Angelique Kidjo sees children in Benin get second chance at education

Celebrities, Girls' education

Singing star Angelique Kidjo has seen at first hand the work being done to give children a second shot at education in her native Benin.

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador visited an accelerated course programme in the town of Zakpota, which helps adolescents – especially girls – who have never had an education or have dropped out of school. It teaches reading, writing and arithmetic over three years for the primary study certificate – work that would normally take six years.

Angelique said: “I am happy to be in my country, Benin, and I am excited to campaign for all children to attend school. There are many barriers to the education of children, including poverty and forced marriages. We need to get this message to children and parents: Education is a non-negotiable right.”

The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter is known for her work on children’s rights and campaigning for girls’ education with UNICEF and her Batonga Foundation. Yesterday – days after her visit to the Zakpota school – Angelique received the Crystal Award for her humanitarian work at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Children with UNICEF bags – containing a school book, T-shirt and booklet on Convention on Rights of the Child – given to them by Angelique during her visit Picture: UNICEF/Gnahoui

The Second Chance Initiative has enrolled 2400 teenagers – 80% of them girls – at 38 centres, according to UNICEF Benin. The organisation estimated there are 700,000 adolescents aged 10 to 17 out of school in the African country.

UNICEF Representative in Benin Dr Anne Vincent said: “The goal is to correct inequalities and establish a more equal playing field for vulnerable children and the most disadvantaged children. We must constantly bear in mind that education is a shield against the threats that children face – violence, exploitation and abuse of any kind.”

UNICEF Benin spoke to Chantal, a 14-year-old who wants to become a hairdresser and open her own salon. She was forced to drop out of school to support her six siblings.

Now she has been enrolled in the accelerated course programme (ACP) and is overjoyed to be learning again. Chantal said: “Whether I am going home, at home or with my friends, I speak about the ACP with everyone and encourage all those who want to go to try and attend.”

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