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Angélique Kidjo shows support for out-of-school children in Benin

By UNICEF Benin 

In Benin, a flexible, accelerated course of learning is giving children a second chance at obtaining the formal education that they need to fulfil their dreams. Long-time UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo recently paid a visit to a participating centre and spoke with students about what they hope to achieve, with their education.

[PRESS RELEASE: UNICEF congratulates Angélique Kidjo for Crystal Award]

COTONOU, Benin, 16 January 2015 – On her most recent visit to Benin, long-time UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo shined light on the issue of children who do not have the benefit of formal education.

UNICEF Image: Angelique Kidjo stands in front of school children who wearing tan uniforms and seated at desks in rows.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0027/Bonnaud
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo speaks to children at a centre in the town of Zakpota. The centre is participating in the Second Chance School initiative, which provides an opportunity for children who have left or never attended school to study for three years, instead of six, to receive certification of completing their primary studies.

Ms. Kidjo, who is deeply committed to the rights of children, called on political actors and civil society to guarantee children currently not in school the opportunity to receive an education by enrolling in a ‘second chance school’. Curricula of these schools focus on accelerated learning, providing students with basic reading, writing and mathematics skills.

“I am happy to be in my country, Benin, and I am excited to campaign for all children to attend school,” said Ms. Kidjo on a visit to the accelerated course programme (ACP) in Zakpota, a town in central Benin.

“There are many barriers to the education of children, including poverty and forced marriages. We need to get this message to children and parents: Education is a non-negotiable right,” said Ms. Kidjo.

The pop star met with children and leaders of the ACP, as well as the mayor of Zakpota. UNICEF Representative in Benin Dr. Anne Vincent and Ambassador of the United States of America in Benin Michael Raynor accompanied Ms. Kidjo.
A second chance, for children

A 2006 study estimated that, in Benin, 700,000 adolescents aged 10 to 17 were out of school. The Second Chance School initiative targets children who either have never had a formal education or who have dropped out of school. The schools provide an opportunity for the children to study reading, writing and arithmetic over a three-year period to pass the national exam and receive their primary study certificate. The coursework would normally take six years.

“The goal is to correct inequalities and establish a more equal playing field for vulnerable children and the most disadvantaged children,” said Dr. Vincent. “We must constantly bear in mind that education is a shield against the threats that children face – violence, exploitation and abuse of any kind.

“An education can help a student make a decent living and invest in the welfare of her children and her family,” she added.

Ambassador Raynor stressed the importance of the initiative, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The ACP allows marginalized children to have a second chance. When we change an individual’s life, we change a family’s life. By investing in education, we invest in democracy,” he said.
“I’ll take care of Benin as I take care of my house”

Ms. Kidjo sat in on a mathematics lesson, and then listened to the children’s stories and talked to them about their hopes.

Ulrich, 12, is an apprentice mechanic and a hard-working student. The ACP allows flexible schedules, which means that Ulrich’s job and his right to education can co-exist.

“There are no words to say how glad I am to be here,” said Ulrich. “I learn a lot, and the teacher is nice.

“After completing my [primary study certificate] at the end of the year, I would go further and become Interior Minister,” he added.

“What will you do?” asked Ms. Kidjo. “I’ll take care of Benin as I take care of my house,” he replied. The class laughed.

Chantal, 14, wishes to become a hairdresser and open her own salon, but she was forced to drop out of school to support her six siblings. Now, she has been enrolled in the ACP, and she is overjoyed to be learning again – so much so that she has become an advocate of the programme. “Whether I am going home, at home or with my friends, I speak about the ACP with everyone and encourage all those who want to go to try and attend.”

Moved by these testimonies, the artist took the floor to encourage children to stay in school and become agents of change in their own communities. “Keep the promise: Every child has the right to education!" repeated Ms. Kidjo before a photo session with the children.

To date, there are 38 centres in 18 counties in Benin, with a total of 2,400 teenagers enrolled. Over 80 per cent of the students are girls. In 2015, nine new counties will be added to the programme, bringing the total number of centres to 56. 



UNICEF Photography: Education

Angelique Kidjo speaks to students 

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