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Angola's biggest-ever education campaign introduces 250,000 children back to school

LUANDA, 6 February 2003 - On Monday 10 February, the biggest education campaign in Angola's history takes its most important step when almost 250,000 Angolan children return to school. The size and scope of 'Back to School' underlines the fact that education is being unswervingly endorsed as the engine to drive Angola's long-term recovery.

As this Southern African nation looks to rebuild from a war that bled Angolans of life and lore, 'Back to School' instigates vital reconstruction throughout the country. This month UNICEF, in partnership with Angola's Ministry of Education and Culture, continued its campaign to train 4000 new teachers, restore 1300 classrooms, and prepare thousands of education kits to be supplied to children and teachers.

'Back to School is a bold initiative, but an entirely necessary and achievable one,' said UNICEF Angola Representative Mario Ferrari. 'At a time of great hope and upheaval in Angola, no sector has the propensity for a greater flow-on effect to other areas of society and the economy than education.'

The campaign will be launched in the central Angolan provinces of Bie and Malanje, where every primary school age child will have the opportunity to go back to school. Meanwhile funds from the European Union will ensure similar prospects emerge for Angola's children in 30 other municipalities across the country, where returning refugees will be a priority. 'UNICEF's objective is to assist each and every Angolan child to get back to school', said UNICEF Angola's Head of Education, Francisco Basili. 'At this moment we are aiming for universal coverage in Bie and Malanje Provinces, with all partners committed to escalating enrolments throughout Angola.'

There have been no more critical years for Angola than 2003. The 27-year civil war that battered the country until March 2002 left the educational sector in tatters. The country faces a critical lack of basic infrastructure, trained teachers and of educational material, with one million children excluded from primary education. This translates to 44 per cent of Angola's children out of school. This is largely due to a lack of schools, the cost of informal fees and materials, as well as children's workload and lack of birth certificates.

'Back to School' seeks to address all these factors. Communities are being supported to build new schools from local materials; old schools were restored; teachers trained; UNICEF education kits supplied to teachers and children; assistance provided for the establishment of community/ parent school management groups; and a national birth registration campaign has seen 1.5 million children issued with birth certificates.

'Back to School' also pays special attention to girls. Girls continue to trail boys in literacy rates, despite ample proof that educated girls are more likely to ensure the education and health of their own children. By promoting a policy of 'not one child out of school' and encouraging religious and traditional leaders to be committed to the enrollment of girls, 'Back to School' aims to prevent gender biases.

Similarly, more than three million Angolans remain displaced. Opening up education to many of them is a vital step in beginning the healing process and easing frustrations. Said Bie's Provincial Governor Amaro Tati: 'Kuito, the capital of Bie, was the symbol city of the madness of war. Now Kuito is trying to be the symbol of the return to normalcy, with each child in a school and each community committed to create a better world for Angola's children.'

UNICEF is appealing to donors for additional funding for 'Back to School'. Full implementation of the program requires $6million. The European Union has contributed $950,000, while $1.5m are UNICEF funds, leaving a critical shortfall of $3.55m. 'The Angolan public's reaction to 'Back to School' has been phenomenal,' said UNICEF Angola Representative Mario Ferrari. 'Communities are rallying, parents are participating, and children are heading back to the classrooms. However the campaign can only be sustained if donors continue to support this decisive moment in Angola's history.'


For further information, please contact:

James Elder, Communications Officer UNICEF Angola (244) 91 - 219 524 jelder@unicef.org

Patricia Cervantes, Head of Information UNICEF Angola, (244) 91-501 943 pcervantes@unicef.org




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