Bad Girl RiRi is on a mission.
Rihanna visited Malawi earlier this year as part of her philanthropic work for her Clara Lionel Foundation, in collaboration with Global Citizen and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), for which she is an ambassador.
The pop superstar said she wanted to come see what education was like in the country.
“I'm really here to see it,” she said. “It’s one thing to read statistics, but I want to see it firsthand and find out all that can be done and where to start first.”
She was accompanied by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, a board chair for the GPE, and Hugh Evans, Global Citizen’s CEO.
GPE just released this powerful short documentary about their time in the southeastern African nation, which includes sweet scenes of the pop star teaching some students at Muzu primary school math.
Of course, not even teachers are immune to mistakes. At one point, the board states that 3-0=0. Whoops!
Nevertheless, Rihanna’s efforts certainly aren’t going to waste. As the poignant video points out, education in Malawi faces several challenges.
Class sizes are huge, with one solitary teacher often being responsible for around 100 students in a cramped classroom that lacks chalk and books, and of the 70 to 75 per cent of children who attend primary school, only eight per cent make it to secondary education.
Children often have to travel long distances, which also puts them at risk. Girls especially suffer from the dangerous trek to school, and can often be married at young ages, making them unable to complete their education. Half the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and the average income is 90 cents a day.
"It's such a pity that they have to drop out, because they are so smart," Rihanna comments in the clip. "Everybody's learning together and learning at the same pace, it seems. It's sad that has to end for some of them because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete."
But more than anything, the video shines with positivity. One student, 14-year-old Wongani Nyirenda, shares that while he and his classmates often don’t have enough food to eat right now, he doesn’t mind because he knows one day they will.
“I believe in the future when I will be a businessman I will have more food,” he says confidently.
The video also shows Rihanna singing with the students in class as they learn.
“That’s like my favourite thing because kids, they adopt melody really, really quickly. And so if you can use that as a learning tool, I think that’s the most brilliant, brilliant thing," the 29-year-old says.
She also leads some girls into an enthusiastic chant of “Girls! Girls! Girls!”
Her trip to Malawi was far from Rihanna’s first venture into the philanthropic realm. Earlier this year, she was honoured as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year. With her Clara Lionel Foundation, which she created in 2012, she has worked on education programs, as well as built a cancer treatment centre in her native home Barbados.
The trip was part of GPE’s current goal to persuade global leaders to raise $3.1 billion by 2020 to help bring quality education to kids around the world, according to Cosmopolitan.
As part of this mission, earlier this year she encouraged her followers to contact Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and push him towards investing in the Education Cannot Wait Fund. The government eventually agreed to invest $20 million into the fund.
According to Billboard, the video will be shown at the Global Citizen Unplugged event tonight in Ottawa, to call on Canada to further support education.
Sadly, Rihanna won’t be there. She’s probably out there still being a real superhero.
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