Angelina Jolie opened up about her oldest son's return from college and her many initiatives helping kids through the COVID-19 pandemic

By Alexia Fernandez and Ale Russian
April 01, 2020 10:32 AM
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Angelina Jolie is thinking positively about her older son’s return to study at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea once it reopens.

Maddox, 18, recently reunited with his mother and five younger siblings — Pax, 16, Zahara, 15, Shiloh, 13, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 11 — in Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down borders and closed down schools and businesses.

The actress, 44, opened up about Maddox’s future plans with DongA Daily, South Korea’s oldest and leading media outlet.

“I could not be happier about Mad’s choice of university. It is, of course, closed at the moment because of the pandemic. But he’s not transferring school, he’ll be back as soon as things settle,” she said.

“We are all so happy, as a family, that we will have the opportunity to get to know South Korea even better through Maddox, and with him, during his studies,” Jolie added.

Last week, PEOPLE confirmed Maddox’s classes had been canceled due to the coronavirus.

Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

With Maddox back home, and Jolie also homeschooling her five other kids, the activist is concerned about the impact the lack of formal education will have on kids around the world as schools close.

“Being suddenly out of school and cut off from friends is hard for anyone, but in some countries, if a young person’s education is interrupted in this way, they may never be able to go back, because they have to go to work or face other pressures,” Jolie said in the interview. “So there’s an urgent need to help young people to continue their education, through distance learning for example, to ensure they able to get their qualifications and that they get the other kinds of support they need. This is my major focus, and something that I’m working on with UNESCO and a Global Education Coalition.”

The Oscar winner also pointed out how many kids relied on school to get their only meal of the day, and she recently donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, an organization distributing meals to children who relied on school lunches in America.

Jolie is focusing further on how to help kids while they’re out of school by adding more educational content for them through her BBC show My World. Jolie serves as executive producer on the children’s news show, which aims to help kids receive truthful information about current events.

“Children have not been out of school on this scale since the Second World War,” Jolie said in a statement announcing more COVID-19 content for the show. “This is something that throughout their lifetimes, they will remember. It is something that older generations, for all their other reference points, have not experienced. The way children go through this time – from the tools and information they can access to the ways they can communicate to and help each other – will be unique to their generation.”

She continued, “We want to help kids to have access to trusted content and tools that will be useful to them during the pandemic: including helping them to seek out fact-based and reliable news, question the information they receive, and learn from each other’s experiences.”

Angelina Jolie
Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty

Adding to her charity work, Jolie also made a donation to the UN Refugee Agency and sent support to the schools she funds in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kenya and Namibia to help ensure they can continue teaching and learning through the pandemic.

The actress currently funds 10 schools in Cambodia through the Maddox Jolie Pitt Foundation, set up in the name of her oldest son who she adopted in the Asian country. She also funds the Angelina Jolie school for girls in Kenya and two other schools for girls in Afghanistan.

Jolie has been a special envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees since 2012, meaning she’s acutely aware of the dangers facing refugees in camps around the world and their lack of protection against COVID-19. She told DongA Daily she hopes governments take steps to protect their refugees as well as their citizens.

“The most important thing to understand is that even before the virus, the situation for refugees globally was dire, with chronic shortfalls in basic humanitarian assistance including, for instance, a lack of basic healthcare,” she said. “So while of course it is right that governments are moving quickly to protect their own citizens, it is urgent that we help more vulnerable societies and communities that could be devastated by this disease.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.