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Nelson Mandela helps launch ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign

South African Kamo Masilo and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela.

BERLIN, 20 May 2005 – Around 45 million children in sub-Saharan Africa – or nearly every other child – are out of school. Nowhere else in the world are children so deprived of education.

The ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign, supported by UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, aims to put two million of the continent’s children back in school. In a video message to the launch in Berlin, Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President of South Africa, said, “My dream is for all children of Africa to go to school. We must be unrelenting in our efforts to educate our children. There can be no excuse for not creating an enabling environment where all children throughout Africa can reach their full potential.”

Through ‘Schools for Africa,’ UNICEF and the Nelson Mandela Foundation will help build and repair school facilities, provide school supplies for children, and train teachers and administrative staff – with the goal that community members will eventually take over responsibility for the schools. As a first step, model schools will be established in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

“Better schools not only help each and every child to develop their abilities; they are also the most sustainable investment in the development of society,” said Changu Mannathoko, UNICEF’s Regional Education Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa.

© UNICEF/2005/Christian Schneider
Changu Mannathoko, UNICEF Regional Education Advisor, with supporters of the 'Schools for Africa' campaign at the press conference in Berlin.

Schools – a question of survival for girls

The opportunity to attend school is not only a question of learning for children in southern Africa. It is also one of survival, because access to education and information is vital for adolescents to protect themselves from AIDS and other diseases. Over half of the roughly three million HIV infections in southern Africa in 2004 affected young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Girls are especially at risk. In some countries the proportion of newly infected women is five or six times as high as it is for men.

For women, therefore, access to education is key to stopping the spread of AIDS. At the same time, school attendance helps defeat social and cultural discrimination toward girls. When girls are more knowledgeable and self-confident, the risk that they will be mistreated, sexually abused or exploited declines. Women who have attended school are also better able to take care of their own children. Research has shown that child mortality declines the longer a mother has attended school.

Unrealized rights

Yet children from poor families, AIDS orphans and girls are often denied access to education. Adequate school facilities and trained teachers are especially lacking in the countryside. The quality of teaching is frequently so poor that parents would rather send their children to work than to school. In addition, more and more children are unable to attend school because they are responsible for caring for their HIV-positive parents – and later, for their siblings. About 12 million children in the region have already lost one or both parents to AIDS. These children can quickly become caught up in exploitative work conditions or in living on the street.

Schools for Africa

The ‘Schools for Africa’ campaign will help improve access to quality basic education in southern Africa. In Angola, for example, where classrooms are often built of burnt adobe, the campaign will help provide better materials such as cement and wood. The campaign will help install drinking fountains and latrines, and will provide chalkboards, chalk and books as well as continuing education courses and teacher training centres where teachers can learn new teaching methods to help run schools more effectively.


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