UNIC and former UN blue berets reach out to 85 schools

Harare – The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) participated in an educational awareness outreach in Mashonaland Central Province during the week 23-27 may, in commemoration of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers 2011.

Organized by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Defense, the awareness reached 85 secondary schools in Bindura, Guruve, Mazowe, Mount Darwin, Muzarabani and Shamva, all of which are located within Mashonaland Central province.   The educational awareness package covered the following areas:

  1. Background to the formation of the United Nations (League of Nations);
  2. The United Nations, its main organs, UN Peacekeeping and
  3. Military, civilian police and prisons or correctional service involvement in peacekeeping operations.

Former blue berets who made up part of the campaign teams alongside UNIC staff, also shared personal experiences from their involvement in peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Liberia and as observers in Angola. This was followed by a vibrant question and answer session.

Questions posed by the pupils ranged from their concern over the non-representation of Africa in the permanent membership of the UN Security Council, to queries over why Nato seems to be dominating in the Libyan issue. Some pupils were curious to know about the achievements and failures of the UN since its formation, about the work of UN peacekeepers whilst on peacekeeping missions while others accused the UN of being controlled by the United States of America. Overall however, teachers and pupils expressed their appreciation of the educational awareness programme saying that in most cases schools did not have such information even though they were in need of it.

UNIC donated books to each of the schools that participated in the programme.

There was a minimum of 500 pupils at each sitting.

The weeklong campaign culminated in a 6 kilometre procession by former blue berets from the police, correctional services and the army, as well as the police band and drum marjorettes. The procession moved through the high density suburb of Chipadze into the central business district.

On Saturday 28 May, a reception was hosted by the Governor for Mashonaland Central in honour of former and current peacekeepers. Tafadzwa Mwale, UNIC Zimbabwe Officer in Charge read the statement of the UN Secretary General on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers at this event. In his remarks, Secretary General Ban ki-Moon paid tribute to the more than 120,000 military, police and civilians serving worldwide under the blue flag.

He said that in recent months, the United Nations has suffered a series of tragedies in rapid succession. “In early April seven personnel were murdered in an attack on a UN compound in Afghanistan. Just a few days later, 32 lives, many of them UN staff were lost in the crash of a plane serving the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These incidents added to others involving fatalities around the world, and followed the painful events of last year, when 173 peacekeepers lost their lives due to natural disasters, violence, accidents and disease, including more than 100 in the single, terrible blow of the January earthquake in Haiti,” the Secretary General said.

The Day is commemorated annually on 29 May to pay tribute to all men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations Peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, as well as to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace. The Day was set aside by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 through resolution 57/129.