Princess Beatrice has spoken exclusively to HELLO! about her joy at the results achieved by an African school backed by a charity of which she is patron. The Northwood African Education Foundation, which aims to help some of the world's poorest children through education, has built a school in northern Ethiopia. St George’s, in Azezo, educates 353 children in the area – and Beatrice tells us she is looking forward to visiting.
"I would love to see the progress being made at the school and I'm talking to the charity about a trip," she says. "The results that we are seeing at St George's are incredibly inspiring, and it is helping the most vulnerable children in one of the poorest places in the world. I'm honoured to be involved and will do whatever I can to support the project.
"The charity believes this is a model of charitable education that can be adopted elsewhere in Africa, so I hope this effort grows and grows and helps to change more lives and communities."
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Beatrice has written a foreword – also shared here first in HELLO! – for the foundation's annual review on their hugely successful first project.
"Children have always been at the centre of the charity work that I've seen my family carry out," she writes. "So when I was asked to become involved in a project to build a beacon school to give some of the world's poorest children the sort of chance that is taken for granted elsewhere, I didn't hesitate."
The charity was established in 2011 by parents, children and staff at Broomwood Hall, an independent school in south-west London.
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"I didn't imagine for a moment that it would be as successful as it has turned out to be five years on. I'm absolutely amazed and inspired by what's being achieved," Beatrice writes. "St George's School is in a part of the world where half of all children have dropped out of school by the age of eight, and children typically sit at rudimentary desks in classes of 50 or 60 for a maximum of four hours a day. At our school, they are in class sizes of 25, for six hours a day, with teachers trained to degree level and the best facilities money can buy."
Academic results this year were four times above the national average and the average grade in all years across all subjects was over 90%. Almost 50 local jobs have been created, paying well above average salaries. The next goal is, by 2022, to expand St George’s into a secondary school with 700 children aged five to 18, and to keep them in education as long as possible.
"I have little doubt that this generation of children will grow up determined to succeed and to bring real change to their families, communities, country and continent," writes the Princess.
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"I am very proud to be involved, and I want to thank everyone who has supported the project so far. I urge others to consider sponsoring a child's education, which costs just £1 a day. I believe we are changing lives – and developing an approach that can help lift up a whole continent."
Schooling is a cause close to the Princess's heart. Diagnosed with dyslexia when she was a child, she understands the power of a good education. The 30-year-old granddaughter of the Queen received specialist support for the condition – but is now determined to support other less fortunate children.
"I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was seven and as I have said before, it was a struggle at the beginning of my school career," she tells us. "It taught me the importance of great teachers and supportive parents who, above all, are ready and willing to listen to young people."
To learn more about the Northwood African Education Foundation visit their website here.