Unilever has reaffirmed its commitment to improve the lives of millions of South African children through a new integrated brightFuture Schools Programme.
At Shine Studios in Johannesburg last night, guests were guided through a thought-provoking and inspiring art exhibition, created together with I See a Different You, a Soweto-based creative collective. The exhibition was a showcase of the future dreams of young South African schoolchildren.
The exhibition displayed portraits of young schoolchildren from Carter, Skeen, Gordon, M.C Weiler and Emfundisweni Primary Schools in Alexandra, alongside drawings they had created of their dreams for the future. Their ambitions ranged from doctors and nurses to soccer players and astronauts.
The purpose of the exhibition was to raise awareness of the new brightFuture Schools Programme by highlighting how the ambitions of South African children are sometimes beyond their reach, due to circumstances out of their control, such as poor sanitation.
I See a Different You are known for their distinctive style and optimistic portrayal of South African people and stories. Justice Mukheli from I See a Different You spoke about their work on the exhibition. “We thought this would just be another shoot, but when we started working with the kids, they really blew us away. They are so smart and so curious. They have such big ambitions. The experience reminded us of when we were young and encouraged us to stay youthful and inspired.”
Unilever currently has successful schools programmes running in hundreds of schools, using their brands with purpose, but these have never been integrated. To date, Domestos has reached over 480 000 South African school children through the “Cleaner Toilets, Brighter Future” and Germ-busters Club programmes. Lifebuoy’s ‘School of 5’ programme has reached over 2 million children and 10 million South Africans in total.
Now, the Unilever brightFuture Schools Programme will integrate these programmes as well as two others, to create one holistic offering, incorporating health and hygiene education and Maths skills.
Central to Unilever’s commitment to creating a brightFuture for all people, is its commitment to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which were adopted in September 2015. For the past five years, Unilever has been leading by example, addressing many of these global challenges through its own Sustainable Living Plan.
On his recent visit to South Africa, Unilever CEO, Paul Polman called for collective action to drive sustainability and urged stakeholders and business leaders to identify partnership opportunities that will deliver positive change and strive to meet targets set out in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Unilever South Africa Executive Vice President, Peter Cowan spoke about the importance of collective action within the Unilever brightFuture Schools Programme. “Our vision is to create a bright future for all South Africans, reaching 15 million people by 2020. We can’t do that alone. Our partnerships with UNICEF and the Department of Basic Education will allow us to scale up the work we’ve been doing to address some major problems and create an even bigger impact. This is a watershed moment where we are all taking action to achieve real change.”
Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi who also attended the event, said, “Through this partnership, we welcome the commitment of Unilever and UNICEF in this endeavour. We need to do all we can to give young people the skills and education they need to reach their full potential.
We know that many of our schools are having difficulty with sanitation issues and through these programmes, we can teach children good hygiene habits that will allow them to be at school and get the education they need. There must be no child in South Africa who can't realise their dreams due to limitations that can be defeated.”
Unilever Executive Vice President, Africa, Bruno Witvoet said, “With regards to the Global Goals, there’s a lot of talking, but this is an example of action. This partnership is a perfect illustration of Goal 17 at work with different stakeholders joining forces to create a big impact on society.”
UNICEF South Africa Country Director, Herve Ludovic de Lys said, “This is a journey that started two years ago with trust between two organisations that work together globally. Now we have moved from a transactional relationship to one that truly has the power to transform lives.”
The brightFuture Schools Programme will start piloting in 31 schools in KZN, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo over the next five months. It will integrate the Domestos and Lifebuoy health and hygiene programmes, a new oral hygiene programme from Pepsodent and the popular Omo Smart Kids Maths programme. Children will complete a 21-day behavior change programme and will receive product and content to complete tasks at school and at home with their families. This broadens the reach of the education so that, ultimately this pilot has the potential to reach over 100 000 community members.
In 2017 Unilever, together with partners UNICEF and the Department of Basic Education, aim to roll out this pilot programme to even more schools with a goal of reaching over a million children in Grade 0 and Grade 1 per year over the next few years.
Last night’s exhibition was attended by several local celebrities, including Claire Mawisa, Refiloe Mpakanyane, Aya Mpama, Sam Marshall and well-known educational psychologist Tshepiso Matentjie from Kaya FM, who said, “It is great that Unilever are addressing these very real problems for South African children. I’d like to see an opportunity for professionals in my own field to get involved to make sure that this good work is retained by kids.”
UNICEF ambassador Tshedi Mholo invited all those present to lend their support to this and other UNICEF initiatives to create even more impact.