Archive | October, 2013

Water for one million Afghan schoolchildren

By Alessandro Pavone

In Afghanistan, one million schoolchildren now have access to clean, fresh water, new toilets and lessons about hand-washing – and they are bringing the message home.

HERAT, Afghanistan, 31 October 2013 – When you enter Tajrabavi Girls School in Herat, your eyes are drawn to the shiny, pastel-green pipes that skirt the new sink, and the sparkle of the water droplets that dance about as children drink clean water and wash their hands and faces.

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A Syrian refugee girl says yes to school, no to early marriage

By Melanie Sharpe

Living in a Jordanian refugee camp with her parents, a young Syrian girl refuses the marriage her father has arranged and instead chooses to stay in school.

ZA’ATARI CAMP, Jordan, 30 October 2013 – Manal* arrived in Za’atari refugee camp with her mother, Majida, and 9-year-old sister, Malak, last December. Her father and brother arrived a few months later. Soon after that, 16-year-old Manal was engaged to be married.

Her situation is shared by many Syrian girls living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

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A vaccination campaign in schools hopes to reach 2.4 million children in the Syrian Arab Republic

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Rashidi
Two girls at a school in Damascus wait their turn to receive vaccinations as part of a UNICEF-supported campaign to reach up to 2.4 million children with life-saving vaccines.

By Razan Rashidi

A major new campaign is bringing vaccinations against measles/mumps/rubella, polio and other preventable disease to children throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, through school.

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 29 October 2013 – “Nurses will visit the school and give you vaccines that will protect you from disease and sickness,” announces Rihab to her Grade 6 students at the end of the school day. It is a scene repeated in thousands of classrooms across the Syrian Arab Republic in advance of a vaccination campaign.

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Despite gains, future of Afghan girls’ education remains uncertain

By Karishma Vyas

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake visited Afghanistan to see first-hand the progress made in girls education. While noting the remarkable gains, he said much more still needed to be done.

KABUL, Afghanistan, 29 October 2013 – Before the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shaima Alkozai feared only one thing more than the regime’s harsh punishment: the fate of the millions of girls around her growing up without an education.

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Continuing studies amid continuing unrest, in the Syrian Arab Republic

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Sonoda
A UNICEF-supported vocational training institute in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus, offers classes on secretarial and electrical skills, English, digital design and nursing. Here, girls attend an English class at the centre.

By Razan Rashidi

At a vocational training centre in suburban Damascus, Widad, Douaa, Georgina and Dalia have been able to continue their studies, amid continuing unrest.

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 28 October 2013 – It’s morning, and Widad, 19, waits impatiently for Douaa, 18, in the alley outside her house.

Douaa finally arrives, smiling and apologizing for the delay. “She is always late, and I lose my mobile credit trying to wake her up every day,” complains Widad, good-naturedly. It could be a scene from daily life anywhere, but this is Damascus, the capital of a country in which 6.8 million people are affected by continuing conflict.

Continuing studies, amid continuing unrest

The best friends commute together to the UNICEF-supported vocational training institute in Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus, three times a week. With the increased security measures in place, a journey that once took 20 minutes now takes at least two hours.

“We have to take two mini-buses, and sometimes we wait for more than half an hour to find empty seats,” says Douaa.

The centre at which Widad and Douaa study is run by the European Institute for Cooperation and Development and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. On offer for vulnerable adolescents are such training opportunities as secretarial skills, electrical training, English, digital design and nursing. The young people are also provided with life skills training, which can help them make informed decisions, communicate effectively, lead a healthy and productive life and cope with emotional changes related to adolescence.

With the deterioration of the security situation in many places around the country, access to education and learning opportunities has become increasingly limited, especially for girls.

“More than 300 adolescents aged between 15 and 25 have received training at the centre this year, including many displaced as a result of the unrest,” says Nidal Bitar, who manages the institute.

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Sonoda
According to the centre's manager, more than 300 adolescents and young people – many of whom have been displaced by conflict – have received training at the centre this year.

A place to learn, for displaced girls

Widad is one of these adolescents. Just as she had proudly finished high school and enrolled in a technical university last September, her neighbourhood became the focus of intense military operations. Widad’s family had to flee their apartment, seeking refuge in a relatively safe area, with extended family. “I went to university for a month. Then, my parents decided it was not safe anymore for me to commute to that area,” she says.

With support from staff and peers, the many girls who have been displaced, like Widad, manage to adapt to their new environment, making friends and looking towards a better future. The centre not only provides skills and learning, but also serves as a safe space for adolescents to communicate and feel a sense of normalcy.

Georgina, 20, joined the secretary course after being displaced from her suburban Damascus home a month ago. Like Georgina, a large proportion of the displaced girls at the vocational centre are from Damascus suburbs. Georgina studies hard; she wants to start her own business, one day.

“The best part is the break,” laughs Dalia, 17. Dalia fled from fighting in another part of Damascus. “I made many friends here. Even when we don’t come to the centre, we communicate via Facebook.” As a matter of fact, encouraged by the students, the centre has started its own Facebook page.

© UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2013/Sonoda
The centre also provides life skills training, helping young people make informed decisions, communicate effectively, lead a healthy and productive life and cope with emotional changes related to adolescence.

Investing in the strength and future of society

“Today, more than ever, in Syria, it is vital to equip vulnerable girls with skills they will need for the future,” says Adolescents’ Development and Participation Project Officer with UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic Mohamad Kanawati. Mr. Kanawati worked on the design of the vocational training programme.

“It is important that progress is accelerated for the most marginalized girls, with a focus on their learning and empowerment,” continues Mr. Kanawati. “By making available the practical tools girls need to improve their own lives, and by engaging them in efforts to improve their communities, we are investing in the strength and future of the society.”

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Podcast #85: Let us learn, everywhere – towards equality in education

© UNICEF/2012/Bender
Susan Findel of the German NatCom team is speaks with one of the students of the community-based pre-school at Zhaodanga village, Kolaroa Upazila, on 20 March 2012.

By Rudina Vojvoda

Susan Cummings-Findel and Stefan Findel discuss Let Us Learn, an innovative initiative launched by UNICEF and private donors that is bringing the power of education to out-of-school children in five countries.

NEW YORK, United States of America, 23 October 2013 – Despite tremendous gains in education, more than 57 million children around the world are still out of school. Poverty, gender discrimination, poor health and nutrition, disability, child labour, migration, geographical disadvantages, conflict, poor learning conditions and unsound education systems are some of the main reasons that these children are not in school. To make matters worse, aid to basic education fell by 7 per cent between 2010 and 2011.

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