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Barclays invests in the future of Rwandan children through child-friendly schools

© UNICEF Rwanda/2010/Sheikh
Barclays offered four employees the opportunity to take part in a hands-on voluntee trip to Rwanda, where the company helps support a child-friendly schools programme.

By Misbah Sheikh

KIGALI, Rwanda, 21 April 2010 – In November 2008, more than 3,500 employees of Barclays, the global financial services provider, voted to make UNICEF’s ‘child-friendly schools’ project in Rwanda the focus of their 2009 fundraising efforts.

And fundraise they did – raising more than $92,000 to date for the project, which supports schools that act in the interests of the ‘whole’ child, are inclusive and gender-sensitive, and provide school-based health and nutrition services, safe water and suitable sanitation facilities.

Last month, Barclays offered four people the opportunity to take part in a hands-on volunteer trip to Rwanda. The group included two employees who raised money for the project and two winners of the Barclays Chairman’s Awards, which celebrate staff who make outstanding contributions to their local communities.

Safe and healthy environments

The volunteers visited two schools, one that is child-friendly and one that is not. They spent time interacting with pupils, playing games and teaching math and English.

“It was just amazing to see the difference between a school with the kind of facilities we take for granted in the UK – with light, airy classrooms, adequate books and equipment and a well-trained teachers – and one where children were studying in rubble, with no toilets, water, books or desks,” said Isabella Todd, one of the Barclays employees who traveled to Rwanda.

Sai Krishna Reddy, another employee and a winner of a Chairman’s Award, added: “It’s been a wonderful experience volunteering on behalf of Barclays in Rwanda and seeing firsthand such a truly effective partnership – with UNICEF, the Rwandan Government, parents and teachers all working together to give the country’s children the best possible start in life.”

Principles of quality education

While Rwanda has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa (about 94 per cent), fewer than one in five students will go on to secondary school.

UNICEF has supported government efforts to create model child-friendly schools that exhibit the core principles of quality education: namely, schools where child-centered learning is key, teachers are trained and supported, and children have access to proper classrooms, water and sanitation, and playgrounds.

Quality education also means that all children are treated equally, regardless of gender, HIV or orphan status, and that parents, teachers and children play a role in school governance.

Investing in Rwanda’s children

“We are already in 115 schools in some way of another,” explained UNICEF Representative in Rwanda Joseph Foumbi. “Not all schools have the hardware or software needed to make them child-friendly, but we greatly appreciate the efforts of Barclays employees around the world to invest in Rwanda. They have chosen the right country to invest in, not only because of the great need, but because a dollar here goes a long way.”

With donations from Barclays, UNICEF will support the Rwandan Government in making hundreds of the country’s approximately 4,000 primary schools child-friendly by 2012.



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