Schools for Africa InitiativeImplemented in 2004, the Schools for Africa initiative is a unified effort among organizations such as UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society. The program specifically aims to improve access to education for the most marginalized and disadvantaged children in Africa as a means of promoting social and economic mobility through learning. Schools for Africa helps Africa advance by increasing access to “quality education in 21 countries across Africa.” Since education reduces poverty, the Schools for Africa initiative provides benefits that are far-reaching.

Supporting Education in Africa

The education initiative prioritizes fundamental elements of educational standards and accessibility in countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe by funding improvements to the existing education system. Specifically, the initiative aims to construct and restore almost 1,000 schools. Furthermore, the initiative prioritizes training 100,000 teachers and supplying educational resources to schools.

The initiative also ensures clean drinking water for children and gender-separate bathrooms for students. Schools for Africa prioritizes the education of vulnerable students such as orphans, girls and extremely impoverished children. The program knocks down barriers to education, such as scarcity of economic resources, and helps lessen economic gaps throughout Africa.

Other Supporters of Schools for Africa

Organizations such as the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International have supported the Schools for Africa initiative, spreading awareness about the importance of education for children and fundraising for the cause. The Society views its contribution to the program as a critical step in fostering an inclusive and safe atmosphere for children who are particularly vulnerable, such as impoverished children and those without parents.

In 2008, the UNICEF Office for Croatia joined the Schools for Africa program, prioritizing educational improvement in Croatia by working with “kindergartens, schools and centers for education all over Croatia.” Croatia also aims to improve educational access across Africa. The UNICEF Office for Croatia and Croatian communities garnered more than six million Croatian kunas “for the education of children in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.”

Education for Poverty Reduction

In many African countries, natural disasters, insufficient infrastructure and a lack of professional training for teaching staff contribute to low school attendance for many children. For example, only a third of the teaching staff in Madagascar have adequate training. Furthermore, the Madagascan school attendance rate is exceptionally low in contrast to more developed countries. Now more than ever, it is important to acknowledge the economic inequity that correlates with low school attendance. Supporting the Schools for Africa initiative shows a commitment to reducing poverty in Africa since education and poverty are interlinked.

The Schools for Africa Initiative is now able to reach more than 30 million children. The efforts of the initiative ensure that children possess the skills and knowledge to advance and prosper in their lives ahead. Through education, children are empowered and cycles of poverty are broken.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

Schools for Africa
Schools for Africa is a UNICEF campaign dedicated to fostering education in developing countries during post-crisis and transition periods.

Shortly following their 2004 launch, Schools for Africa was able to raise over $11 million to invest in education in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. By 2008, the campaign had been initiated in over nine countries, including the United States, and over five million children had been able to receive a better education as a result of the program’s work.

At present, Schools for Africa offers support for education in 13 countries for over 30 million children. One such child is Usher, who, due to a disability, did not learn to walk until he was five. His family believed he’d never get an education. The creation of a UNICEF-supported school, however, allowed him to go to class like all the other children in his village, where he now hopes to learn how to read, write and count.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review cites a lack of education as one of the reasons for poor life quality and expectancy in developing countries. For example, only 50 percent of children in Ghana complete grade five, with fewer than half of those being able to read at the proper level.

The lack of adequate education also leads a great number of students that drop out at an early age. In one report, the Review explains, “[i]t is not surprising that when education investments do not result in adequate learning, or even basic literacy and numeracy, parents do not keep their children in school.”

Moreover, offering support for education in developing countries does not only enable children to have access to a basic rights. According to Canadian Feed the Children, at least a 40 percent literacy rate is necessary to achieve significant economic growth. Therefore, access to education can also reduce food insecurity for poor children by as much as 25 percent.

The benefits of education are profound. With a stronger economy and greater access to food, impoverished countries become less of a security risk and they also open themselves up to trading opportunities with other states. Education in developing countries is a vital force in the quest to end poverty, and UNICEF’s Schools for Africa is at the helm in such efforts. Schools for Africa betters countless young lives as it pursues academic growth and poverty reduction.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Pixabay

For the majority of Africa’s children, only those who learn to read and write will manage to escape the trenches of poverty. Across the continent, millions of children live on less than a dollar a day, and the only way to ensure a better quality of life is by mastering basic arithmetic, reading and writing; education paves the only way for better-paid jobs. But the power of education does not lie solely in the mastery of numbers and letters. Equally powerful in the fight against global poverty is the role that education plays in helping children to protect themselves against deadly diseases. Education and disease-prevention are intrinsically connected.

According to UNICEF, 1,500 African children die daily from malaria, a lead killer of children in the continent. The disease, both preventable and curable, kills 660,000 people annually, most of them African children. “Malaria is truly a disease of poverty — afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas in poorly-constructed dwellings that offer few, if any, barriers against mosquitoes.” Malaria is just one of the deadly diseases that has devastating effects on the population’s children. According to UNICEF, 2.1 million adolescents (ages 10-19) were living with HIV/AIDS in 2012. Without education, children become even more vulnerable and susceptible to death by disease.

UNICEF’s Schools for Africa is one organization that is committed to spreading health information and improving education in Africa for children. According to the organization’s research, every third child in sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t get the chance to go to school. Without this opportunity, a child is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to escaping death. “Simple information on day-to-day hygiene and prevention saves lives and keep families together,” states the organization. Children who attend school have an opportunity to learn basic, life-saving facts about HIV, nutrition, hygiene, health and sanitation, as well as increased access to health check-ups and immunizations. Schools for Africa is working with governments, local authorities and communities in 13 countries in Africa to create safe environments in which children can learn, and has thus far raised $164 million for this cause.

School plays an enormous role in changing the lives of African children—from providing basic education, meals, access to clean water, to incredibly powerful information about health and disease. Children who attend school have an incredible advantage and opportunity to overcome the barriers with which poverty oppresses children. African children need improved access to school, trained educators and life skills programs in order to both survive and pull themselves out of the trenches.

— Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: UNICEF, UNICEF USA, Schools For Africa