January 08, 2015

Seven celebrities who really care about education

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

More celebrities are taking time to get involved in humanitarian projects - and many of them are focusing on the importance of education at home and abroad.

Movie star Ben Affleck is a man of many parts - actor, writer, director and producer. He's won countless awards including two Oscars and three Golden Globes. Yesterday he added another - Favourite Humanitarian at the People's Choice Awards 2015 (pictured above).

Ben was awarded the title for his work with the Eastern Congo Initiative, a non-profit he co-founded. Its work includes helping vulnerable children through education and health projects, as well as reintegrating former child soldiers into their communities. 

Ben's award made us think about other celebrities who are making a difference in the world of education, both at home and abroad. Here are seven of the best - some are actors but they all just happen to be famous singers too! And you can do your bit for education too, by signing the #UpForSchool Petition that calls on world leaders to keep their promise that all children would be in school by the end of this year.


The Colombian star founded Fundación Pies Descalzos in 1997. Her organisation provides displaced and underprivileged children in the South American country with access to quality education. She was invited to The White House by President Obama in 2010 to discuss early childhood development and in 2011 was appointed as a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Last year she joined the fight to get all of the world's children into school by becoming a member of the Emergency Coalition for Global Education Action.

Justin Bieber

The Canadian is an active supporter of Pencils of Promise, a charity committed to education that builds schools, trains teachers and funds scholarships in the developing world. The charity has built 252 schools since 2009 and in 2013 Justin went to Guatemala to see how the project works.

Watch the video below to see how he joined in building a school in the jungle and chatted to the local children during a trip he described it as a “magical experience”.

Taylor Swift

The best-selling artist of 2014 moved to New York last year and dedicated all proceeds of her October single Welcome to New York to the city’s public schools. Taylor has a history of helping. 

In 2012 she donated $4million to launch the Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. In the same year also donated $60,000 to the music departments of six US colleges.

Priyanka Chopra

The Bollywood actress, singer and former Miss World is a vocal advocate of women’s rights and girls' education. She was made a UNICEF National Ambassador for child rights in 2010, supports the UN Girl Up campaign and is a narrator on the 2013 film Girl Rising. Priyanka has said that her desire to help others has come from her parents, who were both doctors, and who volunteered in their spare time to offer health care to the rural poor in India.


Nigerian singer Waje - whose three-octave range was honed in church singing gospel but who has since branched out into soul and hip-hop - launched Waje’s Safe House in 2012. The initiative provides support via NGOs to women and children across Africa.

She said the idea came after she visited a children’s school at the slum quarters of Makoko in Lagos and its first project was financing to the Whanyinna Nursery and Primary School in the deprived area (pictured below). The money went towards refurbishing the building and providing new furniture.

Selena Gomez

The youngest ever UNICEF ambassador, American actor and singer Selena visited Nepal last year. At the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, she watched children studying maths, science and spoke to members of a "child club". She said: “Many of the children I talked to expressed a desire to be future leaders in their society, and I was moved to hear them emphasise the importance of education.”

Dolly Parton

Dolly’s literacy program, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, sends one book every month to each enrolled child from the day they are born until they go to primary school. She laughingly says that children refer to her as “the book lady”. Almost 700,000 children in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia are a part of the project which  distributes more than 8.3 million free books to children annually.

Watch a report on Dolly's work:

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