SEATTLE — In January, global singing phenomena Rihanna visited the country of Malawi to advocate for global education reform and accessibility. The visit was in partnership with the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen, two international organizations dedicated to funding education in developing countries. The artist released a nine-minute documentary, detailing her trip and outlining education issues facing children in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Through her Clara Lionel Foundation, Rihanna supports the fight against “injustice, inequality, and poverty” through education and health reform. The foundation funds innovative programs within education in impoverished countries.
The documentary, titled “Inside Rihanna’s Trip to Malawi for Education,” depicts a neglected Muzu primary school facing problems of hunger, class size, women’s issues and the psychological effects of poverty on children. The school, a typical depiction of education in rural Malawi, lacks basic resources and staff to foster a successful atmosphere. Traveling to Malawi, Rihanna advocates for global education reform by seeing the issue first-hand.
Students, local leaders, and activists spoke out on the disparities in infrastructure for education. Angeline Murimirwa, regional executive director of Camfed, a nonprofit that supports marginalized girls in education systems, spoke of Malawi’s poor “uptake ratio”. This represents the percentage of students who go on from primary to secondary school. In Malawi, an average of 70-75 percent of children attend primary school, whereas less than 8 percent continue to secondary school.
In one scene, an official describes dropouts leaving school due to extreme poverty. “It is such a pity that they have to drop out because they are so smart and everybody is learning together and learning at the same pace it seems,” Rihanna said. “It’s sad that that has to end for some of them because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete.”
At one point, Rihanna leads a math lesson using a song. Later, she mentions her love for using melody as a learning tool, due to the ease which children can remember.
Despite the destitution of the school and surrounding area, the film depicts the students as remaining hopeful for the future. Wongani Nyrienda, a 14-year-old aspiring businessman, says, “I don’t worry that I don’t eat in the morning because I believe in the future when I will be a businessman, I will have more food.”
The film ends with a call for action to its viewers, to lobby for government support of international education funding, “to increase their education budgets and funding to the Global Partnership for Education to help it reach $3.1 billion between 2018 and 2020.”
Rihanna advocates for global education reform and will continue to do this. The artist was also named Harvard University’s 2017 Humanitarian of the Year this past February for her work.
– Riley Bunch