Building on the success of the programme in South Africa last year, the focus will now be expanded to include Brazil, where the BT and UNICEF partnership will support 10,000 adolescents across ten schools, in five of Brazil’s largest cities: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Fortaleza.

Communications tools and techniques such as the internet, radio, blogs, photography and video will help Brazilian adolescents to publicise campaigns to improve their schools and to shape public policies on health services, the environment, digital inclusion and other community issues. Video and blogs could, for example, be used to urge local officials to improve poor water and sanitation facilities.

The project will provide PCs, digital cameras and other equipment in schools. In addition, a dedicated web site will enable the adolescents to publish stories and photographs that illustrate their experiences and share learning with their peers.UNICEF is advocating with the Brazilian Ministry of Education on this youth participation project, and is actively encouraging the Ministry to roll-out other youth participation projects at schools nationwide.

Luis Alvarez, President EMEA and Latin America, BT Global Services said: “Our global development partnership with UNICEF creates education environments where children receive the support they need to thrive. Access to information and communications technology can help to foster new skills, in turn enabling them to pass exams, get a job, play an active role in their communities, and achieve their goals in life. We have seen this happen in South Africa and we are committed to the same long-term social inclusion and sustainable economic development in Brazil.”

Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Brazil Representative, said: “Brazil faces an enormous challenge in ensuring that children remain in school. Only four out of every ten students who start primary school actually complete secondary education. One of UNICEF’s priorities is to promote youth participation in their communities. To have access to communication tools and to be able to express their views are basic rights of adolescents. Furthermore, a UNICEF survey in 2006 found that adolescents in Brazil who participated in community activities appeared to be less susceptible to dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and involvement with violence.”

BT’s partnership with UNICEF in Brazil aims to engage adolescents in social issues that affect them, and to help make their school environments more stimulating, in order to reduce high dropout rates. By equipping these adolescents with communication and technology skills, BT and UNICEF will also be helping to strengthen their future job prospects, so that they have a better chance of success in their adult lives. Luis Alvarez added: “BT is committed to making a positive and sustainable difference to the communities in which it operates. Our partnership with UNICEF enables them to develop the skills of young people at a very local level and ultimately to improve the futures of children around the world.”