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Thanks to supporters, the Schools for Africa programme is reaching millions

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Schools for Africa seeks to provide a quality education to the most disadvantaged children – including those who suffer from discrimination and harassment and those who face extreme poverty, political unrest or natural disasters – through UNICEF’s holistic, child-friendly schools programme.

And it has been showing promising results: As of December 2010, some 5.5 million children across Africa were receiving better educations through this initiative.

A fundamental right

All children have a fundamental right to education, irrespective of their circumstances. Yet in parts of the world like sub-Saharan Africa, every third child doesn’t get the chance to attend school. For those children who do go to school, drop-out rates are a serious problem: An estimated 10 million children in sub-Saharan Africa drop out of primary school every year.

A girl reads aloud at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly school in Mougna Village, in Mali’s Mopti Region.

Aiming to reach these and other disadvantaged children, Schools for Africa was launched in 2004, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Peter Krämer Stiftung foundation, which donated approximately $5 million dollars. Since then, it has received contributions worth millions of dollars from corporate, state and individual donors.

The programme is present Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. There, Schools for Africa provides a unique array of services to schools that operate in the best interest of every child, and uses measurements to improve children’s learning environment in a gender-sensitive way. These interventions strive to attract children to school and to keep them there.

Child-friendly schools a success

The child-friendly school approach has been shown to lower drop-out rates, increase attendance and improve academic success among vulnerable children. By December 2010, Schools for Africa had reached over 115,000 teachers with training to provide children with quality education, psycho-social support and basic life-skills, including HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition, 1,169 schools had been improved with newly constructed or renovated classrooms.

And this work continues. Today, girls’ attendance continues to improve thanks to the provision of sex-separated sanitation facilities in schools. The provision of safe drinking water in thousands of schools and surrounding communities has also improved student health, and has helped children spend more time in classrooms and less time collecting water.

Children are also learning in better school environments thanks to the provision of classroom furniture, textbooks and other teaching and learning materials.

Despite these achievements, there is still a long way to go. But as UNICEF strives to meet the needs of the world’s poorest children and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 – including the goal of universal primary education – Schools for Africa’s child-friendly model and its many dedicated partners continue to offer a path forward.

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