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Football sessions that can beat HIV

'If the boys can do it, so can I," says 17-year-old Lozi Magagula, glancing again at the horizon as she waits for the Queen's Baton Relay.

The visit of the baton to Madzanga High School has been the talk of this small rural community for days. "I want to touch it at least," she says.

Like many children here, Lozi, pictured, does not know much about the Commonwealth Games, but the arrival of the baton is significant. "I love sports. People should play sports to stay healthy and to network. I have made a lot of friends from playing football," she says with a shy smile.

But Lozi, the one girl in a family of soccer-mad boys, sees sports as more than good exercise. "Through playing football, I have been exposed to information, like how to keep away from behaviour that could expose me to pregnancy and HIV. I have seen a lot of girls my age dropping out of school due to pregnancy. It is rife in this area."

Lozi is in a soccer team that includes elderly women and won a specially organised championship.She hopes to play at a higher level like her brother, now with premier league club Manzini Wanderers FC. But Lozi, whose father died last year leaving six children, is determined to finish school. "Education is important. It protects you from many things," she says.

Ensuring all children get a good education is one of Unicef's priorities in Swaziland. The Child-Friendly Schools programme uses sport to make school more interesting and operates in 300 schools across the country, including Lozi's. Initiated by Unicef, it has been adopted by the Ministry of Education with the aim of it being used nationwide.

To mark the Baton's arrival, Lozi is taking part in a "sentence relay" - where students form messages related to HIV, violence and abuse. Lozi's message reads: "An HIV positive friend is still my friend."

The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. We are raising money for Unicef, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. To donate, call 0800 044 5777; click on www.unicef.org.uk/herald; or text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3.

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