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HomeCurrent AffairsUNESCO and UNICEF advocate for strong foundations for pupils in primary school

UNESCO and UNICEF advocate for strong foundations for pupils in primary school

Primary School Pupils

UNESCO and UNICEF advocate for strong foundations for pupils in primary school

By Allan Mbotshwa

At a global symposium organized in Lusaka today, UNESCO and UNICEF launched four co-published technical briefs as part of Building Strong Foundations – a new initiative by UNESCO that aims to help children stay in school, keep safe, and grow up healthy to lead thriving lives. 

The new initiative benefitting learners aged 5-12 in primary school was launched at an international symposium in Lusaka, Zambia, in the presence of Felix Mutati, Zambia’s Minister of Technology and Science and acting Minister of Education, Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education, Robert Jenkins, UNICEF’s Director, Education and Adolescent Development, and moderated by Lulu Hangala Wood, UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador. 

“We know that children who receive good quality education are more likely to be healthy, and those who are healthy are better able to learn. But more robust action and investment are needed, starting early on in primary school.

This period of life is a window of opportunity to build a sound understanding of health and well-being, and strong foundations for the future,” said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education.

The new initiative aims to ensure that all children receive foundational education that not only equips them with basic literacy and numeracy skills but also lays the foundation for health, well-being, and social development for life while having positive effects on learners’ grades, test scores, attendance, and homework completion.

“Every child deserves to learn, grow, and thrive in a safe environment. The school is a key entry point to fulfill the holistic needs of a child, including nutrition, health, psychosocial, and other critical development needs beyond education,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Director, Education, and Adolescent Development.

“Interventions during the early years of a child’s life have an incredible long-term impact, laying the foundation for lifelong success in the education system and beyond.” 

While 87% of children globally now attend and complete primary education, it is not enough.  The status quo would leave 15 million children aged 6-11 behind in sub-Saharan Africa alone, none of whom would ever go to school.

That represents 9 million girls (23%) and 6 million boys (19%) according to UNESCO data.

Globally, between 35% and 65% of girls do not have adequate knowledge or understanding of menstruation when they start their menstrual cycle.

The East and Southern Africa region has one of the world’s highest rates of adolescent pregnancy with 1 in 5 girls becoming pregnant before the age of 20.

HIV also remains a challenge in the region with 930,000 children aged 0 to 14 living with HIV, and 58,000 new yearly infections. By reaching learners early, prevention of new HIV infections and treatment opportunities can increase.

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