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Podcast #57: Pau Gasol on making early childhood a priority

'Beyond School Books' – a podcast series on education in emergencies

© UNICEF Ethiopia/2010/Fernández
NBA star and UNICEF Ambassador Pau Gasol plays with children in Ethiopia, where UNICEF supports education, health and protection programs.

By Rudina Vojvoda

NEW YORK, USA, 27 April 2012 – Sixty-four years ago, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education was declared a basic human right for everyone, no matter their circumstances, gender, location, religion, language, ethnicity or socio-economic background. Yet, according to UNESCO, 67 million children of primary school age are out of school and being denied the opportunity to fully reach their potential.

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This year, Global Action Week, which takes place from 22-28 April, is calling on world leaders to assure that every child receives early childhood care and education right from the start.

In this instalment of the ‘Beyond School Books’ podcast series, moderator Kathryn Herzog speaks with Spanish professional basketball player Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers. Mr. Gasol is a UNICEF Ambassador and a champion of education.

The most critical time for a child to develop

In 2010, Mr. Gasol launched Pau’s Project, an initiative that supports Schools for Africa in promoting education for all, with a special emphasis on girls, orphans, children living in extreme poverty and other vulnerable children.

Mr. Gasol has visited some of the most impoverished communities in Angola, Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa, where he says the situation of children is dire. Poverty, distance from learning facilities, poor health, malnutrition and gender discrimination are keeping children out of school and trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Mr. Gasol drew attention to the importance of care and education in a child’s early years. “We know that the age from 0 to 5 is the most critical time for a child to develop. If you don’t provide children with the right opportunities, it can negatively influence them for the rest of their lives,” Mr. Gasol said.

Raising awareness about the most disadvantaged

Gasol’s recent project is a storybook app titled ‘Give a Day’, a tale that promotes children’s rights and is narrated by Gasol in three languages – English, Spanish and Catalan.

Explaining its goal, Mr. Gasol said, “'Give a Day' delivers a clear message for children on this side of the world, where pretty much all of our needs are covered. That message says that there are other children, in other parts of the world who … face such a difficult situation that even their lives are at risk. 'Give a Day' says that children and adults here can help children there.”

Mr. Gasol believes that change will happen by raising levels of awareness, especially among people and communities that have little exposure to the challenges faced in the developing world.

“Everyone should make childhood a priority. As ambassadors, as people who do have the opportunity to give back, we have to make it a constant priority in our lives to create awareness and make sure that the message and the reality of millions of children are known,” Mr. Gasol concluded.




27 April 2012: UNICEF podcast moderator Kathryn Herzog speaks with UNICEF Ambassador and NBA player Pau Gasol about the importance of early education.
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