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Rihanna looks to help, educate and inspire children in Malawi

The entertainer spent time in the southeast African nation in efforts to gain a better understanding of the country’s problems

Of all Rihanna has achieved throughout her career, nothing seems to be more important to the pop star than helping others in need.

In the most recent string of philanthropic efforts that has the internet buzzing, a mini-doc released this week shows Rihanna, a global ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation, visiting with schoolchildren at the Muzu primary school during a trip to the southeast African country of Malawi in January.

In the 10-minute video, Rihanna sits alongside Malawi’s minister of education, science and technology, Emmanuel Fabiano, former Australian prime minister and GPE board chairwoman Julia Gillard and Global Citizen co-founder Hugh Evans to discuss education, poverty, health, safety and other looming issues that are hindering progress in the country.

“I’m really here to see it,” Rihanna 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.”

According to 2014 statistics provided by the Education Policy Data Center, 57 percent of youths ages 15-24 had not completed primary education, and only 7 percent completed secondary education. In the video, a teacher explains that some classrooms may have a student-teacher ratio of 100-1, which makes it harder for students to learn and concentrate and often leads to them dropping out. Outside of crowded classrooms, poverty is an even bigger factor.

“It’s 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.”

Rihanna spent time with educators, students, parents and officials at Muzu who are diligently working to better conditions and build a brighter future for its children.

But all wasn’t sad. Many of the children remained upbeat and hopeful. Besides learning about the struggles of the Malawian people, Rihanna witnessed the children being educated through song and dance. She even joined the fun by helping them solve math problems, playing rugby and even empowering a group of female students as they proudly proclaimed that “girls rule” in the schoolyard.

“It’s amazing, the way they learn, though,” Rihanna said. “I love that they learn in melody. That’s my favorite 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.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.