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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by kids in Tanzania. (Jason Reed / Reuters)

The First Lady in Africa

Michelle Obama visits Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to talk about the importance of education

By Zach Jones | null null , null
<p>The First Lady spoke to students about how education changed her life. (Joe Penney / Reuters)</p>

The First Lady spoke to students about how education changed her life. (Joe Penney / Reuters)

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama began a weeklong visit to Africa. But this is no vacation for either member of America’s first family. While the President has spent his time discussing politics and economics with government officials in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, the First Lady has focused her trip on education.

In some parts of Africa, education is considered a luxury, or something that is not necessary. For many children, it is too expensive. Instead of going to school, some kids work to help support their families. Education for girls is often seen as less important than education for boys. Some people believe that boys will be able to get better jobs and make more money than girls as adults, and therefore benefit more from going to school.

Mrs. Obama wants to change those ideas. During her stay in Africa, she is talking with young people, parents, teachers, and government officials about how valuable education can be for every child.


The First Lady’s first stop was at the Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school in Dakar, Senegal. In a speech at the school, she told the students how education had helped change her life.

Mrs. Obama related that her own family struggled to pay bills, yet still worked to help pay for her college education. Her parents wanted her to have better career options than they did, and they encouraged her to study hard.

“Because I had a good education, I was able to provide for my family, give back to my community, and now serve my country as First Lady,” she told students.

On Saturday, Mrs. Obama traveled to South Africa and, along with singer John Legend, led a televised discussion about education.

Speaking to thousands of young people through a video chat, the First Lady applauded four South African teens who had made a big difference in their communities. “Now more than ever before, we need you guys to step up as leaders,” she told them. Students from Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York City joined the discussion over the Internet.

On her last day in Africa, Mrs. Obama will meet with other women in government at the African First Ladies Summit. Female leaders from across the continent will discuss how to promote education and business opportunities for women there.


The Obama children, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 12, accompanied their parents to Africa. This week they have joined their mother at many events.

“I want my children to be citizens of the world,” the First Lady told Scholastic in a video tweet.

By encouraging more opportunities for women worldwide, Mrs. Obama hopes to make a better world for her own daughters as well. On Thursday, she told girls at the school she visited in Senegal that she wanted her family to learn from their example.

“You all are role models for my daughters,” she said, “which is why I brought my older daughter as well as my niece here today, so that they could be as inspired by you as I am.”

You can learn more about the First Lady’s trip on her blog.

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