Basic education and gender equality

The Issue


Afghan Cricket Star Meets Children

© UNICEF/2012/Alistair Gretarsson
UNICEF Afghanistan Goodwill Ambassador and former captain Raees Ahmadzai along with Cricket Team players in the World Twenty 20 Cup in Sri Lanka raise awareness on the importance of polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan.

By Rajat Madhok

Bamiyan - 19 October 2012

The students of Taibuty secondary school are excited, Raees Ahmadzai, former captain of the Afghanistan national cricket team, the man famous for many cricketing victories for the country, has come to meet them. On a visit to this school in Bamiyan as UNICEF's national goodwill ambassador, Ahmadzai interacted with the children and spoke to them about the importance of education. He also played with the children, giving them cricketing lessons and distributed prizes to many children.

Later Ahmadzai met Bamiyan's newly established cricket team and coached them on the finer techniques of the game. The spectators cheered as their team impressed the goodwill ambassador but for the players it was a once in a life time experience to play alongside a cricket star.

Ahmadzai is passionate about the health and wellbeing of children of Afghanistan and his association with UNICEF goes back several years to when he organised cricket camps for girls and boys, promoting the role of sport in children's health and development.

Besides education, another issue close to Ahmadzai's heart is the eradication of Polio from Afghanistan, one of three countries in the world where this preventable disease still remains endemic. On a recent visit to Sri Lanka as part of the T-20 Cricket World Cup, Ahmadzai joined hands with leading Cricket stars from India and Afghanistan in raising awareness around eradication of Polio from Afghanistan. Lauding the efforts and show of solidarity by Cricketing heroes towards fighting Polio, Ahmadzai said that players taking this stance will have a lot of impact in their community. “Their actions and their words today are crucial to our efforts to eradicate polio,” the former Cricket captain said.

At the event which was jointly organized by UNICEF and the International Cricket Council to raise awareness among parents to immunize their children against Polio, the players exchanged cricket bats signed by national teams from both the countries and reaffirmed their commitment towards defeating the virus once and for all. UNICEF will present the signed bats to the Governments of Afghanistan and India to underline cricket’s support in the fight against polio.

"One of the most important challenges in Afghanistan is that many children especially girls cannot go to school, the other big concerns are around child abuse and cases of Polio in the country. Unfortunately we are among three countries in the world that are still Polio endemic. I am working with UNICEF to address these challenges so that children especially girls can go to school, we are also working towards their good health and by involving children in sports, we want to ensure a good future for Afghanistan and its young generations". said the goodwill ambassador.

A natural with children, Ahmadzai understands the difficulties and problems that these children face in their daily lives; he himself grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan during the conflict in his country and has now pledged that he will devote time in trying to improve the lives of Afghanistan's women and children.



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