Jessica Alba blogs about her first experience in Africa

ONE just returned from a listening and learning trip to Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya with members of our board and other supporters. Below, Jessica Alba talks about 1GOAL and the campaign to provide education to all children:

I had an incredible week, joining the ONE team on the road in Senegal and Ghana as part of the 1GOAL: Education for All campaign to make the lasting legacy of the upcoming World Cup education for every child.

I’ve wanted to travel to Africa my whole life and when offered the opportunity to listen and learn alongside ONE, it was a once in a lifetime chance that I couldn’t pass up. I’ve always admired the work ONE has done and being able to see the programs you’ve contributed to firsthand was inspiring.

We met African entrepreneurs and academics, spoke with civil society and private sector leaders. We sat with street vendors at a microfinance project, heard from women now able to save their and their children’s lives through ARV HIV/AIDS treatment. We met some amazing people, a new generation of leaders for not only the continent, but for the world.

My goal in going on this trip was to listen closely and learn more about the fight against global poverty. And what I heard repeatedly was that as I’ve always believed, education has the power to lift individuals, communities and entire nations out of poverty. From a promising business idea to a woman pushing cultural boundaries to stand up and speak out, education has been the key.

Today, 72 million kids are out of school around the world, the majority of them girls. Without an education, they are almost certain to be trapped in a life of poverty and robbed of the knowledge of their basic human rights. Every year a child is out of school is a year they lose in literacy, in health, in opportunity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Since 2000, because people like you and governments took action, 48 million more children are in school. And if we come together around this World Cup, we can do even more to put education front and center. Together with FIFA, leading players and fans around the world, we can use the power of this truly global game to ensure that education for all is a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We have a plan, we know how to beat this—all we need now is the will to make it happen.

Increased global education funding fights global poverty at the root, empowers girls and women, and promotes economic growth in poor countries around the world. And it’s a very smart investment: experts tell us that a girl will earn an additional 10% in income for every year of schooling she receives and be 50% less likely to become infected with HIV/AIDS. In Africa, children of mothers who receive five years of primary education are 40% more likely to live beyond the age of 5. It’s a proactive measure to avert many of the problems that plague developing countries.

We spent a day at Osu School in Accra, Ghana, where initiatives to provide free school uniforms and free lunch to students have dramatically increased enrollment. And they have one other policy with great results—requiring perfect attendance to play on the school’s soccer or “football” team! As a result of these programs, 71% of Ghanaian girls and 73% of Ghanaian boys go to school. Ghana’s President John Atta Mills has even signed up to 1GOAL, promising to provide free textbooks to every student.

At Osu, we met Stephen, an 18-year-old student with enormous talent. The Ghanaian Premiere League has already had their eye on this young goalkeeper for the past three years. The school’s headmaster has been keeping tabs on Stephen, constantly reminding him that you can’t be a good player without a good education. He stresses to Stephen that the only way he will know how to sustain the wealth and opportunities he will gain as a “footballer” (soccer player) is by having an education.

Stephen is an inspiring young man. He is the eldest of seven children and his family’s sole provider. He wakes early, goes to school, practices with his coaches in the afternoon and then goes to work at night as a busboy to support the family. On average he goes non-stop for 18 hours.

He told us that he now understands he cannot be a footballer or achieve his dreams without an education. Top teams are looking to recruit him. He dreams of playing for his national team, the Ghana Black Stars, and someday becoming a catcher for Chelsea.

You can’t go anywhere in Africa without seeing kids playing the sport. The excitement for the first-ever World Cup in Africa this summer is everywhere. The world’s eyes will be on the continent and it’s a moment for Africa to shine.


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