A Features Desk Report
AS the clock ticks towards the kick-off of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations dubbed Ghana 2008, the storm of euphoria for the tournament is building up rapidly. However, in the midst of the excitement and anxiety, life must continue and the future of Africa must be protected.
The attention of Africa and the whole world would be focused on Ghana in the next one month as the country hosts 15 other African countries for the glamorous Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Appropriate as the focus might be, there is an equally compelling reason why the world and Africa in particular must turn attention to the development of children on the continent.
After all, today’s children are the embodiment of the future, and they would be the reason why millions of people in the world would gather to watch another Africa Cup of Nations in the next 10-20 years.
According to statistics from UNICEF, sub-Saharan Africa is a home to about 45 million children who do not get the opportunity to go to school. Even those who are fortunate to sit in the four walls of a classroom, there are millions of them who lack teachers, teaching and learning materials and other facilities that will deliver to them complete education to ensure that they realise and maximise their potential in life.
Such is the magnitude of the problem that the UNICEF has taken upon itself to address. In order to send the message of remedy across to Africans and the world at large, UNICEF is collaborating with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to use the power and influence of football during Ghana 2008 by emphasising the need to educate children.
Football is a game of great passion, and that is the kind of impact UNICEF and CAF want to exert from all Africans as far as educating children is concerned. That is because education is the way out of poverty, deprivation, disease, ignorance and under-development, and considering the fact that children are the embodiment of the future, educating them today means liberating Africa from all such vicissitudes in the future.
“Our aim is that the campaign runs through the tournament, and that while the passion for football will, of course, be the focus, a space is given to talk about the campaign and the importance of education,” the two organisations assert.
The two organisations want Africans to take inspiration from the words of Nelson Mandela, who proclaimed, “It is my passion that every child in Africa goes to school. Education is the doorway to freedom, democracy and development. No child in Africa and, in fact, anywhere in the world should be denied education. I know that we can reach this goal.”
Truly with a concerted effort, Africa can reach the goal of educating its children for a better tomorrow. With UNICEF’s strong presence in 54 African countries, including the 16 nations competing in the Ghana 2008 tournament, the campaign is expected to yield positive results to ensure availability of well-trained teachers, schools and books for quality teaching and learning.
Under the campaign dubbed “Quality education for all children — we CAN all do it”, UNICEF and CAF are seeking to mobilise support among communities, religious leaders, celebrities and politicians across Africa to drive home the message. The two organisations believe that, “By using the right players and spokespersons, we can help to change certain societal attitudes and behaviour known to limit access to education, especially for girls.”
The advocacy campaign would run concurrently in all the 16 participating nations by depicting a compelling picture of the challenges facing quality education in Africa today, but at the same time offer a picture of hope, by telling the story of children who are making good the opportunity of education, despite the difficult circumstances they face.
The initiative by UNICEF and CAF is, no doubt, a worthy ambition that requires the support of everybody. As we go out and make fun, we must not forget that there is life ahead, we must liberate Africa from obscurity and make it a better place to live.