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One World Beat News

Mandela Launches Education Drive for Vulnerable African Children
Agence France-Presse

JOHANNESBURG - Former South African president Nelson Mandela on Monday kicked off a fund-raising drive to help children orphaned or left vulnerable by HIV/AIDS on the world's poorest continent. Mandela, who has been in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic in his country, could not be present at the ceremony in Cape Town due to the ill-health of his eldest son (who has since passed away).

In a taped message aired at the function, Mandela said: "No child in Africa, and in fact anywhere in the world, should be denied education. I call on you to act now. Make a donation and inspire the millions of children in Africa to fulfill their dreams," he added, at the launch of the Schools for Africa campaign.

John Samuel, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said the campaign in its first phase would target deserving schools in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Samuel said the aim was for every one million dollars (744,129 euros) raised, 1,000 schools would receive help for renovations and improvements, including new buildings. "Many of the countries targeted have had long periods of civil war or where the extent of poverty is pervasive," he said.

Per Engebak, the southern Africa director for the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, said AIDS and other factors had caused levels of education to slip in many countries. "In Zimbabwe we had one of the highest enrollment rates in Africa, 97 percent a decade ago. Now it is 68 percent," he said. He underlined that the number of orphans and vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa, currently at 14 million, was expected to almost double to 25 million by 2010.

Peter Kramer, a German whose company kicked off the drive by making the first one-million-dollar donation, paraphrased a famous quote of former US president, John F. Kennedy: "Don't ask what the world can do for you but what you could do for the world," he said, appealing for contributions both big and small. "Education means more than reading and writing... education saves the lives of children," he said.

Mandela has also launched the 46664 campaign -- named after his prison number -- which aims to raise awareness of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which supports programmes for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and testing, as well as care and support of those infected with the virus. This campaign uses the power of music in particular to raise funds for and awareness about HIV/AIDS.

At the website an EP download of the "First Year of 46664" is available--featuring Sting, Dave Stewart, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Cliff, and Mandela himself--which will raise funds for the campaign, and new material is being recorded or donated by artists who appeared in 2003's kick-off concert in South Africa, among them Bono, Annie Lennox, Bob Geldof, Beyonce, and a host of talented South African musicians. Several celebrities have been signed on to serve as 46664 special ambassadors including Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Will Smith and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999, Mandela has also built a charity empire that includes his Nelson Mandela Foundation and two other smaller organisations, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and the Mandela Rhodes scholarship foundation.

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Leigh Blake, Founder - Keep A Child Alive