|© UNICEF video|
|Retired football star and newly appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Marcel Desailly, shown here in one of the public service announcements produced in Ghana.|
By Junko Mitani
NORTHERN REGION, Ghana, 5 September 2007 – UNICEF Ghana recently designated their very first Goodwill Ambassador: accomplished football player Marcel Desailly.
Mr. Desailly won the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000 Cup while playing for the French National team. Since his retirement in 2006, he has become a familiar face across the world as a television football analyst.
“In my many years as a professional footballer, I received lots of cheering and encouragement from people on and off the football field,” said Mr. Desailly. “It is now my turn to cheer others, especially children. I look forward to working for children with UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador for Ghana, the country of my origin.”
Children share their dreams
Last month, the football legend visited the Northern Region of Ghana to observe the situation of children, especially with regard to education.
“Going to school is not only good for children but also for their families, because children can bring back new knowledge about hygiene, sanitation and safe water,” he said.
In the Savelugu/Nanton District, Mr. Desailly met with Neempaga Mahama, 18, and her sister Latifa, 16, who told him about their difficult daily chores, such as fetching firewood and collecting water in a heavy bucket. Neither girl has had the chance to attend school, but Neempaga wants to become a trader, and Latifa wants to become a tailor.
“Life can be tough,” noted Mr. Desailly. “But I was glad to learn they also have dreams.”
Learning about water and sanitation
During his trip, Mr. Desailly visited a school where he observed a class on water and sanitation. He also visited a centre where children were being treated for Guinea worm, a parasite that gets into the human body when a person is exposed to water contaminated with larvae. Children who are infected are in immense pain and often cannot study or play.
As part of the fight against Guinea worm and other water-bourne diseases, UNICEF Ghana is supporting the implementation of safe water supply systems and sanitation facilities, as well as hygiene education programmes.
“I’m encouraged to learn UNICEF is working with many partners to protect children from this disease,” said Mr. Desailly.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Marcel Desailly reads with a boy in Ghana during a visit to promote school enrolment and quality education.|
PSAs focus on schooling
In 2004, the Government of Ghana abolished school levies (charges for school-based extra-curricular activities) and began instead to subsidize schools with government grants. According to the UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, the country has made significant progress in terms of school enrolment. Despite this, a large number of children are still not attending school regularly – most of them girls.
As Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Desailly made two 45-second public service announcements to promote education; the video spots feature some of the children he met on his recent trip.
Christina Samson, 9, appears in one PSA about the chores girls perform at home, and their desire to go to school. “It was exciting and I was very happy to do it,” Christina said with a big smile. “It was not difficult because I also do such chores at home. I was a bit tired because I had to keep firewood on my head for a long time while filming, but I will never forget what I did!”
'Unite for education'
Mohamed Baba, 10, is in a second PSA illustrating the dream of a cattle boy who wishes to be in school.
“I know some children who can’t go to school because they have to take care of cattle,” said Mohamed. “Once, they asked me what I get at school. I said, ‘We don’t get anything. We only get knowledge in order to become leaders in the future.’”
The PSAs both end with an encouraging remark from Mr. Desailly, who says: “Let’s score the goal for every girl and every boy to have a good education! Unite for children. Unite for education.”
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