|Maria, 12, is interviewed by a Brazilian television crew about the ‘edu-communication’ project that will help her learn about reporting, communication and new media.|
SÃO PAULO Brazil, 11 April 2008 – The excitement was palpable at the recent launch of the new UNICEF and British Telecom youth participation programme focusing on education and communication in low-income communities in Brazil.
One participant, Maria, 12, was certainly inspired, proudly declaring: “If you see that the world isn’t changing, it’s up to you to change it!”
The UNICEF-BT programme will support and train Brazilian adolescents to use a range of communication tools to improve the quality of education in their schools and communities – and to teach them to make better life choices.
Some 10,000 adolescents at schools in five of Brazil’s largest cities – São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Fortaleza – will benefit from the partnership. BT is providing £500,000 in funding, and partners from the Brazilian Communication and Participation Network of NGOs will be responsible for implementing the programme in each of the five cities.
The initiative will train young people in Brazil to use the Internet, radio, blogs, photography and video to publicize school-improvement campaigns – and to help shape public policies on health services, the environment, digital inclusion and other issues important to their communities.
The programme will also provide PCs, digital cameras and other equipment in schools, as well as creating a dedicated website enabling teenagers to publish and share stories and photographs.
“It’s important for young people like me to learn how to report and communicate, because we know how to best talk with other teenagers, and sometimes it seems like we’re the only people who can change things for the better,” explained Maria.
‘An enormous challenge’
UNICEF is in close contact with the Brazilian Ministry of Education, actively encouraging the ministry to expand the programme and to roll it out with other youth participation projects at schools throughout Brazil.
“Brazil faces an enormous challenge in ensuring that children remain in school. Only 4 out of every 10 students who start primary school actually complete secondary education,” said UNICEF Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier. “One of UNICEF’s priorities is to promote young people’s participation in their schools and communities. To have access to communication tools and to be able to express their views are basic rights of adolescents.”
A UNICEF survey in 2006 found that adolescents in Brazil who participated in community activities appeared to be less susceptible to dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and involvement with violence, Ms. Poirier noted.
Communication and technology skills
UNICEF’s partnership with BT in Brazil aims to engage adolescents in social issues that affect them, and to help make their school environments more stimulating. By equipping these youths with communication and technology skills, BT and UNICEF also hope to improve their future job prospects.
“Our partnership with UNICEF creates education environments where children receive the support they need to thrive,” said BT Global Services’ President for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, Luis Alvarez. “Access to information and communications technology can help to foster new skills, in turn enabling them to pass exams, get a job, play an active role in their communities and achieve their goals in life.”
Bruna, 17, of São Paulo agreed. “I think the best way to make our communities and our world a better place is to be able to share information and to find solutions together,” she said.