A powerful film from UNICEF shows the brutal reality of home-schooling for many children

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A powerful film from UNICEF shows the brutal reality of home-schooling for many children

The background

UNICEF is back with its latest campaign video emphasising the message of ‘for every child’.

Focusing on the disruption of home-based education, we’re presented with snapshots of children’s lives and the negative influences surrounding them.

The reality of home-schooling

Without context, the immediate opening feels very ‘on brand’ with the new wave of home-schooling life hacks found across the Internet.

That quickly changes as we follow the young girl trying to find somewhere quiet to study. 

Things rapidly worsen with children affected by coal-mining accidents, drug dealing neighbours and the most powerful moment of the film – a stressed father screaming “WHAT!?” at his child. Close-ups of the children in the film wrap the video, with the final shocking statistic that more than 897 million children are still facing disruption to their education.

Things aren’t going back to normal for millions of children. 

UNICEF have created an ad that encapsulates that universal need. 

A message that goes far beyond the current trials of home-schooling.

A safe space for children

Millions of children around the UK have had their education impacted by coronavirus, though the majority of messaging and coverage tends to focus on the trials of parents. There are the light-hearted conversations around juggling work calls with invading children, the failed arts and crafts experiments. The chaos of living rooms and the struggle of re-learning maths in an attempt to teach our kids.

Teachers are expected to achieve so much more than to ‘just’ teach, including emotional support, guidance and structure. This goes beyond the boundaries of what a teacher is ‘supposed’ to do and it’s a vital commitment for children whose lives are volatile elsewhere. Schools operate as a safe space for millions of children to escape to, and something that has been missing from their lives.

UNICEF is shining a light on what that means for children around the world too, where education is sadly a privilege, not a right. 

Even in the UK — a fact that’s all too easy to forget.

A shift in tone

The unexpected tonal shift in charity campaigns is something that’s clearly proved effective over the last few years. 

With inevitable comparisons to Save The Children’s perception-shattering ‘Most Shocking Second’ campaign, it will be intriguing to see how this campaign unfolds over the coming weeks.

In UNICEF’s campaign we see the perspectives of multiple children in different scenarios. Some unthinkable and some uncomfortably close to reality.

The defining moment in the piece comes when a child asks for help from her father. The audience is shocked along with the child due to the sudden exclamation of anger and impatience. As she flinches, we flinch too.

While it may be hard to relate to certain circumstances, equating the damages of child-labour with verbal abuse was an effective tool in unifying the ad’s message: Children deserve the same right to education, wherever they are and whatever their socio-economic status.

So, does it work?

It’s beautifully shot. Uncomfortable close-ups offer a child's-eye view of the world they inhabit. Similarly for the excellent sound-design. A wave of tension is present throughout the film.

When we look at the landscape this film occupies - trust in charities is thankfully swinging upwards after hitting an all-time low in 2018. A large part of that is down to greater transparency in their financial reporting and social impact.

Now younger people are less likely to see the relevance of charities to their own communities but organisations like UNICEF are finding ways to reach those people in their usual spaces. UNICEF’s own YouTube channel has a great collection of useful resources such as Learn With Me which feels like a natural link for this lead video to lead to.

Leaving the audience without a solution and the statement: ‘Are we all doing our homework?’ shifts the onus of responsibility. 

After the year we’ve experienced, shouldn’t creating a feeling of empowerment, rather than powerlessness, be something a lot of brands and charities should focus on.

As a campaign to raise awareness, I think it works – it’s powerful and emotive. It highlights that things are anything but ‘normal’ for so many children around the world. Whether it helps raise donations and positively impact the lives of the children in focus, is up to us.

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Sam Richardson

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