It is a huge privilege for me to be chosen to take part in the IWitness programme organised by the IKEA Foundation and UNICEF. UNICEF is known throughout the world. It’s a permanent programme of the United Nations that works on behalf of children wherever that’s needed, such as Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso is one of the world’s six poorest countries. It’s a landlocked country, surrounded by neighbours who cannot come to its aid, so it’s important to do something. Before talking to IKEA about a partnership, UNICEF took it upon themselves to help the children of Burkina Faso in response to an appeal by Nelson Mandela. In 2009 he decided to launch a huge project under the name Schools of Africa. Why such a huge project? Well, it’s vital that we help the children of Africa through education so that they can take their destiny into their own hands. It was a way to focus on training and knowledge, by taking the child and his or her needs as the starting point, and completely reviewing the education process as it was. This is the context in which UNICEF approached IKEA to work in Burkina Faso.
In 2010 UNICEF launched its own school programme to assist an educational project supported by the government. It would transform two provinces. The first thing UNICEF needed to do was to gather information to identify the provinces with the most problems. Two especially poor ones were selected: Namentenga and Ganzourgou. Both the literacy rate and the percentage of children in full-time education in these provinces are below the national average, which is 50%. Women and children are the first to suffer. Women, because before they grow into women they are girls and it is much harder for girls to go to school.
Access to toilets is something we find only natural in France, but the same is not true here. You have the problem of the mixing of the sexes. When you’re aged 3 to 6 you can sometimes go to school, but when a girl starts to grow up the parents take her out of school and her whole future is destroyed.
Seventy schools have already been built thanks to the partnership between UNICEF and the IKEA Foundation. 700 teachers and head teachers have been trained in a new approach to education for all. And public awareness campaigns have targeted communities, parents and children to make sure that these programmes meet future expectations for the children of Burkina Faso. These are known as Child Friendly Schools.
As well as these schools, UNICEF also restores existing schools and builds new ones, including all the necessary facilities, such as separate toilets for boys and girls, and wells because the villages very often don’t have one. Once this is done, UNICEF takes a back seat, allowing the parents’ associations, the mayors, the local authorities and the national ministry of education to do their jobs. The goal was 100 schools; we are now at 70 and the programme terminates at the end of 2013. So we are definitely on the right track.