and child friendly quality education
Child: Chan Samoun, 10 years old, female
A boy reading a book in bed.Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone. Close up of a girl in a pink shirt. Close up of a boy laughing. A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
Roland Ibishaj, 3 and half years
Going to pre-school is a big thing for many children, but for Roland, who is
diagnosed with Autism, attending the special nursery funded by the IKEA
Foundation and supported by Save the Children was a life changer.
– I still remember the first time he came home and said ‘tractor.’ I burst into tears
and could not stop crying and hugging him, Roland’s mother Marta says.
When Roland, who is now three and a half years old, came to the pre-school a year ago, he did not speak at all. With the help of staff trained in inclusive education Roland is now doing well.
– Being here has had such a positive effect on him, Sulltane, one of Roland’s teachers, says. In the beginning he could not even stay still and be with other children, and now he loves to sit down and read books together with his friends. His favorite thing at the moment is reciting the alphabet and working with numbers.
Female smiling and holding a laughing boy.yellow background
Country: Kosovo
Project information: Realizing the rights of minority and disabled children in Kosovo
Child: Roland Ibishaj, 3 and half years old, male
“I still remember the first time he came home and said ‘tractor.’”
The IKEA Foundation project supports nine pre-schools and nine primary and
lower secondary schools throughout Kosovo. The educators in the project not only
support children and train other teachers, but also help the parents of children with disabilities.
– The educators are wonderful; they talk to me daily and advise me on how to work
with Roland at home. This has made so much difference for me since I had very little knowledge before, Marta says.
The project funded by the IKEA Foundation is part of a larger program that aims to include children with disabilities and minority children in pre-school and primary education. The program reaches 600 children with disabilities, but also improves the learning situation for over 12,000 children in one of the poorest parts of Europe.
Roland and his mother Marta when she picks him up at the pre-school he attends every day.
A boy reading a book in bed.Girl with headphones on, holding a microphone. Close up of a girl in a pink shirt. Close up of a boy laughing. A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
Ailin Anghel, 5 years old
Ailin is showing her fish she’s finished with.
A girl holding a paper drawing in the shape of a fish.
There was very little chance of Ailin ever going to school. Her family is very poor and lives in a predominately Roma neighborhood on the outskirts of Constanta in Eastern Romania. Her mother never went to school and her father left after fifth grade. Only 20% of Roma children attend pre-school in Romania and the Roma population is one of the most discriminated against in Europe. Save the Children supports preschools for marginalized children in Romania and with the help of funding from the IKEA Foundation over 580 children are now in school. Like Ailin, many of them would not have had a chance to attend without the program. The children and their families are supported with everything the children need in order to attend school – clothes and school supplies. Parents are also encouraged through the program to let their children attend pre-school and then continue their education. Changing attitudes to education is as important as helping families with the costs.
– I never thought my daughter would be enrolled in school and learn so many things, Ailin’s mother says. I am so happy with the things she learns every day and she loves it.
The difference the programme makes to Roma children is huge. Of the over 650 Roma children Save the Children have supported in the three years of the programme 90% are now in school. The normal outlook for Roma children’s education is bleak – they make up the vast majority of children that are out of school in Romania. Ailin is not only happy to be with her new friends, she is also doing well:
– She is active and serious, Ailin’s teacher says. She is friendly and cheerful in class too.
The results of the program help Roma parents believe in a better future for their children.
yellow background
Country: Romania
Project information: Raising children in a stigma free society
Child: Ailin Anghel, 5 years old, female
IWitness BLOG
IWitness Global Citizens Program
Hear from IKEA co-workers who have visited good cause supported projects
Making a Difference
Learn more about IKEA good cause campaigns
 Close up a child in a blue t-shirt holding a notebook.