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Thursday:  July 31, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Education (6)

Friday
Apr272012

Hult Global Case Challenge 2011-Winners Announced (NEWS)

(PHOTO: Fmr US President Bill Clinton/HUMNEWS)(HN, 4/27/12) - Former US President Bill Clinton, whose organization the Clinton Global Initiative is partnered with the Hult Global Case Challenge, announced this year's winning student teams at last nights finals at the New York Public Library.  The winners are:

Energy: Team NYU Abu Dhabi to be partnered with SolarAid

Education: Team Carnegie Mellon to be partnered with One Laptop Per Child

Housing: Team Hult Business School, Boston campus to be partnered with Habitat For Humanity International

Stay tuned for a more comprehensive report on the ideas behind the students `step-change' innovations and for full follow-up coverage of the projects and NGO partners as they move forward.

----HUMNEWS

Thursday
Apr262012

Changing the World: One Business School Student, One NGO at a Time (REPORT)

(Video: The NYT's Nick Kristof, with Ahmad Ashkar-Hult GCC Chairman & Hult's Michelle Bergland announcing the 1st Hult Global Challenge at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting 2010/CGI)

(PHOTO: Ahmad Ashkar/Hult)

(HN, 4/26/12) - In 2009, former Hult Business School graduate Ahmad Ashkar who had, prior to business school been an investment banker, asked his fellow MBA students a simple question - "Will you accept this challenge?"

In the intervening three years thousands of his peers answered the call - as did the Clinton Global Initiative, luminaries such as Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus, Unilever Chair Michael Treschow, and NGO's of the likes of Water.org, One Laptop Per Child, Habitat for Humanity International and SolarAid to name a few. 

Today, the Hult GCC’s annual case competition is the world’s largest and most internationally acclaimed `solution finding' contest, utilizing a unique model of harvesting the vast opportunities of crowd sourcing; featuring thousands of students competing from over 100 countries for a $1 million prize and the chance to work with a prominent charity to solve a pressing global issue.  

Ahmad's own AHA moment came as nhe was getting ready to graduate from the Hult Business School 3 years ago. Prior to school he'd been working as an investment banker in Islamic banking at a prominent financial institution, when the global markets took a turn for the worst.

As a Palestinian-American, Ahmad was 11 when his family first made it to the US. He says he was "inspired by little bits and nuggets, pieces of information of how the world was coming together and what he saw as the possibility to make the world a better place through social investment, as a way to do business."

In 2009, as he was just finishing at Hult, Chuck Kane (now the former President and COO of One Laptop Per Child-OLPC), visited Ashkar's class for a talk about, "Innovation and social innovation. I had never heard you could make money by doing good," says Ahmad.   

"I  thought I would go back to Islamic banking after business school. But, after I asked a question in the class, Chuck Kane said to me, `If I had more people like you guys working on our business problems in the education space, we'd be allot more efficient in how we do things'."

At that point, Ahmad was the elected representative of the Hult Business School `Student Action Club' and had wanted to start a real estate focus - but he found no one would do it with him.

So he  turned `idea into opportunity' by partnering with Kane and OLPC in the early days offering, "Charles what if I was able to bring you our students to look at OLPC from a business perspective?" 

(Video VOAEnglishLearning)

"I had a vision where I could make money by doing good, but, I knew that meant we needed also to be first to market with innovative solutions that honestly, target more than a billion people. To any business, that's huge," says Ahmad.

Ashkar enlisted the support of Hult Business School management - the school's 5 global campuses were a perfect place to start - convincing school management that Hult could become a Hub for social innovation. The idea `caught on like wildfire'; within 60 days the project had 100 different business schools committed to participating and engaging their students in the challenge. 

(GRAPH: Bottom of the Pyramid Populations/Dexia)

"We developed a methodology of looking at the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the people we felt had no connection to the world as participants," he said.

In the first year the Hult GCC worked with OLPC on an education initiative - conducting the whole effort as a case challenge of its own; and without prize money. 

The second year, (2010) when deciding to continue with the project, Ashkar revealed something extraordinary to Hult's board.  He had empirical date from the competition to show the students who had entered were motivated by the mission of solving a global problem - even as the world economy continued to teeter. 

The point?  Future world business leaders can look at the world in a new way, and find innovative tools to withstand a crisis.  If this was possible, think of what the bright minds of the world could do together, with smarts and heart.  "Today's MBA's breed tomorrow's executives,"  says Ashkar.

"The Hult GCC is the fuel for the shift  we feel is required in the marketplace. And our students are the financial spark of our generation."

Now three years old, the revolution which Ashkar, Hult, and the globally-local collective which includes the Clinton Global Initiative, OLPC, Habitat for Humanity, SolarAid, Water.org, along with thousands of future business leaders who will go on to build the world which they want - is exponentially growing.  It's inspiration, and touch points number in the hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Ahmad says, "The lipstick items of the Hult Global Case Challenge - the million dollar prize - the well-known employers these students want to get in front of, these are draws. No doubt.  But I've seen it time and again, students get hooked. I started my career thinking I was going to be a big banker. But now I think I can be a social entrepreneur." 

(PHOTO: Wejingo) He goes on, "In fact, I'd like to stop using the phrase social entrepreneurship and get to a place where we just call it, entrepreneurship."

The message to business is, there are - big - opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid.  Ashkar advocates that business can benefit by realizing that the market can be maximized by focusing on new finance models, not maintaining `stale mindsets'.

For instance, winners from the first year, Carnegie Mellon, built a micro-commerce network that could turn the OLPC education device into a transactional platform for the children's parents; and use the laptop as a hotspot. (It's now being built into next edition OLPC devices.)

The second year of the competition the University of Cambridge Judge Business School worked to solve a Water.org challenge, and won with a new kind of water telecommunications subsidy project, working with mobile operators in Haiti, which turned a profit in the first year. The model is being considered for rollout in India next.

Unlike the previous two years, three NGO partners were selected in 2011 and announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in September, to benefit from Hult's GCC sourcing work; who then create their own case challenges for the students.

The demand to grow was heard from the students too. "In 2010 the contest became oversubscribed in the first ten days so making it three times as big seemed logical," says Ahmad.  This year the challenge had 5000 worldwide participants, many working in teams.

Then, the race is on with local level and regional presentations taking place in Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai, Dubai, London - and winners chosen there, make the trip to New York City. This week sees the top teams present at the finale at The New York Public Library and both President Clinton and Grameen Bank Founder Muhammed Yunus will keynote, with NGO judges in attendance.

"We're looking for replicable solutions," says Ashkar. "If we can do more pilots, and move solutions out to suit a multitude of markets on a broad scale, we can exponentially make positive, disruptive change happen."  

WHAT'S IN IT FOR NGO'S?

Case Study:    One Laptop Per Child

Mission:           "We aim to revolutionize the way to make education affordable for everyone by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop; designing hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. Children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future." 

Challenge:       Can OLPC get 10 million laptops to children in 5 years, drive the industry to make laptops more affordable, and improve education with its principles?

Rodrigo Arboleda HalabyFive Questions for Chairman, CEO  Rodrigo Arboleda Halaby

Why was it important for OLPC to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge?       

OLPC was already up and running, but I always think, we can be better. You need to keep your eyes open and be disruptive. OLPC is all about finding a solution. a new kind of thinking. What Nicholas Negroponte proposed with OLPC was to reduce to one-tenth the cost of a laptop, making it more accessible to the global marketplace for people who can't afford a $1000 device. Ours was - about $100. And was a symbolic example of how we can use innovative technology to do it. With our work, we are saying, "those that want to prevent and do something about poverty, please raise your hands and work with us.  We want to bring the world into the 21st Century. "

Accomplishments already of OLPC:

Our `One-to-One' marketing campaign has been a win-win. The idea is `Give one, Get one'. Unfortunately, the IRS forbade us from going this route for more than 45 days if we were to preserve our non-profit status. Secondly, the shifting from instructionism - what we continue to do in the current educational system - into constructionism; this is at the hard core of our effort.

For many reasons, whether it's that people don't understand the technology, or they're unfamiliar with it - then, they discourage its implementation. We found we had to educate teachers too so they could understand why and how to use the technology and even the internet to their benefit in the educational setting; all to enhance a child's learning and growth.

We've created accessibility. Which helps to create better `social equality'. Not in-equality.

What we need now is to build our brand for greater impact for social good and shift our brand to include education and transformation. For creating software for kids, we are doing what IBM was doing 20 years ago: shift the emphasis from hardware into software and services. A complete ecosystem of learning-how-to-learn.

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals there?

When Nicholas called me to help run OLPC, it was during the collapse of the economy 3 years ago. We had been students together at MIT in 1961; and lifelong friends. Throughout my career I've been in business development and suddenly, he felt a new business model was needed. I said you need to switch the cost model to a more sustainable one. Even charities and NGO's must be profitable to support themselves. It's outdated to be dependent totally on donations. We've done it by keeping our internal operating costs down so that most of our revenue goes towards our programs. But it's not enough to grow the program as fast as we'd like. There are lots of kids we could be impacting faster. We need to make the business happen, and we don't have many physical resources to do it. We need partners, and financial resources.

Private sector, public sector, and NGO collaboration is key. We need long-term dialogue, and government is very important to development. In Colombia we're creating a `trust' for social responsibility with local officials and community organizations as an example. This is a fantastic model.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for OLPC?

These kids have been working so hard at ideas for innovation and are a wonderful resource who are willing to work as brilliant advisors, for free! OLPC is about creating innovators of our own. We want to develop a global generation of young talent not constrained by any barriers. A generation of innovators, inventors, capable of generating patents. The Hult Global Case Challenge has almost been a learning laboratory for us, providing intellectual capital. All the business cases we have reviewed here have been fascinating and they break away from centuries of old ideas with refreshingly new and unconstrained ones.

Next Steps?

Our next steps will be to work with all of our students, winners and not winners, with emphasis on the winning team, at a meeting in May and sketch out details of the winning plan. 80% of our laptop sales have been in Latin America, but we are now embarking in large projects in Africa, India, Southeast Asia-Indonesia Thailand, the Philippines. The next 2-3 years we're focused on Africa: the most challenging and the most rewarding place, where we expect the most immense change. For instance, Rwanda is a delight - they want to become the Singapore of Africa by developing the brain of their children. South Africa - the power engine of Southern Africa, where we are commencing a large and important campaign. India is a continent in itself, I've been there 3 times in the last 6 months. In West Bengal there are 26 million children alone who could use our help.

The next Global Case challenge at Hult-is to create the true global brain trust of citizens. Even with our connectedness we still have disintegrated information and thought. We need to lead to action and social change, and develop intent in our culture. We must leave behind a platform of future growth for our children and grandchildren. By doing so, we can really help save the planet!

Case Study:    Habitat For Humanity

 

Mission:           "Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses alongside our homeowner partner families to provide  affordable housing to those who lack adequate shelter. "

Challenge:       Can HFHI find the right combination of partnerships, innovative business models, and scalable housing solutions to reach 50 million people (10 million homes) in ten years?

Jonathan ReckfordFive Questions for CEO Jonathan Reckford

Why was it important for HFHI to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge? 

The heart of our reason to do this really centers around our desire to do more and be better as an organization. In many ways Habitat has been a movement. We work to give people a decent place to live, and we've been notable at doing this. But the way we look at it we'll still never build as many houses as we want to or serve as many people as need it.  Additionally, HFHI has a long and large student volunteer engagement program and we run a global collegiate spring program which young people love to work with. We embrace the chance to pilot new ideas with them. 

Accomplishments already of HFHI: 

We have to help people understand this better.  Housing is about more than physical construction, it's about stability, and what we really see working with families is that what we do, also serves the soul and builds healthy communities.

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals? 

We have a very long waiting list of people wanting our homes.  Yet, so many times, housing is left out of the things that people need when it comes to poverty programs.  We almost saw housing written out of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. We have to keep the link front and center.  Education is important, health is important, but decent housing is key to breaking the cycle of poverty as we see it.  Our biggest challenges to getting to where we want to go are land access, funding and access to finance.

Sadly the need is everywhere. 1.6 billion people around the world live in sub standard housing; a billion in urban slums with rapid growth across the world. In Latin America alone we have nearly a billion people living in slums where the population is expected to double over the next 20 years. 70% of urban housing in Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean is not in compliance with local regulations. We can't build decent housing fast enough.  We need better quality and more quantity.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for HFHI?

I'll be a judge at the finals in New York.  There are some really creative ideas we've seen already. And it's tough, housing is complicatedYou have to know many sectors about how to accomplish housing - zoning, building, culture, etc.  It involves complex social and business systems to get it done. Private, civil, governmental all has to work together. It takes bold idealism to think beyond all the hurdles and roadblocks to these changes.  It's truly a global set of teams, incredibly diverse people and minds that will make a new model work.

Next Steps?

After we choose the winning student teams in NY, we'll next meet with them in May to hash through the details of the program together.  We'll take all the best ideas we have and look at where they best align with our strategy and look for ways to pilot it out.  From the standpoint of where we want to go with our beneficiaries, we've been looking at ideas such as creating a housing microfinance fund, since access to funding for homeowners is scarce everywhere today. Geographically, HFHI works in 80 countries now across Southeast Asia, East Asia, Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Eurasia; and we see our strategic plan going deeper into our countries and not wider to more countries at this time.

Case Study:    SolarAid 

 

Mission:           "Power to the people. Two of the biggest threats facing humanity today are climate change and global poverty.  SolarAid helps to combat both by bringing clean, renewable power to the poorest people in the world."

Challenge:       Can SunnyMoney get off-grid solar power and light to one million households in Africa by the end of 2013?

Steve AndrewsFive Questions for CEO Steve Andrews

Why was it important for SolarAid to partner with the Hult Global Case Challenge? 

SolarAid was initially established in 2006 and we're still at a very early stage in our model.  We haven't even begun to scratch the surface of where we can go and we have a huge amount to gain from the Hult students, it's been amazing. 

Accomplishments already of SolarAid: 

We realized that in Africa alone, where there are 1 billion people; 650 million people are not connected to the electric grid.  Most of them use kerosene lamps - neither healthy or safe - to light their lives. Also, it's expensive; in Kenya for example people spend $75 a year buying kerosene oil.  We felt we could catalyze the market and help bring light to people's lives by really embracing the opportunity of the market as a business, so that as we did this for social good, we could be sustainable for ourselves. That's the only way.  So, we decided the greatest value we could offer were small portable solar lights, a most mobile idea which helps not just home life, but business life for thousands in Africa.

90% of what we do is executed through SunnyMoney. SolarAid runs SunnyMoney in Africa; we are a retailer of solar energy, and solar energy devices at deeply discounted rates.  We sell lights from a whole array of companies.  We have three levels of solar lights: an entry level study light, which retails for $8 US; then a range of lights $20-$40 which light up a room and often have the ability to charge a cell phone (which some people use to make money as their own business), and a slate of higher end models between $50-$100 which can light a whole home. By putting one light all day in the sun, you will get three nights of light.

Our customers have become active participants and using this model empowers them. They have demands of us about our service and our sales; it totally vests them with us and we work together.  

Biggest Challenges to reaching your goals? 

We set ourselves  a goal of getting solar power and light to one million households by the end of 2013. Though in order to achieve that we need some real breakthroughs in our thinking. We have to keep going beyond the status quo to create bigger, better, bolder, faster, and cheaper - business - solutions so that we can do the most good.  Hard obstacles include capital costs, issues of scaling, lack of credit for buyers, a low level of trust in the community, as well as the cost of advertising being ery difficult and access to the media is very challenging.  The needs for such services are across the board geographically. We only work in Africa now but we're focused on growth in West Africa primarily; Nigeria is important to us.

How is the Hult Global Case Challenge Making a Difference for SolarAid?

I was a regional judge in Dubai and I fielded allot of questions from the teams. These students are fearless. Some of the stuff they've come up with or the contacts they are reaching out to on their own to make their plan case are incredible.  They are motivated by the `doing' and the difference they can make. I really believe these students can bring us a radical `step change' solution that will totally deliver a million sales next year and leverage the other sectors in what we're doing.

Next Steps?

We'll meet again with the students in May and hope to work with them going forward.  Our goal as a business over time is to become a Pan African brand and a successful company with a huge social dimension that is able to have a wider catalytic impact on the market for solar lights.  We want to engage large companies in building our supply chain as a value chain.  We have many more lights to sell!

Every time we sell a light it sits out in the community building a brand that we hope others will see and strive to move their life forward towards with solar. To that end, lights on credit is a program we're working on, and we've also been contacted by potential opportunities in Asia and South America, but that's down the road. We do want to be in 40 countries in Africa by the end of this decade and feel certain we can make an evolutionary change.

--- HUMNEWS

***HUMNEWS WILL LIVE TWEET TONIGHT'S HULT GCC FINAL'S @HUMNEWS***

***LIVE LINK TO TODAY'S FINAL's AT 5PM EST HERE ***

Wednesday
Mar282012

In India, Empower the Health-Care Consumer with Knowledge (PERSPECTIVE) 

(PHOTO: `The Prescription' - Health education must be expanded to create awareness of secondary prevention, the working of the health-care system & the importance of health insurance/K. Gopinathan)By Poongothai Aladi Aruna

To enjoy the fruits of economic reforms holistically, it is mandatory for India to focus on health education.

A couple of years ago, two incidents made me realize that the importance of health education - as an invaluable tool, key to preventive and diagnostic health care - is poorly understood. The first was when a group of women instigated by higher officials in their beedi company made a representation to me that they were against the government's idea of a logo with a skull stating “smoking is injurious to health” on the beedi packets they produce, as that would be detrimental to their livelihood.  The second was during the Assembly session when an elected member requested the then transport minister to go easy on government drivers reprimanded for drunken or rash driving.

These two case scenarios are not straightforward livelihood issues but are rather complex with a negative impact on the health, economic, and social well-being of our country. Health education is very often construed to be within the realms of sanitation, hygiene, maternal and childcare, yet even in these areas the impact of health education is incomplete and patchy. In developed countries, health education is a key component of the healthcare system and the budget.

Empowering the health-care consumer with the knowledge to understand the health-care system and to question health-care providers should be the goal of health literacy programs.

(PHOTO: Open sewage is often the main water supply in Africa/HUMNEWS)Inadequate sanitation, sub-optimal reproductive health and prevalence of life-threatening infectious diseases were all global phenomena a few hundred years ago. Industrialization and affluence alone did not contribute to optimal human development indicators in developed nations but intensive social engineering through vigorous health education programs contributed to these positive changes. India with its inherent diversity, paradoxes and its recently acquired economic prosperity, has to battle with communicable, non-communicable illnesses and psychosocial disorders.

A rise in road traffic accidents, illnesses related to alcohol, tobacco consumption and psychosocial disorders are increasingly affecting the most productive age group of our country. The long-term repercussions of these preventable deaths can become a huge burden to the nation's economy. Hence there is an urgent need not to restrict health education to primary prevention but expand it to create awareness of secondary prevention, the working of the health-care system, the importance of health insurance, etc.

For positive behavioral changes

To combat these public health problems with our limited health resources and to obtain maximum gain it is essential to create an innovative health education policy that would lead to intrinsic positive behavioral changes amid our general populace. Health education leads to empowerment and emancipation of health-care consumers resulting in a standardised quality health-care system.

Postgraduate, graduate and diploma courses on health education with adequate job opportunities should be created for health educators. Research suggests that an improvement in health literacy has a positive effect on the nation's economy.  A World Bank report indicates that the economic impact of inadequate sanitation in India in 2006 was Rs.1.7 trillion, and in 2010, Rs.2.4 trillion.

(PHOTO: Interestingemails.com) The Planning Commission of India states that India accounts for 9.5 per cent of the total 1.2 million deaths from road traffic accidents, incurring an annual loss of Rs.550 billion. If just these public health problems alone can result in a loss of several trillion rupees, the amount of both direct and indirect losses to the exchequer will be an unimaginable sum when the remaining diseases are calculated.

Undoubtedly the economic reforms have uplifted millions from poverty, but one major illness, an unexpected death or severe injury from a road traffic accident will push them back to their below the poverty (starting) line. Cost-benefit analysis, cost-effective analysis and cost utility analysis are useful and powerful tools for decision making.

To enjoy the fruits of economic reforms holistically, it is mandatory for India to focus on health education, as the huge savings will enable us to achieve the millennium development goals that would in turn lead to the creation of an effective social security system on a par or even superior to what is there in the developed nations. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “it is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold or silver.”

---This opinion editorial originally appeared in The Hindu. The author is a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in India; and a former Tamil Nadu Minister.

Tuesday
Jun142011

Sending Children to School in Uganda, Despite the Odds (PERSPECTIVE)

By Karen Snider

Asa and Titus PHOTO CREDIT: Brian PietersWhen tragedy strikes, I often hear people describe survivors as resilient. I’ve been thinking about what that means and whether that describes the children at an orphanage in Uganda which I support – are the children really resilient or are they mere survivors?

There are 85 children at the Nzirambi Talent Development Centre in Kasese, Uganda, and it’s not unusual for them to be ill at any given time. Just last month, eight newborns were hospitalized with pneumonia, malaria and/or extreme diarrhoea. One of the star students, Ellen, 16, who is in her first semester at senior school, nearly failed her classes because of pneumonia – without access to a doctor for a month.Ellen - PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Pieters

The reality is that children die of these illnesses at alarmingly high rates across much of Africa. In fact, the United Nations Children’s Fund states that four million children under age five die every year; of those, 1.5 million are from Eastern or Southern Africa.

The statistics are equally alarming in Uganda, which ranks as the 19th worst country in the world for child mortality where 188,000 children die every year before their fifth birthday.  At this orphanage, we’ve lost eight children in the last two years.

With those statistics in mind, it was a relief this week when I got news that all of the newborns who had been hospitalized had recovered and were back home. Ellen is also doing better and has returned to school.

Against all of the odds, these children survived.

But when I think of the older children at the orphanage, including Ellen, I think I understand more what it means to be resilient.

Currently, through the Nzirambi Education Fund, we are sponsoring five youth in their senior levels of school, each of them having been brought to the orphanage as a vulnerable baby.Brenda PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Pieters

Twenty years ago, there was no sponsorship program at the orphanage to provide funds and so the children didn’t always have access to healthcare or nutritious food.

There is no question the children carry emotional scars – this I know as they have shared tears with me telling me about parents lost to AIDS, a parent crippled in a car accident and a polygamous father who would not care for his only daughter after her mother died.

Still, they have thrived and managed to excel in their studies.

Now there are new obstacles for them at school: missing classes due to illness; no extra learning from teachers; overcrowded classes; and they are boarding for the first time away from the orphanage.

When Ellen was ill, I spoke to her by phone. She told me not to worry, that (despite illness so severe she was hallucinating) she will be fine – and more importantly, that she was eager for classes to start again. Before she even finished a round of antibiotics, she was on the bus for the six-hour ride back to school.

To me, that is what resiliency is about.

Doreen PHOTO CREDIT: Brian PietersTime and time again, it’s what we see across Africa and around the world when families are struck with disaster or facing extreme poverty. It’s about surviving the unimaginable and forging ahead -- hopeful, optimistic and eager for future possibilities.  

Just last week, the five youth we are currently supporting returned to school for their second semester. To give them a boost to make it through the school year, we are looking into the possibility of hiring a guidance counsellor who can check in on them to ensure they are healthy and doing well in their classes.  That way, if any problems arise – like one of them needing a doctor or extra tutoring – we can address it more quickly.

Veronica and Steven PHOTO CREDIT: Brian PietersThank you to those of you who continue to support the Nzirambi Education Fund. We've recognized the resiliency of the children and now we have an opportunity to truly help make their dreams come true. They so very much deserve the chance.

Want to be involved? Help send one of our children to school. Donate using PayPal on our blog http://africanwalkabout.blogspot.com or contact NzirambiFund@gmail.com. Also, you can join us on Facebook at http://groups.to/orphans

*After volunteering at the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre in Uganda, Karen launched an education fund to ensure the older children at the orphanage have access to education beyond primary school. To date, the Nzirambi Fund has paid for five youth to go to school. More funding is required to ensure that all of the 85 children at the orphanage will have access to higher levels of education.

Wednesday
Mar162011

OPT: Blockade Frustrates Gaza Students (Report)

Undergraduate students on the green at Islamic University in Gaza City, photo courtesy Erica Silverman /IRIN(March 16, 2011) -- The next generation in the Gaza Strip may be less educated, less professional and perhaps more radical because an Israeli blockade has restricted educational and employment opportunities, say UN and other sources.
 
The four-year blockade has particularly affected youths aged 18-24, limiting access to higher education, academic exchanges and professional development, says Gaza’s education ministry. About 65 percent of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are under 25, according to UN estimates.
 
“Higher education in all its forms is absolutely critical to a functioning society and the creation of a future Palestinian state,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Max Gaylard told IRIN, and “to maintain a necessary level of skills in professional sectors, like medicine and engineering.”
 
Gaza’s unemployment rate - nearly 50 percent according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) - indicates dire prospects for the rapidly growing and youthful population.
 
The economic blockade, imposed by Israel after the Islamist resistance movement Hamas took control of Gaza, has obstructed the import of books, science laboratory and other educational equipment to Gaza, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Israel allows in limited humanitarian supplies.
 
The lack of facilities, new information and experiences has caused a marked deterioration of Gaza’s whole educational system. Noor, an English education student at Al-Azhar University, ranked second in Gaza, said she lacked essential books for her coursework and even chairs were missing from lecture halls.
 
“Our universities are not ready for new generations,” she explained. “We only have one laboratory and two computer labs, and it is not enough.”
 
Enrolment levels at Gaza’s 14 public and private universities and colleges remain high, but conflict and the stringent blockade have seriously undermined access to, and the quality of, higher education, said UNESCO in a report.
 
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, “Under the policy of complete closure imposed since June 2007, Palestinians from Gaza who once constituted some 35 percent of the student body at universities in the West Bank are virtually absent from West Bank education institutions.” 
The development of two separate systems due to the Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, meant fewer subjects and facilities for Gaza’s university students, said UNESCO.
 
Can't pay fees 

About 80 percent of the Gaza population is aid dependent, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and higher education institutions in Gaza are feeling the financial strain.
 
According to UNESCO, students are increasingly unable to pay tuition fees, resulting in drop-outs and postponement of studies.
The inability of students to cover fees has hit Gaza universities hard, since student fees provide about 60 percent of university running costs, according to Palestinian NGO Sharek Youth Forum.
 
“The level of education is being compromised and we have trouble hiring qualified professors and staff,” said Kamalain Shaath, president of the Islamic University, ranked top in Gaza and the West Bank. Half the students at the university, he added, were unable to meet tuition requirements this semester.
Damaged buildings still not rebuilt 

Islamic University’s first medical school class of about 50 promising young doctors will graduate this spring, and will be desperately needed in this conflict area, although the university science labs that were destroyed during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead - aimed at ending rocket attacks into Israel - were never rebuilt.
 
Seven universities and colleges were damaged during the offensive, which ended in January 2010, with six buildings fully destroyed and 16 partially, according to UNESCO. As of March 2011, rebuilding has not been possible owing to the embargo on building materials.
 
Overcrowding in schools is another problem. About 81 percent of Gaza’s public schools operate on double shifts, according Gaza’s education ministry director-general, Sharif Nouman. In 2010, only three new schools were built due to lack of building materials, yet another 100 need to be built, he said.
 
Meanwhile, the internal conflict between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas is putting pressure on the education system, due to the lack of communication between the Gaza and West Bank ministries, he added.
 
Rising unemployment 

The unemployment rate among those aged 15-19 is about 72 percent, while unemployment affects 66 percent of those aged 20-24, according to a January socio-economic report by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO). West Bank unemployment rates were 29 percent and 34 percent for these age groups, respectively.
 
About 70 percent of industrial establishments in Gaza have closed under the blockade, according to OCHA, while 120,000 private sector jobs were lost in the first two years of closure. A recent easing has allowed the limited export of cut flowers and strawberries from Gaza to Europe.
 
“When young people graduate they have almost no opportunity to find a job in a company or association,” said Bassam, a multi-media student at Al-Azhar University. Some try to start their own businesses, but “this cannot succeed in Gaza now because of the blockade,” he added.
 
UN officials in the region have expressed concern that isolating youth in Gaza from broader values and opportunities will backfire. “A rapidly growing society, becoming poorer, that is subject to restrictions on education will encourage extremism in its worst forms,” warned Gaylard.
 
Deputy director-general of the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy, Danny Seaman, however, said: “Hamas uses access to Israel to perpetrate terror attacks against our civilians and this immediate threat outweighs the concern over increased militancy amongst youth in Gaza.”
 
Some 71 percent of university students surveyed by UNESCO reported they were not hopeful about the future and almost the same number worried there will be another war.
 
“Most of my peers want to emigrate,” said Shadi, a 26-year-old physical therapist in Gaza City. “We are isolated and frustrated.”
 
- Report by IRIN humanitarian news and analysis
Saturday
Jul312010

(PERSPECTIVE) “MY STORY”

---By Gertrude Kitongo

My name is Gertrude Kitongo. I am one of the 10% international students at the CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) City Campus in Johannesburg. I am Kenyan born and raised, but my father is Ugandan. I first heard about CIDA when I visited my aunt in South Africa.

I finished my high school - or what we call form 6 - in 2006. That year my father had lost his job and my mother became really ill from stress related illnesses. They asked me to drop out of school because there was not enough money to send all of us to school, and when I could go, I was constantly being sent back because of school fee debts.

To help raise cash, I decided to do petty jobs like babysitting. I also studied late at night but prayed even more that I could save up enough to be able to register for the final exam. It was all I lived for at the time. Imagine, as a young person being stuck at home, and seeing everyone else leave to go about their business - leaving you in the house to cater to household chores. It broke my heart and I promised never to put myself - or anyone else - in that situation ever again.

Around this time I lost all sense of self confidence: I gave up on myself and left my hair in a mess, and just didn’t care about how I looked. After all, I was now a perfect description of a house girl. Aunty Winnie heard about how miserable I was and she invited me to come visit her for a month. She got a free ticket to come back to Uganda for the holidays but instead sent it to me to visit her.

She so desperately wanted to send me to school or help out in any way - but the financial demon always awoke when I needed to pay for registration. Irregardless of my good grades, there was no way I could be admitted to any place without paying the horrific large amounts of registration fees.

One day, on our way back home, we passed the CIDA CITY CAMPUS (CCC). My aunt asked me to walk in and make some inquiries. I did and luckily enough, the security guard took us in to the 5th floor and we got application forms. We knew this was honestly our last resort.

Two weeks later, a Mr. Gitonga - the campus registrar - called to inform me that I'd been admitted to the campus but I had to do the pre-university work. I did not care about that. All I knew is that I had been given a chance to something I would never have dreamt of. This was and will always be the happiest day of my life because it meant that I had a chance to make something of myself.

CIDA is an amazing place to be. All of us are from previously disadvantaged families and this makes it very easy for us to relate with each other. The spirit of UBUNTU here is so real and even though I haven’t been back home since December 2007 I often forget the pain because of the love and unity shown here. This place is more than I ever bargained for, awesome people, awesome country, and an awesome campus. I intend to graduate in majoring in Marketing and Human resources. My long term vision is to start CIDA East Africa and likewise help people who are academically deserving but their situations do not allow them access to further their education.

CIDA City Campus (CIDA), based in Johannesburg, is the first virtually free higher education institution in South Africa, offering holistic education to historically disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. With the cost of higher education in South Africa spiraling out of control, CIDA has emerged as the abiding hope for underprivileged students who have a desire to pursue a university level education. The university is driven to develop the infinite potential of every student regardless of his or her background. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson are both major funding supporters of CIDA through the CIDA Foundation and the university has been visited and praised by many luminaries including entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela.

Please follow the developments at CIDA on their website at: http://www.cida.co.za/

--the author is a student at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa writing for HUMNEWS.

SCHOOL FEES IN AFRICA: Many African children cannot attend school due to onerous fees (PHOTO: HN, 2010, Michael Bociurkiw)

The elimination of school fees is a perquisite for education systems to become inclusive, equitable and sustainable. However policies across Africa range widely - from zero fees in Lesotho to heavy fees in Swaziland.

“School fees are keeping children out of the classroom, and many of these are the most vulnerable children in our societies,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Education Chief. “Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. The increasing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS or trapped in domestic labour, makes it imperative to abolish fees.”

UNICEF says eliminating fees leads to a surge in enrollment: In Tanzania in 2001, primary school enrollment grew by 50%, from 4.4 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2003. In Kenya in 2003, enrollment grew from 6 million to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks.

Survey of School Fee Policies in Selected African Countries

Lesotho

The Government of Lesotho introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2000. This policy has been implemented progressively by removing fees in phases from Grade 1 in 2000 to Grade 7 in 2006

Nigeria

Under the National Policy on Education, free basic education - including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school education - is compulsory.

Rwanda

The Government has implemented a policy of free primary education in which school fees have been abolished and replaced by a capitation grant, which increased to 2,500FRw (USD 4.50) in 2006. Shortfalls in financing at the school level nevertheless persist, with parents typically being asked to contribute to finance this gap. Non-fee barriers remain, such as school uniforms and learning materials, and these affect access to education. Rwanda also provides three years of free post-primary education, where students undertake a common-core syllabus, according to the Ministry of Education.

Swaziland

Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a priority of the Swaziland National Education Policy. Free primary education was to have been instituted last year. In Swaziland 16 percent of children are not receiving an education, according to UNICEF.  School fees range from E2000 a year to E10,000 and often much more (the average daily income in Swaziland is about E6)