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UNICEF teams up with African footballers to score a goal for education

UNICEF teams up with African footballers to score a goal for education

Girls play football at Savelugu Junior Secondary School in Ghana’s Northern Region
In the latest collaboration between the United Nations and world sport, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are teaming up during Africa’s biggest international football competition to raise funds for quality education for all the continent’s children.

Through a series of public service announcements and other means during the MTN Africa Cup of Nations, this year hosted by Ghana from 20 January to 10 February, popular players will help to drive home the message that quality education helps children, especially girls, to stay in school and gain the knowledge and confidence they need to pursue their dreams.

The PSAs encourage football fans to use their mobile phones as a donation tool for education programmes in their own countries. Fans who subscribe to the MTN mobile-phone service will be able to donate the local equivalent of $1 by sending an SMS text to a prescribed number. All donations will stay in country to benefit local children.

“Playing football helped me to gain self-discipline, confidence, negotiation skills, teamwork and leadership,” UNICEF Ghana Goodwill Ambassador and former star footballer Marcel Desailly says. “I am glad to learn UNICEF considers sport an important part of education.”

Athletes like Ghanaian Stephen Appiah, Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu, Salomon Kalou of Côte d’Ivoire, South African Aaron Mokoena, Samuel Eto’o from Cameroon and Oumar Tchomogo from Benin are participating in the PSAs.

In addition to the SMS donation initiative, UNICEF and CAF have launched a special fundraising website that will also be publicized throughout the MNT Africa Cup of Nations: Ghana 2008. To make an online donation that will help to get Africa’s girls and boys in school – and help them stay there – visit

During the games, UNICEF and CAF will promote the achievement of two education-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – achieving universal primary school education and promoting gender equality and empowering women by 2015.

While progress has been made in education across Africa, many challenges remain. In sub-Saharan African alone, some 41 million primary-school-age children are not in school, while millions who do attend classes are often without teachers, textbooks or basic school supplies. Students frequently lack access to toilets or safe water at school, and their chances of dropping out are high.

UN agencies frequently join with athletes and international sports organizations to get their message across and raise funds. In 2006 UNICEF teamed up with the European Swimming League (Ligue Européene de Natation – LEN) in “a race against time” to prevent deaths from unclean water.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) appointed Spain’s national soccer team captain Raúl Gónzales as a Goodwill Ambassador to combat hunger and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) teamed up with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the governing body of women’s tennis, to promote gender equality.

In 2005 the UN World Food Programme (WFP) launched the “Cricket Against Hunger” partnership with the England and Wales cricket team to draw attention to the plight of the 400 million chronically hungry children around the world, and has similar fund- and awareness-raising arrangements with the International Rugby Board, as well as with individual stars from the worlds of soccer, American football, marathon running and Formula One auto racing.