Maputo, the School of Peace in the Polana Caniço neighbourhood was reopened with a celebration after renovation work

A new school year starts in Mozambique on 1 February. Everything is ready at Polana Caniço, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Maputo, where a ceremony was held on 14 January to inaugurate the School of Peace after renovation and extension work.

Sant'Egidio opened the School of Peace here in the late 1980s. At the time, many displaced people fleeing the war raging outside the cities arrived in the neighbourhood. The name 'Caniço' came from the fact that the poor houses of these refugees were built with thin reeds - the 'caniço' - that could easily be found in the marshy areas around.

Since then many things have changed thanks to the peace and Mozambique has undergone considerable development. Yet Polana Caniço is still one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city, with considerable pockets of deprivation among the elderly and children.

In these years of peace, many things have changed and Mozambique has undergone considerable development, but Polana Caniço continues to be one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city, with considerable pockets of poverty among the elderly and children.

Some of the priority objectives of the School of Peace are to encourage school attendance and combat school drop-outs - often also caused by early marriages among adolescent girls- create a space dedicated to children and adolescents, and educate for peace. The role of the School of Peace is important for children who find it difficult to progress in their studies, not least because of the weakness of the state school system - where classes can be as large as 120/140 children - to take advantage of an alternative educational opportunity.

At the same time, it is a welcoming and caring space for children who spend much of their time on the street - often also forced by economic conditions - doing odd jobs, such as selling peanuts or small handcrafted ice lollies, or getting together in gangs.

The School of Peace is therefore an important reference point in the neighbourhood for the youngest, children and adolescents, but at the same time it is a place of voluntary commitment for many young Mozambicans who are committed to the growth of the younger generations and, in this way, contribute to the future of their country.

An atmosphere of joy and hope prevailed at the inauguration ceremony. In the presence of a few hundred people - many of them children with their families - the head of the neighbourhood took the floor to offer his testimony on the value of the long presence of the Community in this suburb, which has been the focus of Sant'Egidio for so many years.