From acting on TV to the education stage in Geluksburg… UNICEF South Africa’s Education Officer Lyle Jacobs has quite a story to tell!

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On Tuesday 22 February 2016 I will be venturing out into the eastern part of South Africa to the KwaZulu-Natal province. This home to the Drakensburg Mountains and is known as the Kingdom of the Zulu, where King Shaka Zulu originated from. His army is known for defeating the British soldiers’ guns using handheld spears. The remote town we will be visiting is Geluksburg which is quite isolated and mobile signal is also an issue.

lyle jacobs

My name is Lyle Jacobs, I am an Education Officer with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in South Africa and have been with the country office for around eight years, focusing on Sports for Development. Before joining UNICEF I was an actor on a popular daytime South African series and my character allowed me to express my love for music. However, I reached a point in my life where I wanted to leave a life of fame behind me to support the development of children and make a lasting change in their lives. That’s when the opportunity to join the world’s most influential children’s organisation arose.

UNICEF uses funds from the IKEA Foundation’s Soft Toys for Education campaign to support programmes in areas like Geluksburg, which is unheard of by most South Africans. This highlights the commitment of UNICEF, my colleagues and I to ensure that no child is left behind and has a chance to live and thrive to meet their maximum potential.

Our visit to the field will provide the IWitness team the unique opportunity to view the Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) programme. UNICEF worked closely with the South African Department of Basic Education and various other partners to develop this programme, which is a comprehensive, co-ordinated, multi-sectoral response to addressing barriers to learning and development. What makes it unique is that it was adopted by all Ministries of Education in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 2008. This means the programme is being implemented in seven member states in the SADC region.

The success of CSTL is determined by the extent to which the government, with support from UNICEF and partners like the IKEA Foundation, is able to ensure that all children are enrolled in school at an appropriate age; able to attend school regularly and complete their schooling; and are provided with the opportunity and support to enable them to reach their full potential.

With South Africa being one of the countries with the highest levels of inequalities in the world, the implementation and monitoring of a programme such as CSTL remains critical. As a South African and a staff member of UNICEF, I am committed to ensuring the successful implementation of the programme.

CSTL is a national initiative with ten priority action areas. The IWitness team will experience the effectiveness of good co-curricular support, nutritional support and health promotion, among other priority areas, which enable learners to reach their full potential.

I was happy to be involved in a consultative process with my fellow UNICEF colleagues in South Africa and various other stakeholders to identify three office-wide priorities over the next three years: Early Childhood Development; Results for Adolescents (especially girls); and Ending Violence Against Children (#ENDViolence). I look forward to the visit of the IWitness team, engaging with them on this enlightening journey and showing them the important work which the IKEA Foundation is supporting for the advancement of children’s rights in South Africa.