Monday, February 27, 2006

SCHOOLS FOR AFRICA: A Noble Endeavor - Simply Put

Last week I wrote about The Nelson Mandela Foundation , and today I would like to talk about a project in which that Foundation is participating along with UNICEF and the Hamburg Society for the Promotion of Democracy and International Law. This project is called Schools For Africa.

Schools For Africa is a joint campaign launched by the three organizations I just mentioned in order to promote education for children in Africa. In its own words, Schools For Africa: "The campaign aims to accelerate access to quality basic education for children, with a special focus on girls, orphans and vulnerable children. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, approximately 45 million children do not go to school. This means that almost every second child grows up behind an invisible wall of ignorance, poverty and discrimination. "Schools for Africa" will contribute to the right of every African child to education."

In a "nutshell" Schools For Africa:

- Supports school construction

- Provides educational materials and

- Trains teachers

Currently they aim to do this in six African countries, those being: Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Also, it is the goal to develop training programmes for teachers and strengthen school governance and management. The schools established will mainly be in rural areas.

The web site for Schools For Africa gives as an example Angola where communities themselves are building classrooms from burnt clay bricks. UNICEF provides the cement and timber and coordinates the work. Clean running water and latrines will be available to all the schools and blackboards, books, pens and benches will be provided in support of the educational process. Teachers will be provided with training courses and training centres for teachers will be organized to sharpen the skills of educators in the areas of new teaching and school management methodology. Another service provided to the communities where the schools will be built are Children's and Youth Clubs. These Clubs will be established at the schools to provide information on prevention and protection from HIV and AIDS infection.

This partnership of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations will create a network of local and regional administrations, school committees, corporations and ministries. The anticipated outcome will be the proper functioning of the schools, which will be the responsibility of the villages and communities themselves.

The Background for this effort is explained at the web site where Schools For Africa states:

"While more children are enrolled in school all over the world today, the chances of attending classes decrease in Sub-Saharan African countries. According to the latest estimates by UNICEF, at least 40 per cent of boys and 44 per cent of girls in this region do not go to elementary school. In rural areas in particular, there are not enough functional schools and trained teachers. And even if the children are enrolled, many drop out of school early. Their families are so poor that children often have to work to help support the family. Many girls also do not go to school because many schools do not have separated sanitation facilities.

"HIV and AIDS further reduces opportunities for many children to go to school. Some eleven million children have already been orphaned by the deadly disease. If parents fall ill because of HIV and AIDS infection, if they are not able to work and need medical help, they can no longer afford to send their children to school. Girls in particular have the greater burden, first with caring for the ill parents and then, after their death, taking care of their brothers and sisters. Often, they have to drop out of school. Without education, children orphaned by AIDS are not able to provide for their own living, easily fall prey to exploitation and may end up on the streets."

Simply put, it is a huge problem, and I hope you will consider seeing what you can do to help. Visit Schools For Africa at their web site.

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