|The fight against corruption must begin with the children says Child Africa Founder Julie Solberg|
Tell us about Child Africa International?
Child Africa is a small NGO first founded in Norway by my husband Rino Solberg and I. Today, the organisation is registered in Norway, Uganda and Kenya. Rino is a voluntary Chairman and I am the Managing Director. We have been helping thousands of children go through school since 1991. We have also built and run two schools in Uganda and helped refurbish two dilapidated schools in Kenya over the years.
Child Africa has been supporting BINGWA Magazine every school term since 2009 as a free 'magazine for the children of Africa'. Beginning 2014, it's new slogan will be 'Fighting corruption by building Integrity in the children of Africa. Why this change of focus?
Initially, Child Africa had the vision of building as many schools in Africa as possible, However, after all these years, we have realized that what is lacking in Africa is not just schools. What is missing is the right type of education. Thousands of students complete their university studies every year but have no jobs after graduation. We tried to establish the reasons behind the lack of jobs. We asked, "Why is Africa not as prosperous as the western countries?" We believe that one of the main reasons is CORRUPTION, which is rampant in all African countries and is therefore hindering investments from the developed world. This means less industries and less work for the people. We therefore decided to launch our new Child Africa vision; "To help millions of children get quality education and teach Honesty and Integrity as a tool to fight corruption in Africa".
And how are you going to do that through Child Africa?
This will be done in a number of ways. First, we know that there is no way we as a small NGO can do much about the corrupt people and leaders in the Africa today. This can only be done when African governments work together to fight it, with support systems from even larger NGOs and even developed countries. We believe this is a long-term undertaking, which will take several generations. The only way is to start with the young children. Infact, Proverbs 22:6 says it well; "Train the child the way that he should go and he will never depart from it when he grows old."
That is our starting point and we will use BINGWA children's magazine to do that. By distributing it FREE to the school libraries so the children can read it and learn how to become 'Champions' in order to stand up for integrity in the fight against corruption as they grow up.
What are your plans for getting BINGWA to the schools in Africa?
Our plan is to print 50,000 copies in 2014 and distribute them free in five selected countries to start with. We hope that next year, we will get more financial support from other NGOs and companies worldwide so that we are able to increase the print run every year moving forward. Experience has taught us that each copy of BINGWA is read by approximately 100 children. Our long-term goal is to be able to print ONE million copies and thereby reach 100 million children within five to ten years. BINGWA has a very long shelf life and will be read for many years by millions of children. We will have a 'BINGWA Agent' in each country to take care of the distribution.
What kind of content will BINGWA have to motivate the children in the fight against corruption?
BINGWA aims to build champions out of the children of Africa. The children must first become champions in order to be strong enough to make a difference in their own lives. We therefore have to build their self-confidence, their self-respect and their integrity. We will do that by using comics, cartoon strips, puzzles, competitions, stories, interactions on our website and other tools with lessons on honesty and integrity with the goal of fighting corruption.
You could just build some schools and educate children like everybody else, why did you choose to publish BINGWA and use it to fight corruption-an endeavour that could take years?
We believe that the fight against corruption is even more important than the fight against AIDS, malaria, TB and many other diseases, because too much of the money given to curb these diseases never reaches the people who need it most BECAUSE OF CORRUPTION. We strongly believe that prevention is much cheaper than cure. And if we can stop a big percentage of corruption, a bigger percentage of the money for cure will reach the needy people, hence help more of them.
Are the different countries and governments supportive in this fight against corruption?
Absolutely. We have talked to Ministry of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda and the Ministry of Education in Kenya and they are both supportive. We have the same goals, but our focus is just different because they have to work on the corruption which is there today and we are focusing on the next generations' whom we call; 'the BINGWA generation.' However, we are now working to get the topic of 'Honesty and Integrity' into the school curriculum in different countries. We believe this is necessary in order to fully impact the children, their parents and teachers.
Don't you think the corrupt people today will be against this initiative and fight you?
Absolutely not! You see, even if you were the most corrupt person in Africa, you would not want your children to be dishonest and corrupt too. Moreover, we are of no threat to the people in charge today, as we work with the generation who will be running Africa 20-30 years from now. Most of the corrupt people of today will probably have passed on by then. In fact, we believe that even many of the corrupt people today will also support us because not all of them have become corrupt by choice. Some were forced into it because everyone around them was corrupt and they did not have a choice. If they had a choice today, we think that most people would like to live in a corrupt-free environment.
Do you seek any help or partnership with other NGOs and companies for your mission and how do you see this help?
Yes we do. Alone, we would be very limited with such a huge goal yet we need all the help we can get. Clearly, we need monetary help to print and distribute more free BINGWA magazines to schools. We need help from NGOs, governments and even companies in order to print and distribute more free BINGWA to schools in even more countries. We hope that companies all over the world can sponsor this project so that each school can get 5 to 10 free copies of the magazine. To sponsor one school is only 20 euro. For companies, it is a great idea to regularly sponsor specific schools as a way of their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. We do not think there are many things a company can do with such great results in a generation. In addition, it is very easy, just go to our website www.childafrica.org and click on 'BINGWA Magazine' in the menu.
The fight against CORRUPTION must begin with the children, we therefore need all the help we can get to fight this evil. Join us today in making a difference!