Inter Press ServiceEducation – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 27 May 2018 01:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Digital Revolution Holds Bright Promises for Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/digital-revolution-holds-bright-promises-africa/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 11:43:05 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155923 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Techies in Lagos, Nigeria, work on an open-source project. Credit: Andela/ Mohini Ufeli

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, May 25 2018 (IPS)

Internet penetration is creeping up in Africa, bringing the prospect of digital dividends to a continent long marked by digital divides.

“Africa has reached a penetration which has broken the barrier of 15 %, and that’s important,” says Nii Quaynor, a scientist who has played a key role in the introduction and development of the internet throughout Africa. He is known as the “father of the Internet” on the continent.

However, Africans have not developed the ability to produce enough software, applications and tools to give economies the dividends they sorely need.

The shift to low-cost submarine connections from satellite connections is less than a decade old. The new undersea fibres have led to a remarkable increase in data transmission capacity that drastically reduces transmission time and cost.

Today 16 submarine cables connect Africa to America, Europe and Asia, and international connectivity no longer presents a significant problem, reports Steve Song, founder of Village Telco, an initiative to build low-cost telephone network hardware and software. This has allowed countries to share information, both within the continent and worldwide, more directly. It has created more space for innovation, research and education.

“Networks have ended the isolation of African scientists and researchers. You now have access to information from the more developed countries, and this is changing the way people think,” says Meoli Kashorda, director of the Kenya Education Network.

Internet penetration on the continent has not kept pace with mobile phone diffusion. In 2016 only 22% of the continent’s population used the Internet, compared to a global average of 44%, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency that deals with issues concerning information and communication technologies. And only 11% of Africans could access 3G internet, which allows mobile operators to offer a high data-processing speed.

Access to technology

The ITU notes that the people most likely to have access to digital technology in Africa are males living in urban areas or coastal cities where undersea fibres are available.

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, estimates that if Internet access reaches the same level of penetration as mobile phones, Africa’s GDP could get a boost of up to $300 billion. Other experts concur that better access to technology could be a game changer for development and the closing of the income inequality gap in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the richest 60% are almost three times more likely to have internet access than the bottom 40%, and those in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have access as those in rural areas, according to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016.

The World Bank’s development report of 2016 notes that digital dividends, which it describes as “broader development benefits from using these technologies” have not been evenly distributed. “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access,” maintains the Bank.

Businesses that incorporate digital technologies into their practices will create jobs and boost earnings, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). The bank reported in 2016 that two million jobs will be created in the ICT sector in Africa by 2021. Analyst programmers, computer network professionals, and database and system administrators will find jobs in the sector.

Although the World Bank paints a less rosy picture for digital dividends in Africa, the potential for millions of jobs in the sector is encouraging news for the continent’s youths, who make up 60% of Africa’s unemployed and are jobless at a rate double that of adults. Youths can easily take advantage of the jobs that digital revolution brings, says Bitange Ndemo, a former permanent secretary in Kenya’s ministry of information and Communication.

Technology can also help bridge inequalities caused by the education gap. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and about 11 are out of school, along with one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and about 14. Almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and about 17 are not in school.

On the bright side, as mobile Internet access expands, so will the Internet’s potential to narrow the continent’s education gap. E-learning continues to grow due to its affordability and accessibility.

In fact, IMARC Group, a market research company with offices in India, the UK and the US, reported earlier in 2017 that the e-learning market in Africa will be worth $1.4 billion by 2022. It will improve the education level of Africa’s workforce that will contribute positively to the continent’s economies.

Eneza Education, for example, a Kenya-based learning platform, surpassed one million users in 2016. The platform allows users to access learning materials using various devices. They can access courses and quizzes via text messages for only 10 Kenyan shillings ($.10) per week. Eneza caters to students and teachers in rural areas where opportunities are limited.

Also, Samsung’s Smart Schools initiative equips schools around the world with tablets, PCs and other devices, and builds solar-powered schools in rural areas. Currently 78 Smart Schools are operating in 10 African nations, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. The company’s strategy is to encourage underprivileged students to use digital devices.

With women 50% less likely to use the internet than men, some organisations are now making efforts to attract women to the digital world. Digital technologies can provide opportunities for women in the informal job market by connecting them to employment opportunities.

Analogue complements

High digital penetration is good, but good governance, a healthy business climate, education and health, also known as “analogue complements,” will ensure a solid foundation for adopting digital technologies and more effectively addressing inequalities, advises the World Bank. Even with increased digital adoption, the Bank says, countries neglecting analogue complements will not experience a boost in productivity or a reduction in inequality.

“Not making the necessary reforms means falling farther behind those that do, while investing in both technology and its complements is the key to digital transformation,” notes Bouthenia Guermazi, ICT practice manager at the World Bank.

Yet digital migration is receiving pushback from obsolete analogue operators who are concerned about the risks of digitizing. Automation poses a threat to those whose jobs can be done by cheaper and more efficient machines, a phenomenon that primarily affects already disadvantaged groups. For example, many banks and insurance companies have automated customer services.

The United Nations has set the goal of connecting all the world’s inhabitants with affordable, high-speed internet by 2020. Likewise, the African Union launched a 10-year mission in 2014 to encourage countries to transition to innovation-led, knowledge-based economies. This mission is part of its ambitious Agenda 2063, aimed at transforming the continent’s socioeconomic and political fortunes.

Rwanda is leading the charge via its Vision 2020 programme, which aims at developing the country into a knowledge-based middle-income country by 2020. Earlier this year, Rwanda rolled out its Digital Ambassadors Programme, which will hire and train about 5,000 youths to teach digital skills to five million people in the rural areas.

Unfortunately, digitization ranks low on the priority lists of many developing countries. And according to a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), productivity gains from digitalization may accrue mainly to those already wealthy and skilled, which is typical in internet platform-based economies, where network effects (additional value for service as more people use it) benefit first movers and standard setters.

In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, an intergovernmental economic organization of 35 countries, where the digital economy has evolved the most, growing use of ICT has been accompanied by an increasing income gap between rich and poor.

The UNCTAD report also states that developing the right ICT policies depends on countries’ readiness to engage in and benefit from the digital economy, but the least-developed countries are the least prepared. To ensure that more people and enterprises in developing countries have the capacity to participate effectively, the international community will need to expand its support.

Guermazi urges leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to transforming their countries rather than rely on ad hoc initiatives.

“Digital dividends are within reach,” Guermazi insists. “The outlook for the future is bright.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

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Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Indigenous Peoples Recover Native Languages in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/indigenous-peoples-recover-native-languages-mexico/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 09:22:22 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155818 Ángel Santiago is a Mexican teenager who speaks one of the variations of the Zapotec language that exists in the state of Oaxaca, in the southwest of Mexico. Standing next to the presidential candidate who is the favorite for the July elections, he calls for an educational curriculum that “respects our culture and our languages.” […]

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Fighting Inequality in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-inequality-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 13:46:12 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155771 Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15 2018 (IPS)

Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s remarkable economic success story belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, could thwart our ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge heads of state and government will be considering this week at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A strengthened regional approach to more sustainable, inclusive growth must be this Commission’s outcome.

Shamshad Akhtar

It’s imperative, because ESCAP’s Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows that at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There has been some welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region. Healthier lives are being led and wellbeing has increased. Poverty levels are declining, albeit too slowly. But only one SDG, focused on achieving quality education and lifelong learning, is on track to be met.

In several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction. Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.

Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.

The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. There’s no silver bullet, no handy lever we can reach for to reduce it overnight. But an integrated, coordinated approach can over time return our economies and our societies to a sustainable footing. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations on how to do just that.

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education.

Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society.

Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.

Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.

This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution. Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.

The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted. More effective taxations systems would increase the tax take, and better governance would increase people’s willingness to contribute. Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.

My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

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Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

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While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2018 (IPS)

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

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“I Wake Up Screaming”: Gaza’s Children Bear the Brunt of Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 05:33:48 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155696 Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood. “In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). In a […]

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Palestinian child on donkey cart next to garbage container in Gaza City. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2018 (IPS)

Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

“In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

In a recent study, NRC found that children living in the Gaza Strip are experiencing are showing increasing signs of psychosocial deterioration since clashes reignited in the region.

“The violence children are witnessing in Gaza comes on top of an already worsening situation negatively impacting their mental wellbeing,” said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

“They have faced three devastating wars and have been living under occupation for the past 11. Now they are once again faced with the horrifying prospect of losing their loved ones, as they see more and more friends and relatives getting killed and injured,” he continued.

Now in their sixth week, ongoing protests at the border between Gaza and Israel have left over 40 killed and more than 5,500 injured since its inception in March.

While Palestinian demonstrators are reportedly using burning tires and wirecutters to breach the barbed-wire border fence, Israeli forces have retaliated with rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Dubbed the ‘Great Return March,’ the demonstrations are centered on Palestinian refugees’ right to return and resettle in Israel.

NRC’s study—which saw 300 school children aged 10 to 12 surveyed—found that 56 per cent reported they were suffering from nightmares.

Principals from 20 schools also reported a rise in symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children, including fears, anxiety, stress and nightmares.

The principals ranked increased psychosocial support in schools as their top need currently.

One of the many schools in Gaza damaged in Israeli attacks. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS

Qudaih is fourteen and lives in the Gaza strip. She has suffered from ongoing nightmares since the 2014 Gaza-Israeli conflict.

She was making progress in coping with her trauma, but much was unravelled after her father was shot in the leg while attending the protests.

On the day that Qudaih’s father was shot, Israeli troops killed 20 Palestinian protesters and wounded more than 700 – including children.

“We went there [to the protests] to reclaim our rights that were taken away by the occupation…we do not have electricity, rights or food. We don’t get any treatment or a chance to play,” Qudaih said.

Since 2007, Gaza has faced an economic blockade by Israel and Egypt, contributing to a persistent humanitarian crisis.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), half of the region’s children depend on humanitarian assistance and one in four needs pscyhosocial care.

The United States’ recent move to cut aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees further threatens the already very fragile community.

In addition, there is a lack of medicine and health equipment while power cuts and fuel shortages have disrupted water and sanitation services leaving nine out of 10 families without regular access to safe water.

If such trends continue, the UN has predicted that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.

Inconsolable since the incident, Qudaih constantly worries about the safety of her family and her future.

And her nightmares keep on returning.

Sadly, her story is not a unique for the children living in the Gaza strip.

“The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere.

Apart from the symptoms of severe distress and trauma, Geert added that children are also experiencing physical injuries.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub was among the children that was killed in the protests, significantly impacting the younger members of his family and the larger community.

“Children belong in schools, homes and playgrounds – they should never be targeted or encouraged to participate in violence,” Cappelaere said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of “lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” while questioning “how children…can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”

NRC highlighted the need for long-term investment in psychosocial suppor. t

“For the children we work with, the nightmares continue for months and years after the violence that causes them. For these children they don’t have a chance to recover from previous trauma before fresh layers arise. That builds up,” said Jon-Håkon Schultz, Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Tromsø in Norway.

“We need people to look seriously and invest in ways that we can counter these harmful psychological impacts,” he added.

The NRC provides psychosocial support to children living in Gaza and provide training for teachers through their Better Learning Programme (BLP) developed in partnership with University of Tromsø in Norway.

One of the features of the program involved screening children for nightmares and helping them work through their re-occurring ones through breathing and drawing exercises.

Qudaih is among the 250,000 children supported by NRC.

“We want to have dignified lives,” she said, urging the need for peaceful demonstrations.

The ‘Great Return March’ began on 30 March and will end on 15 May to mark what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba”, a day that commemorates Palestinians’ displacement after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Marchers have also pointed to the relocation fo the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as a driver for the demonstration, a move that will take place on 15 May.

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Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

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By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

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Protests, Strikes, Solidarity – France Revisits May ‘68http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 11:44:19 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155633 “It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.” Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were […]

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Nanterre conference poster. Credit: SAES

By A. D. McKenzie
NANTERRE, France, May 5 2018 (IPS)

“It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.”

Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were the speakers at the free public event, “Solidarité et Alliances”, to commemorate 50 years since the massive May 1968 civil unrest, which paralysed the French economy through nation-wide strikes and demonstrations.

As they spoke at a packed theatre, students were blocking buildings at nearby Paris Nanterre University, hence Ali’s comments. Similar action has been taking place at universities in Paris and other cities such as Toulouse and Rennes.

Echoing 1968, France is currently gripped by a series of strikes involving railway employees and other workers, while students are demonstrating against the government’s higher-education reforms that would make admittance to public universities more selective.

American civil rights icon Dr. Angela Davis. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

The students say the changes are contrary to the French tradition of offering all high school graduates a place at public universities and would adversely affect poorer students, who are already underrepresented on campuses. The government’s stance is that reform is necessary to deal with a high drop-out rate and overcrowded institutions.

Rail workers, meanwhile, object to the restructuring of the national railway company, the SNCF. On Labour Day, May 1, street marches in Paris erupted in violence, with masked far-Left “anarchist” agitators burning vehicles and smashing shop windows.

The widespread protests coincide with several conferences and cultural programmes that are reflecting on themes of revolution in remembrance of “May ‘68”.

Davis, for instance, will be back in France next month as the keynote speaker at a conference at Paris Nanterre University titled “Revolution(s)”. The organizers – La Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) – are hoping the campus will by then be accessible to the 400 expected participants.

“Nanterre as a town doesn’t have much of a historical aspect; it’s not like Paris or Bordeaux. The one thing we have here is the university and the ’68 protests,” said Bernard Cros, the main organizer of the meeting and a lecturer in British and Commonwealth studies.

The 1968 student demonstrations actually started at Nanterre, when students occupied an administrative building to protest class discrimination and other societal issues. Subsequent confrontations with the university administration and law enforcement agents led to additional universities and the public joining the protests, and, at the height of the May ’68 movement, more than 10 million workers were on strike in France.

Fifty years later, the current protests at Nanterre began when a group of students occupied a classroom in April to voice disapproval of the government’s reforms. The situation escalated when the university’s president called in the police to remove them, and officers in riot gear descended on the university. That in turn caused others to join the protest in solidarity.

Since then, students have shut down the campus. Visitors can see iron barricades in front of doorways, along with graffiti such as “Make Nanterre great again”, a paraphrasing of the slogan used by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and that used by French President Emmanuel Macron to show his support for climate action (“Make our planet great again”).

The conference with Davis may not make the university “great again” but her presence in France generates huge interest among students, faculty and the public.

Cros said that Davis’s name was the “first that came to mind” when Nanterre was chosen as the 2018 site of the annual congress of the SAES – an academic association for those researching and teaching English language, literatures and culture. The university awarded Davis an honorary doctorate in 2014, so she is “already linked” to the institution, he added.

“What is not revolutionary about Angela Davis is what you have to ask,” Cros said in an interview. “Where would the world be without people like her? She put her own safety on the line. It raises questions about what it means to be politically committed. Whether you agree with all her views or not, this is something that attracts support.”

Doorways barricaded at Paris Nanterre University. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Indeed some 900 people filled the Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre at the May 3 event where Davis and Ali spoke (the event is separate from the coming university conference). As the activists walked onto the stage, there was deafening applause and several young people leapt to their feet with shouts of appreciation.

“I’m not a person who tends to be inspired by nostalgia, but sometimes I find myself wanting that closeness (from 1968) again,” said Davis, in response to a question from one of the evening’s moderators about whether the “historical memory of ‘68” could help the world to imagine a better future.

“I don’t know if you know my story, but I needed some solidarity myself … I take solidarity very seriously,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be here this evening.”

Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and active in the civil rights movement before and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in April 1968. Later, in 1970, guns she had bought were used by a high-school student when he took over a courtroom to demand the freeing of black prisoners including his brother, and left the building with hostages, including the judge.

In a subsequent shootout with police, the perpetrator, two defendants he had freed and the judge were killed, and Davis was arrested following a huge manhunt, and charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder” of the judge, although she had not been in the courtroom.

She declared her innocence, and sympathisers in the United States and other countries, including France, mobilised to demand her freedom. After being incarcerated for 16 months, she was released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges in 1972.

During the theatre discussion, Davis described the civil rights struggles in which she had participated, highlighting the gender battles in particular, and pointing out that the U.S. civil rights movement was “very much informed” by what was happening around the world at the time.

For Tariq Ali, the ’68 movement was a time of international solidarity. In contrast, “there is very little solidarity with the Arab countries” at present, he said.

Speaking of conflicts in the Middle East, Ali said: “All these wars create refugees … then you give the refugees a kick in the backside and say ‘we don’t want you’.”

He said that citizens should demand of countries that if they start a war they should “take 100,000” refugees.

Many in the audience reacted with applause to these words. (In another university near Paris -at Saint Denis – migrants have occupied a building for several months, largely with the support of students who’re also demonstrating).

Outside the theatre, the “revolutionary” fervor is continuing. General strikes are expected to last throughout May and June, and the Nanterre students have voted to continue the protests until May 7 for now.

“The university is a very mixed population, and some support the demonstrations while others don’t,” Cros told IPS. “But nearly everyone understands the reasons for the protests. If you tell students: ‘we’re not spending money on you’, what is the message you’re sending them?”

With more than 2 million students in higher education, France ranks 19th among 26 developed countries for the quality of the sector, according to statistics from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other observers note that funding for public universities is decreasing. (The government has promised increased financing).

Meanwhile, some students just want to get on with their lives. One third-year student said that while he understood the motivations of his protesting peers, his concern was to take his exams and finish his programme.

“I’ve been preparing for a long time,” he said. “For me personally, all this is tough.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

 

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Kenya- Overcoming Rivalry & Conflict Through Cultural Diplomacyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kenya-overcoming-rivalry-conflict-cultural-diplomacy/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 12:54:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155510 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta (centre) with host Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok (second right) and Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki (second left). Credit: Jared Nyataya | NATION

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

Cultural diplomacy is a soft power that promotes the exchange of ideas, information, art, and culture to strengthen friendship and cooperation among nations and communities.

One of the best examples of such cultural diplomacy is the American education airlift programme of the early 1960s – a programme now considered a good example of successful cultural diplomacy – which benefited many young Kenyans, including a young Kenyan scholar who married an American. Their son went on to become the father of the 44th President of the US.

The son of this Kenyan scholar, – US President Barack Obama, presided over a fundamental shift towards public and cultural diplomacy, that was credited with milestones such as limiting Iran’s nuclear energy programme, in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Barack Obama, 10, and his father, also named Barack Obama. Obama’s father left the family to study at Harvard. Credit: The Associated Press

He often defended this approach as a successful diplomatic mission “committed to increasing people-to-people contacts and paying more attention to differences in cultures and values”. Unlike previous administrations, President Obama chose to persuade others through values and ideas, as opposed to flaunting military might.

A similar approach is being used in Kenya’s northern frontier, where the charm of soft power is slowly replacing the aggressive and violent conflicts among traditional adversaries. For a long time, a recurrent and perennial conflict has existed, especially during dry seasons. Neighbours in the arid region have continued to clash over access to key water and grazing resources.

In the meantime, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition trafficked into the country have escalated cultural practices such as cattle raids, turning them into deadly confrontations, while the re-drawing of administrative and electoral boundaries have provided more flashpoints for ethnic conflicts.

Now leaders in the area are taking a cue from history, with the interaction of peoples, the exchange of cultural practices, language, religion, ideas and arts being identified as a pathway towards improved relations between the ethnic groups. Through the annual Turkana Cultural Festival, former enemies are bonding relationships and realising that their differences are simply artificial.

The Turkana cultural festival, is a colourful 3-day event showcasing the region’s art, sports and music. Among the regular visitors to the festival are governors, minister and members of legislative assemblies from the neighbouring counties, a positive move not just towards building cultural bridges, but finding common ground and shared desires for the region’s economic prosperity and national cohesion.

This year on 19 April 2018, the border communities and their leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, which was branded Tobong’u Lore(Turkana for welcome home) by the county government.

“I was honored by the presence of Her Excellency The First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta and the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr William Ruto. Their presence gave a very special touch to the event” said Turkana County Governor Honorable Josphat Nanok.

Recent discourse from leaders has noticeably moved from belligerence, to forging of trade relationships, and unifying the region’s populations. No less than seven Governors, elders, ministers, some from counties previously seen as rivals of the Turkana, attended this year’s edition of the Turkana Festival.

“This festival is to celebrate peace. These are neighbors who have been fighting over pasture for their livestock and boundaries, but since we started this festival we have seen peace gradually return,” added Governor Nanok.

The festivals are providing the communities with a forum to embrace the different values and needs of diverse cultures. Gradually, each festival is seen as a peace-building and soft power tool in communities previously marked by ethnic conflict and isolationism.

There is also another crucial initiative, which is drawing former foes together in the border region between Kenya and Ethiopia. The Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

The populations in Marsabit County, and the Borana/Dawa are largely pastoralists and their movement transcends national and international boundaries. This movement has often led to clashes over resources, pitting people who share a common cultural background against each other.

Early successes include the strengthening of peace communities with members from across the two countries, which have gained wide legitimacy.

As the Cross Border Programme activities gain traction and the communities engage in legitimate business, their inter-dependence will slowly erode the temptation to fall back on the safety of tribal enclaves.

Advances in communication continue to render physical barriers irrelevant, there is no better opportunity to move cultural diplomacy out of the periphery, and into the forefront of diplomacy. As the true window to the soul, culture must now be the premier option for solving conflict around the globe.

The First Lady Margaret Kenyatta underscored the need to preserve the diversity of the country’s rich cultural heritage, saying it enhances Kenya’s identity at the global arena. She said in promoting culture, focus must be placed on positive values that boost peace and harmony.

Kenya is showing the way.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Africa’s Millennials Using Technology to Drive Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africas-millennials-using-technology-drive-change/#respond Fri, 27 Apr 2018 10:43:10 +0000 Eleni Mourdoukoutas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155507 Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Young people are using technology to change society. Credit: Alamy

By Eleni Mourdoukoutas
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2018 (IPS)

When some 276 teenage girls were kidnapped from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, Oby Ezekwesili, a civil society activist and former World Bank vice president, was disheartened by the lacklustre response of her government and local television stations.

Ms. Ezekwesili and others decided to take to social media to demand action from the government. They emphasized their point with a march to the national assembly in the capital, Abuja.

Within three weeks, the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign put the girls’ kidnapping front and centre on the world stage: the Twitter hashtag had been used over one million times, including by notable influencers former US first lady Michelle Obama and girls’ rights activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. The grassroots movement proved instrumental in pressuring the Nigerian government to acknowledge the kidnapping and to commit more resources to rescuing the girls.

Technology and young people

Beginning with the Arab Spring in 2011, young Africans have been using technology to mobilise around issues affecting them. Images of young Africans assembled in protest, mobilising around hashtags, are now commonplace on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Professor Alcinda Honwana, inter-regional advisor on social development policy at the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), cites the immediacy of social media as a key factor in mobilising large numbers of people and catalysing change.

“Without the internet and social media, it would be very difficult to organise a huge rally in 48 hours,” Prof. Honwana told Africa Renewal in an interview. Social media enables organizers to have a major impact on society, she said, “because you can assemble large numbers of society very quickly and differently from what you would do when you had to go to the streets or knock on doors or put up flyers.”

Young people’s political activism probably safeguarded the integrity of the 2016 election in The Gambia. They began using the hashtag #GambiaHasDecided when former president Yahya Jammeh refused to vacate his office and hand over power after suffering electoral defeat.

In addition to spreading the word over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the anti-Jammeh campaign also encouraged citizens to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan. “Social media has forever changed the dynamics of politics in Africa,” Raffie Diab, one of the campaign’s founding leaders, told Africa Renewal.

In October 2014, young people organised over social media against Blaise Compaoré, then president of Burkina Faso, who was planning to change the constitution to allow him to run for another two terms, thereby extending his 27-year tenure.

The emergence of the movements Ça suffit (That’s Enough) and Le balai citoyen (the Citizen’s Broom) marked the first time since the Arab Spring that popular movements managed to unseat an African president.

Driving transparency

Likewise, young people in Senegal have drawn attention to the country’s high unemployment rate over social media, and their protests galvanised the population to vote out President Abdoulaye Wade in the 2012 election.

Just as citizens broadcast the abuses of government with video and photographic evidence during the Arab Spring, Africa’s younger generation is taking advantage of tech-based strategies to drive accountability and transparency.

One example of this is Livity Africa, a South Africa–based nonprofit organisation whose aim is to amplify authentic youth voices and concerns, in part through its nationwide media channel, “Live Magazine” SA.

Launched in 2011, the channel highlights issues that are overlooked by mainstream media, and it encourages government accountability via its weekly “Live from Parliament” segment.

Similarly, the Nigeria-based SMS and web platform “Shine Your Eye” facilitates public engagement with parliamentarians and other elected officials by providing access to their track records.

By sending a free SMS message to the platform’s dedicated number or visiting its website, anyone can get detailed information on the record of a public official. African leaders themselves are also now using technology to attract young people to their campaigns.

Voters under the age of 35 made up 51% of the entire electorate in the 2017 election in Kenya, and the number of voters in the 26–35 age range had more than doubled since 2013, according to data from the electoral commission.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta maintains active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and his supporters say his modern communication tactics are “demystifying the presidency.”

In an unprecedented break from his predecessor Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has wasted no time in engaging directly with Zimbabweans over social media, regularly posting comments on Facebook that address concerns raised by his constituents. Mr. Mugabe famously did not own a smartphone.

Mr. Mnangagwa is gaining popularity for posting short videos on his Facebook and Twitter accounts in which he encourages citizens to message their thoughts as part of a “new national dialogue,” maintaining that leadership is a “two-way street.” The digital approach is exciting many Zimbabweans who are eager to get the president’s attention.

While young people in recent years have become the most politically engaged on the continent, their involvement has been primarily through protests and activism rather than voting.

Negative effects

Youth engagement with social media also has its negative effects. “Sadly, [social] media is not often used wisely by youth,” notes the Africa Alliance of the Young Men Christian Association, a leading pan-African youth development network.

It adds that, “Instead, increasing reports reflect that young people use these virtual spaces as platforms for cyber bullying, violence and intimidation.” The association maintains that this is “an age of unprecedented access to explicit images and videos” that can have a harmful influence on the youth.

In 2016, the African Development Bank, a multilateral development finance institution, reported that by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, and that all 38 will have median populations under 25 years of age. Experts believe that the youth vote will determine election outcomes in a few years.

Campaigns encouraging young people to vote span the continent. In 2014, South Africa’s electoral commission launched the “I Voted” campaign, which encouraged voters to take a picture of their marked thumb and post on social media with the hashtag #IVoted. The hashtag boasted more than 30,000 uses on Twitter.

Not a cure-all

However, Prof. Honwana warns that social media is not a cure-all for apathy. In the case of South Africa, the national South African statistical service reported that young people accounted for only 18% of total voters in the 2016 local government elections, despite those under the age of 35 making up 66% of the total population.

She asserts that while social media can be a useful tool for conveying the importance of voting, young people will not take up ballots over mobile devices unless they believe that their votes will bring about real change in their lives.

In the 2016 presidential election in the Gambia, for instance, young people largely supported Adama Barrow, who challenged Mr. Jammeh, because they thought Mr. Barrow would bring about a change in governance. “I just know Barrow will be different. He’s listening to us,” 25-year-old Gambian voter Haddy Ceesay told The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper.

Still, Prof. Honwana does not see social media as just a trend. “If we are talking about young people, I think everything that will happen from now on is going to be through social media. That’s where they live,” she said.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information

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Excerpt:

Eleni Mourdoukoutas writes for Africa Renewal*

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Over to You, Children! Zambia’s ‘Plant a Million Trees’ Takes Roothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/children-zambias-plant-million-trees-takes-root/#respond Tue, 24 Apr 2018 00:38:06 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155418 Trees are a vital component in the ecosystem—they not only give oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give refuge to wildlife, but also provide materials for tools, shelter and ultimately, food for both animals and human beings. In fact, according to the World Bank statistics, some 1.3 billion people around the world depend on […]

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Matero East primary school students collecting water. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

By Friday Phiri
LUSAKA, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Trees are a vital component in the ecosystem—they not only give oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give refuge to wildlife, but also provide materials for tools, shelter and ultimately, food for both animals and human beings.

In fact, according to the World Bank statistics, some 1.3 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihood—that is a fifth of the global population. This includes income from the sale of trees and tree-related products. It also includes the value of fruit, fodder, medicines, and other direct or indirect products that they consume.

In monetary terms, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates the annual net benefit of restoring 150 million hectares of land at approximately 85 billion dollars per year. Additionally, it would sequester massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

However, it is globally recognised that forest restoration requires an integrated approach which appreciates and understands forests along their entire value chain. Thus, it is crucial to see forest landscape restoration efforts as much more than just protecting forests, but as a force for economic growth and poverty reduction.

It is from this background that several game-changing initiatives such as the decade-long United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)’s Great Green Wall, UN REDD plus strategy for carbon trading, and national governments’ annual tree planting exercises are being implemented to restore the world’s degraded landscapes and in the process transform millions of lives.

Seedlings thrive at Chunga School. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

For Zambia, the forestry sector contributes significantly to household incomes for forest dependent communities, particularly in rural areas. Nationally, according to recent data by the Integrated Land Use Assessment (ILUA) project, the forestry sector contributes 5.5% to GDP.

But for a country which boasts 44 million hectares of forests covering 58.7 percent of the total land surface area, 5.5% contribution to GDP is not good enough. And an alarming annual deforestation rate of 276,021 hectares confirms this challenge that require immediate attention.

“Growing population and economic pressure has increased demand for economic and social development, forcing people to just take from the environment instead of growing from it,” says Richard Jeffery, a conservation expert. Jeffery believes “Plant A Million” (PAM) initiative could reverse this trend as it is promoting an economic benefit model.

What is PAM?

“Plant A Million” (PAM) aims to plant at least two billion trees by 2021. According to Emmanuel Chibesakunda, PAM initiator, sponsor and project manager, the vision is to accelerate and scale up a tree-based economy for socio-economic change in Zambia and mitigate climate change impacts.

“Plant A Million is a joint public-private tree planting initiative that is promoting a tree-based economy and sustainable development through local school and community participation,” Chibesakunda told IPS. “This initiative focuses on developing the future of Zambia with the full set of skills and know how, through promoting thought leadership and innovation, social responsibility, leadership skills and helping children to connect to the world.”

Therefore, he adds, the project has taken a deliberate strategy to entrust the future in the hands of future leaders—children, thus the emphasis on public schools and community participation.

Under this strategy, he says, education and attitude change are key project outcomes:

“We want to shift away from the focus on number of trees planted as the wrong success factors. Key is how many trees survive the critical first two years, and the value they add to the community. Our focus is attitude change, and it has to start with the future leaders—children.”

Children as key players

There is a common adage in one of Zambia’s local languages, Bemba, which states: imiti ikula empanga, loosely translated as “today’s seedlings are tomorrow’s forests.” In a nutshell, the values being imparted in today’s children will determine the future world view.

Roy Lombe, an educator, believes that today’s seedlings have to be well nurtured through a practical hands-on approach. “Our generation has mishandled forests due to poor attitude, and so we don’t want to fall in the same trap,” he says. “Once they learn the value of a tree while young, they will not depart from it when they grow into adults.”

Confirming this nurture-analogy, is Maureen Chibenga, a 16-year-old Grade Eleven pupil at Lake Road PTA School.

“When the project team came to our school, I did not hesitate to be a champion, as my interest in trees dates back to my early life family values—farming,” Chibenga told IPS. “My grandfather has a farm, my father has a farm, so I saw this as an opportunity to grow my knowledge of trees and their value to humanity.”

For 15-year-old Subilo Banda, also in Grade Eleven at the same school, his motivation, he says, is to correct the wrongs of the past.

“I think our generation is open-minded. The old generation’s mistakes have taught us what we know. That’s why I think it is a very good idea to start with us in terms of mindset change,” he says, adding that there is a better possibility for his generation to embrace a ‘green’ lifestyle due to this early exposure and education.

As an incentive, the schools involved will be earning an income. Chilando Chella, Lake Road PTA School Manager, cannot wait for this exciting opportunity to make extra cash: “We have targeted to raise 50,000 seedlings this year from which we expect to earn thousands of kwacha. And we plan to plough back this money into skills training, for we know that not all of our learners will end up in the formal sector.”

So far, the project has already reached out to 12 schools with 15,000 students in Lusaka district, who are growing 500,000 tree seedlings. A further 132 schools are on standby to be included in the program within the next eight months with the target from the vice president to reach 720 schools in all 10 provinces in the next two years involving approximately one million children.

Zambian Vice President Inonge Wina (right), with Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Jean Kapata, during the launch of the 2018 tree planting exercise. Credit: Munich Advisors Group

Government buy-in

With the project announced by Republican Vice President in February 2018 during the National Tree Planting day, almost all ministries are already keyed-in. Strategic among them are the Ministries of National Development Planning (overall coordination), General Education and High Education (Schools, Colleges and Universities), and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, which holds the forestry sector portfolio.

Professor Nkandu Luo is the Minister of Higher Education. With a considered view that her ministry is the bedrock on which development is anchored, Professor Luo also believes the project is in tandem with, and supports the value system agenda that government is promoting, as espoused in the country’s constitution.

“Honesty and hard work are some of the key values that our constitution is promoting, and I think this project is timely in this regard. Teaching our young ones to learn the value of hard work, of honesty and being able to earn based on one’s input and not expecting to earn where one has not sown. So, this project will be used by the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs to push the value system agenda as advocated in our constitution.”

Meanwhile, for the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the approach of not looking at plantations but individuals is very important, considering the high deforestation rate that the country is recording.

“I am not afraid to mention here, and let me put it on record, that for as long as we do not provide alternative energy solutions for our people, they will continue cutting trees,” laments Jean Kapata, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources.

“But I am happy to report that we have started looking at several alternative options one of which is the bamboo for charcoal which we believe will be a game changer if well implemented.”

According to Kapata, government is considering scaling up plantations of some fast-growing bamboo species which can be harvested starting at four years and can go on up to fifty years.

However, attitude change requires information. And Dora Siliya, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, argues for a narrative change regarding the climate change and development discourse.

“We have been looking at this climate change issue wrongly, only thinking about how to mitigate, adapt and conserve, we have not thought of what wealth and jobs can be created from this agenda…so it is time we took a different approach as communicators on how to publicise these issues for mindset change, and this ministry is taking a lead on that front.”

In terms of scale, PAM is an ambitious project that could change Zambia’s forestry landscape forever. However, with several initiatives undertaken in the past, which have seemingly not achieved the desired results, there is always room for caution.

Finnish Ambassador to Zambia Timo Olkkonen provides some guidance to the PAM initiators:

“Finland has directly and indirectly contributed to Zambia’s efforts to have sustainably managed forests, over the last 50 years of development cooperation between the two countries. However, some of the projects and programmes have not been hugely successful; it is therefore imperative for you to understand reasons why some of the initiatives of the past have not yielded much results, there are key lessons to be learnt.”

As the project awaits its official launch by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu later this month, the children already involved are keen to be key influencers.

“I wouldn’t blame charcoal makers for it is a source of livelihood for some of them, but let them learn to plant more than what they cut,” says 15-year-old Mutwiva Upeme, Grade Eleven pupil at Chunga School. “Thank you for letting us get involved—we are the future!”

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Child Soldiers Released, But Risk Remainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-soldiers-released-risk-remains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-soldiers-released-risk-remains/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 16:22:15 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155369 More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency. The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed. Both releases are part […]

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Child soldiers released by armed groups in Yambio, South Sudan. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 child soldiers were released by armed groups in war-torn South Sudan, and help will be needed to ensure their safe and bright future, according to a UN agency.

The release took place in Western Equatoria State and follows a similar release last month that saw 300 children freed.

Both releases are part of a series, supported by the UN’s children’s agency (UNICEF), that will see 1,000 children freed from armed groups.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan.

“For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future,” he said.

Laying Down of the Guns

During a ceremony, known as the ‘laying down of the guns,’ the released children were formally disarmed and given civilian clothes.

The 112 boys and 95 girls that were disarmed were from the South Sudan National Liberation Movement and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children. But the work does not stop here.” Mdoe said.

“The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

Counselling and Psychological Services

UNCIEF says that the priority will now be medical screenings, counseling and psychosocial services.

Recent research from Child Soldiers International, a rights group that aims to stop and end all child recruitment, illuminated some of the horrific realities that children face when they fall in with armed groups.

The report, based on interviews with ex-child soldiers, detailed everything form forced murders, spying on neighbors and family members, denial of education and healthcare to forced cannibalism.

For girls, the trauma can be even deeper. It was found that a majority suffered sexual abuse and violence. Rapes, forced marriages and pregnancy are all common for girls caught in armed groups.

Such experiences for girls, CSI reported, are compounded when they return home, as many are ostracized by their families and labelled ‘prostitutes’ by their communities.

“Every effort will be made to ensure the correct psychological services. There will be immense trauma to overcome.” Mdoe said.

Families will also need support in order to facilitate reintegration.

Other reintegration services

The children involved in this release will also have access to vocational training as well as age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centers.

Their families will also be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support reintegration.

The South Sudanese Government has committed to halt child recruitment by armed groups in the country.

Child recruitment ‘far from over’ in South Sudan

Yet despite their commitment and the U.N’s tally of releasing 2,000 children in the country, advocacy groups say that some 19,000 children remain caught in South Sudan’s armed forces and groups.

As peace talks resume, the UNICEF has called on all parties to the conflict to end the use of children and to release all children in their ranks.

But with conflict lingering into its sixth year in the world’s youngest nation, the risk that children will be used in fighting remains.

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FAO and El País Launch Series of Books on “The State of the Planet”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/fao-el-pais-launch-series-books-state-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-el-pais-launch-series-books-state-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/fao-el-pais-launch-series-books-state-planet/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:47:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155367 Today the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted an event at its headquarters in Rome, to present a set of eleven books jointly realized in collaboration with the Spanish newspaper El País. “El Estado del Planeta” (“The State of the Planet”) is a unique series of 11 books that will be published one at a […]

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The series of 11 books launched today by FAO and El País, in Rome. Credit: Maged Srour / IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Apr 20 2018 (IPS)

Today the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted an event at its headquarters in Rome, to present a set of eleven books jointly realized in collaboration with the Spanish newspaper El País.

“El Estado del Planeta” (“The State of the Planet”) is a unique series of 11 books that will be published one at a time each week starting from Sunday 22 April, 2018. The books aim to raise awareness on the most urgent challenges faced by humanity today and in the near future ranging from climate change to food security; protection of biodiversities to sustainable cities.

It is an “unprecedented editorial effort”, said Juan Luis Cebrián, President of El País who, together with Antonio Caño, Director of El País, René Castro Salazar, FAO Assistant Director General Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department and Enrique Yeves, FAO Director of Communications presented the editorial product to a large gathering of experts and diplomats attending the event at the Sheikh Zayed Centre at FAO headquarters.

During the event, speakers from FAO and EL País highlighted the excellent partnership between the two organizations that made this possible. The collaboration has led tp to the creation of a network of 250 collaborators working on the ground.

The series of books aim to be simple and comprehensive tools. that are full of infographics and images. Yeves explained that the team of 250 researchers in the field were able to gather a multitude of reliable data. “This data is explained well and it is comprehensible for everyone: it’s for the great audience” added Yeves. “At the same time, the large amount of sources cited in the bibliography is a precious tool for all those experts working on these issues who might need reliable analyses and sources” stated FAO Director of Communications.

“Our society is still not quite aware and we need to amplify these problems. The newspapers are not fulfilling their job of communicating the realities about these issues”
Antonio Caño, Director of El País
The speakers emphasized the urgency to address the issues that are covered in11 books and which entirely corresponds to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Antonio Caño described the massive responsibility of media outlets today, when it comes to addressing problems such as climate change, food waste, industrial pollution, education, and others.

“Our society is still not quite aware and we need to amplify these problems. The newspapers are not fulfilling their job of communicating the realities about these issues” he said. He added, “the social awareness over the struggle that our planet is facing, has been growing in recent years: millions of young people across the world are now much more interested in poverty, education and about the impact of climate change on our lives”.

Caño defined the launch of this series of 11 books as “an example of how the media – together with experts on these issues – can fulfill the responsibility that aims not only to guarantee the development of our planet but also to teach us how to respect our planet”.

The main message that emerged from the debate that took place at is that the digital and technological evolution and revolution are posing an incredibly high level of challenges. The intrusion of digital tools in all fields of the economy as well as in politics, has imposed a drastic change in business models that inevitably forced the media to modify the way it plans its activities.

These changes resulted in a lower level of quality of the contents produced by the media and increased an “elitarian communication”, as defined by Antonio Caño. “The traditional media has posed itself quite distant from society: it has started to talk to society from a sort of ‘podium’, and that is happening all around the world” said the Director of El País.

The discussion emphasized how the media today is still not able to properly address these urgent issues – such as climate change. The problem, according to speakers, is that these are topics which are not considered “profitable” by the industrial media. Therefore, the contents tend to address superficial issues or possibly huge catastrophes such as earthquakes and conflicts, not keeping in mind that climate change and global hunger are both human catastrophes as well.

Despite these grim reflections, there was also an optimistic perspective about these challenges. There is also a positive outcome of this crisis in reporting. The technological and digital developments have forced the media itself to do “new things”. It has forced the media to get closer to the people, asking them what they want to hear, read and watch, and that has become a new way of interaction between society and communicators, reducing the gap in “elitarian communication”.

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African Youth Demand a Seat at the Tablehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-youth-demand-seat-table http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/african-youth-demand-seat-table/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:43:40 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155348 Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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African youth participate at an international youth forum at the UN headquarters in New York. Credit: Africa Renewal/Shu Zhang

By Busani Bafana
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2018 (IPS)

A new wave is sweeping across Africa. Elections on the continent are increasingly yielding younger leadership than ever before. From presidents to ministers and governors, senators to members of parliament, Africa’s young people are demanding a seat at the political table.

The youth are using their large numbers to vote in younger leaders or leaders they feel will be sympathetic to their plight.

In Uganda, Proscovia Oromait was only 19 in 2012 when she became the world’s youngest MP, representing Usuk County in the Katakwi District. “What I said when I was younger was that in years to come, I will become the president. It’s just been my dream to become a leader of Uganda. And here I am, the youngest MP. And I’m so proud of what I am,” Ms. Oromait told the UK’s Independent newspaper in an interview.

In South Africa, Lindiwe Mazibuko, 37, was elected leader of the opposition in parliament in 2011, representing the Democratic Alliance. She became the first black woman to hold that position.

“There is no prosperity for our continent without a vibrant, diverse and truly competitive politics, founded upon excellence, transparency and commitment to the public good,” Ms. Mazibuko said in a TEDxEuston talk in January 2016.

There are more young leaders coming up in parliaments in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and others. And the August 2018 presidential election could give Zimbabwe’s political leadership a youthful makeover.

Forty-year-old Nelson Chamisa, the new leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, is angling to be Zimbabwe’s new leader. Were Mr. Chamisa to win, he would be one of Africa’s youngest democratically elected presidents.

Sixty percent of Zimbabwe’s 5.3 million registered voters in the watershed elections are under 40, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. It is a show of commitment by the youth to deciding a new course of governance after the leadership of Robert Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe, 94, was Africa’s oldest leader until he resigned as president in November last year, having ruled for 37 years.

A young voice

In a recent interview with the German radio station Deutsche Welle, Mr. Chamisa said, “It is young people who are the movers and shakers. We want to also see that in politics. We want our continent to be painted young. We want our continent to have a young voice.”

In a 2015 article for CNN, David E. Kiwuwa, an associate professor of international studies at Princeton University in the US, notes that “the average age of the ten oldest leaders [in Africa] is 78.5 compared to 52 for the world’s ten most-developed economies.”

On average, according to Mr. Kiwuwa, “only between 15% and 21% of [these African countries’] citizens were born when these presidents took the reins.”

Some Africans argue that “with age and longevity in office come wisdom, foresight and experience,” Mr. Kiwuwa writes. He further posits that, given opportunities in politics and other sectors, Africa’s youth can transform the continent. He regrets that the long tenures of older politicians continue to stifle the emergence of credible youthful successors.

Innocent Batsani Ncube, a 39-year-old Zimbabwean political scholar, echoes Mr. Kiwuwa’s sentiments, stressing that youth rarely get the attention of Africa’s political leaders, who do not believe young people can lead.

Older political elites believe they have all the solutions to development challenges, Mr. Ncube told Africa Renewal. “An example is the approach that those in leadership use to solve young people’s job problems. Their solutions mostly suit the elites, rather than the young people. There is limited consultation in ideation between the youth and the older leaders.”

Youth need a seat on the transformation train because of their energy and passion, argues Kuseni Dlamini in a paper published in 2013 by Ernst & Young, a UK-based professional services firm.

Energy and passion

“The single most important factor for continental growth is the energy and passion of young Africans who have a palpable sense of positive energy and optimism,” adds Mr. Dlamini, who is the chair of Times Media Group of South Africa and head of Massmart, a retailer affiliated with Walmart in the US.

“They [youth] are young entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists, academics, engineers, professionals. They do not want aid or charity. They want to unleash their full potential,” said Mr. Dlamini, who was named “Young Global Leader” in 2008 by the World Economic Forum, a recognition accorded “higher-performing leaders” who mentor other youth.

Africa’s population will be 1.6 billion by 2030, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the rapidly growing youth population will constitute 42% of that number. The youth will need opportunities to participate in politics, jobs and overall inclusion in development.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) says that one-third of Africa’s 420 million youths (those ages 15–35) are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed and only one in six young people is gainfully employed.

“While 10 to 12 million youths enter the workforce each year [in Africa], only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed. The consequences of youth unemployment in Africa are pervasive and severe: unemployment translates to poorer living conditions, fuels migration out of Africa, and contributes to conflict on the continent itself,” notes the AfDB.

The AfDB adds that “the desired long-term outcome is expanded economic opportunity for both male and female African youth, which leads to improvements in other aspects of their lives.”

The bank therefore aims to create 25 million jobs through its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (2016–2025) and spur economic growth by empowering the youth to realize their full potential.

Disrupting the status quo

African youth are demanding a seat at the political table, but the agribusiness sector, which could be worth $1 trillion by 2030, according to the World Bank, is the low-hanging fruit.

The African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN), a business development company based in Accra, Ghana, wants youth to innovate and lead the continent’s economic transformation.

Ralph von Kaufmann, an agribusiness mentor and consultant with AAIN, says that “agribusiness presents opportunities for youths and women, but there is a need to create the right policies that facilitate their participation.”

Nthabiseng Kgobokoe, a young livestock and horticulture farmer in South Africa, told Africa Renewal that the first step must be to “include the youth in policy making. Education alone cannot address all our issues; there is a need to create conducive political and economic conditions for us to be successful young entrepreneurs.”

Ms. Kaobokoe said young entrepreneurs across Africa face similar challenges, including a lack of access to financing and other resources, red tape and inadequate policies to foster inclusive growth.

Policy makers forget that youth are the backbone of any socioeconomic and political development, stresses Ms. Kgobokoe.

Talented young people must step forward and be part of decision making, says Ms. Mazibuko. “We [in Africa] are emerging from that stereotype of a dark continent, the hopeless continent…. We must run for office, we must work in the civil service and we must disrupt the political status quo.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI).

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Excerpt:

Busani Bafana is a writer at Africa Renewal*

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A Child of War Dedicates Herself to Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-war-dedicates-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:22:06 +0000 Mary de Sousa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155315 UNESCO Courier*

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Dalia Al-Najjar, Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace. Credit: Vilde Media

By Mary de Sousa
PARIS, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

“I was so angry, I felt like I wanted to blow up the whole world, but I didn’t. I decided I wouldn’t be pushed to become evil. I would choose peace.”

Dalia Al-Najjar has crammed a great deal into her short life. At 22, the Palestinian refugee has already lived through three wars and has spent every spare moment between siege and ceasefire studying, volunteering, working, blogging, on the daily struggle to live in Gaza – and planning how to change the future.

A good deal of her energy goes into her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a non-partisan children’s charity dedicated to building trust, friendship and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 to 17, and their communities.

Dalia says she is fuelled by anger and hope, but also that she draws heavily on a family culture that values education. She has consciously used learning as a means to realize her dreams, the greatest of which is to find solutions to violence and hatred.

“My family has always made me aware that education is hugely important,” she said.

Dalia experienced her first siege when she was just 12, followed by two major conflicts.

“I was in ninth grade when the first war started, and everything fell apart. I didn’t understand: why were people killing each other? I thought it would last only a few weeks,” she said.

She continued to study throughout, finally graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Islamic University of Gaza, her life reduced to the intermittent bursts of electricity in the city.

“In those days I never went to school without watching the news first, and everything depended on the power schedule. So I woke up when there was electricity, or studied by candlelight, which destroyed my eyes. I would often fight with my brother and sister to get the candle.”

“Wars and Peace”, from the Cartooning for Peace international network of editorial cartoonists, supported by UNESCO.

The 2014 war proved a turning point for Dalia. “After the war, my ideas became much clearer. I didn’t want anybody else to have to live like this. I chose to be optimistic, because if not, I don’t live. Not living wasn’t a choice for me,” she said.

Dalia was invited on a short scholarship to the United States, and began a blog and YouTube show. She is also a member of the World Youth Alliance, a New York-based international coalition, which works with young people worldwide to build a culture that nurtures and supports the dignity of the person – through advocacy, education and culture.

But it is Dalia’s work as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace that has changed her most profoundly.

“It is easy to stay on your own side and demonize the other. Now I have Israeli friends and we realize we have been given different narratives, and we have to find our way through that together, using critical thinking,” she explained.

“Being on one side of a conflict makes it much easier to dehumanize someone than to accept that there is trauma on both sides.”

Now studying for her Master’s degree in Human Resources in Sakarya, Turkey, Dalia has an exciting new project. She attended the Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) conference in Oslo in 2017, as an ‘earthpreneur’ (someone who uses entrepreneurship to work towards a sustainable planet), where she was tasked with proposing a startup that addressed one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

When she learned that more people die as a result of waterborne diseases than from conflict, she co-founded Xyla Water Filtration Technologies. The company aims to commercialize a filter made from plant tissue that costs less than $10 and can provide clean water for a family of seven for a year.

And she has another goal. “I want to be prime minister,” she said, matter-of-factly.

*Available online since March 2006, the UNESCO Courier serves readers around the world in the six official languages of the Organization (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), and also in Esperanto and Portuguese. A limited number of issues are also produced in print.

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Excerpt:

UNESCO Courier*

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Africa Grapples With Huge Disparities in Educationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-grapples-huge-disparities-education/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-grapples-huge-disparities-education http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-grapples-huge-disparities-education/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 12:50:46 +0000 Zipporah Musau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155309 Africa Renewal*

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Students learn with tablets in a school in South Africa. Credit: AMO/Jackie Clausen

By Zipporah Musau
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

At the dawn of independence, incoming African leaders were quick to prioritize education on their development agendas. Attaining universal primary education, they maintained, would help post-independence Africa lift itself out of abject poverty.

As governments began to build schools and post teachers even to the farthest corners of the continent, with help from religious organizations and other partners, children began to fill the classrooms and basic education was under way.

Africa’s current primary school enrolment rate is above 80% on average, with the continent recording some of the biggest increases in elementary school enrolment globally in the last few decades, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is tasked with coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. More children in Africa are going to school than ever before.

Yet despite the successes in primary school enrolment, inequalities and inefficiencies remain in this critical sector.

According to the African Union (AU), the recent expansion in enrolments “masks huge disparities and system dysfunctionalities and inefficiencies” in education subsectors such as preprimary, technical, vocational and informal education, which are severely underdeveloped.

It is widely accepted that most of Africa’s education and training programs suffer from low-quality teaching and learning, as well as inequalities and exclusion at all levels. Even with a substantial increase in the number of children with access to basic education, a large number still remain out of school.

A newly released report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants and Consequences”, identifies the unequal distribution of essential facilities, such as schools, as one the drivers of wide income disparities.

Ayodele Odusola, the lead editor of the report and UNDP’s chief economist, makes the following point: “Quality education is key to social mobility and can thus help reduce poverty, although it may not necessarily reduce [income] inequality.”

To address education inequality, he says, governments must invest heavily in child and youth development through appropriate education and health policies and programmes.

Higher-quality education, he says, improves the distribution of skilled workers, and state authorities can use this increased supply to build a fairer society in which all people, rich or poor, have equal opportunities. As it is now, only the elites benefit from quality education.

“Wealthy leaders in Africa send their children to study in the best universities abroad, such as Harvard. After studies, they come back to rule their countries, while those from poor families who went to public schools would be lucky to get a job even in the public sector,” notes Odusola.

Another challenge facing policy makers and pedagogues is low secondary and tertiary enrolment. Angela Lusigi, one of the authors of the UNDP report, says that while Africa has made significant advances in closing the gap in primary-level enrolments, both secondary and tertiary enrolments lag behind.

Only four out of every 100 children in Africa is expected to enter a graduate and postgraduate institution, compared to 36 out of 100 in Latin America and 14 out of 100 in South and West Asia.

“In fact, only 30 to 50% of secondary-school-aged children are attending school, while only 7 to 23% of tertiary-school-aged youth are enrolled. This varies by sub-region, with the lowest levels being in Central and Eastern Africa and the highest enrolment levels in Southern and North Africa,” Lusigi, who is also the strategic advisor for UNDP Africa, told Africa Renewal.

According to Lusigi, many factors account for the low transition from primary to secondary and tertiary education. The first is limited household incomes, which limit children’s access to education. A lack of government investment to create equal access to education also plays a part.

“The big push that led to much higher primary enrolment in Africa was subsidized schooling financed by both public resources and development assistance,” she said. “This has not yet transitioned to providing free access to secondary- and tertiary-level education.”

Another barrier to advancing from primary to secondary education is the inability of national institutions in Africa to ensure equity across geographical and gender boundaries. Disabled children are particularly disadvantaged.

“Often in Africa, decisions to educate children are made within the context of discriminatory social institutions and cultural norms that may prevent young girls or boys from attending school,” says Lusigi.

Regarding gender equality in education, large gaps exist in access, learning achievement and advanced studies, most often at the expense of girls, although in some regions boys may be the ones at a disadvantage.

UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics reports that more girls than boys remain out of school in sub-Saharan Africa, where a girl can expect to receive only about nine years of schooling while boys can expect 10 years (including some time spent repeating classes).

More girls than boys drop out of school before completing secondary or tertiary education in Africa. Globally, women account for two-thirds of the 750 million adults without basic literacy skills.

Then there is the additional challenge of Africa’s poorly resourced education systems, the difficulties ranging from the lack of basic school infrastructure to poor-quality instruction. According to the Learning Barometer of the Brookings Institution, a US-based think tank, up to 50% of the students in some countries are not learning effectively.

Results from regional assessments by the UN indicate “poor learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, despite upward trend in average learning achievements.” Many children who are currently in school will not learn enough to acquire the basic skills needed to lead successful and productive lives. Some will leave school without a basic grasp of reading and mathematics.

Overcoming

The drivers of inequality in education are many and complex, yet the response to these challenges revolves around simple and sound policies for inclusive growth, the eradication of poverty and exclusion, increased investment in education and human development, and good governance to ensure a fairer distribution of assets.

With an estimated 364 million Africans between the ages of 15 and 35, the continent has the world’s youngest population, which offers an immense opportunity for investing in the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs. Countries can start to build and upgrade education facilities and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.

The AU, keeping in mind that the continent’s population will double in the next 25 years, is seeking through its Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016–2025 to expand access not just to quality education, but also to education that is relevant to the needs of the continent.

The AU Commission deputy chairperson, Thomas Kwesi Quartey, says governments must address the need for good education and appropriate skills training to stem rising unemployment.

Institutions of higher learning in Africa, he says, need to review and diversify their systems of education and expand the level of skills to make themselves relevant to the demands of the labour market.

“Our institutions are churning out thousands of graduates each year, but these graduates cannot find jobs because the education systems are traditionally focused on preparing graduates for white-collar jobs, with little regard to the demands of the private sector, for innovation or entrepreneurship,” said Quartey during the opening of the European Union–Africa Business Forum in Brussels, Belgium, in June 2017.

He noted that if African youths are not adequately prepared for the job market, “Growth in technical fields that support industrialization, manufacturing and development in the value chains will remain stunted.” Inequality’s inclusion among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities) serves as an important reminder to leaders in Africa to take the issue seriously.

For a start, access to early childhood development programmes, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, can help reduce inequality by ensuring that all children begin formal schooling with strong foundations.

The UNDP, through its new strategic plan (for 2018 through 2021), will work to deliver development solutions for diverse contexts and a range of development priorities, including poverty eradication, jobs and livelihoods, governance and institutional capacity and disaster preparedness and management.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information (DPI)

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Africa Renewal*

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Salvaging Our Higher Educationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/salvaging-higher-education/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=salvaging-higher-education http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/salvaging-higher-education/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 05:42:31 +0000 Manzoor Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155263 An Economist Intelligence Unit and British Council survey in 2014 reported that Bangladesh had the lowest employability among university graduates in South Asia—nearly half (47) of graduates out of a hundred were unemployed compared to 30 out of 100 in India and Pakistan. There are methodology issues about the calculation. Even then, they indicate a […]

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By Manzoor Ahmed
Apr 12 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

An Economist Intelligence Unit and British Council survey in 2014 reported that Bangladesh had the lowest employability among university graduates in South Asia—nearly half (47) of graduates out of a hundred were unemployed compared to 30 out of 100 in India and Pakistan. There are methodology issues about the calculation. Even then, they indicate a serious problem.

An article in Times Higher Education Supplement in 2016 reported about Bangladesh’s “’rickshaw faculty’—a nadir of academic exploitation” (David Matthews, October 12, 2016). It is a reference to ill-paid part-time faculty in the mushrooming private universities who have to run in a rickshaw from one class to another to teach in three or four universities to make ends meet. It spoke about “zombie students” who memorised texts without understanding or thinking and are taught by teachers who have no time to prepare for class or get to know their students.

The article provoked comments from academics in Bangladesh—some agreeing with the depiction and others denouncing it as based on bad research, tendentious, and journalistic sensationalism. Whether or not the story is fair in all its details, it is undeniable that there are serious problems of quality in the private universities as well as the public ones.

None of the Bangladeshi universities finds a place in top world rankings. Only a very few public and private universities are in Asian ranking at the lower end of the lists.

It is remarkably difficult to come up with a definition of quality in higher education and a method to measure this quality that would be commonly accepted. We have to go by indirect evidence of the kind I have mentioned, which are damning enough.

Higher education in Bangladesh is diverse and complex. There are 42 public universities formally established, of which 37 are functioning. They enrolled 3,150,409 students in 2016, including students in their affiliated colleges. But the mainstream public universities enrolled only 260,084.

The vast majority of higher education students are in over 3,000 colleges under the National University (2.3 million students) and in some 1,200 madrasas under Islamic Arabic University (240,000 students). There is also the Open University which had 256,000 students on its roll in 2016.

The 86 private universities now in operation had an enrolment of 337,000 in 2016—adding up to a total of 600,000 students in regular universities.

The graduates of colleges under the National University are the bulk of mid-level personnel for both the public and the private sector as well as teachers for the K-12 school education system.

It is fair to say that the quality of the National University colleges determines the quality of the large majority of educated human resources in the country. This large segment of the tertiary education system is particularly weak in facilities and faculty, governance and the quality of graduates produced.

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC University and BRAC, the largest development NGO in the world, recently spoke about problems of higher education at the Dhaka University Senate Hall (Higher Education Assembly sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Foundation.)

Abed spoke of the goals concerning the kind of persons the graduates should be. “They should have good written and verbal communication skills…be able to think critically and apply scientific reasoning in solving problems…have skills to look at evidence and undertake basic quantitative analysis…be tech-savvy and both use and benefit from digital technology.” They also should be “sensitive to the changing global world…accept and respect diversity and the plural identities of human beings which would serve as a moral compass for them.”

Abed admitted that BRAC University does not have “a formula to ensure achievement of these goals.” But the goals provide “an agenda and help us define the quality outcome we aspire to.” Can as much be said for all private and public universities?

A six-point agenda was proposed by Abed to bring about the changes in higher education so it serves the needs of an emerging middle-income country. He urged taking a systemic view, looking at different key components.

Abed advocated for a new approach in pedagogy and teachers’ role in the university, a higher education initiative to improve quality of teachers and teaching at the school level, no expansion without providing for essential quality inputs, providing incentives for research, looking at financing and student loans to make the system equitable and ensure resources for quality inputs, and change in governance of higher education.

Abed spoke at some length on dysfunctional governance that nullified all well-intentioned reform. “Higher education—for that matter all education—needs to be out of bounds for political interference motivated by short-sighted views and factional or individual interests,” he said.

A serious problem is the student wings of the major political parties. Abed recalled a joint statement by five most respected educationists of the country. They had pleaded for severing the political party ties with student organisations.

In April 2010, when the National Education Policy was about to be announced, Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Zillur Rahman Siddiqi, Professor Jamal Nazrul Islam, Professor Anisuzzaman, and Professor Serajul Islam Chowdhury had made this appeal. Three of them are no more today. “This appeal is more relevant today than ever,” said Abed.

“Mal-politics—or inappropriate influence of political parties, culture and personalities—has engulfed many aspects of education management and decision-making,” Abed lamented.

“It embarrasses me to recite the litany of problems that have been listed in the news media and research reports. It is long and painful—the wrong side of student politics leading to many kinds of crimes that would be credit to a mafia godfather.”

Abed recalled “a glorious history of students’ involvement in national politics, especially during the state language movement and in the 1960s and 1970s when students showed the way to political leaders at critical moments.”

Those days are long gone. For almost three decades there has been no student union election in any institution of higher education, “because student politics have been completely taken over by the major political parties and student bodies have lost their independent existence,” observed Abed. “Unless this situation changes, the election of student unions, now ordered by the high court, is not likely to bring a positive outcome.”

Abed’s remedy for ridding higher education form the influence of “mal-politics” are: i) A political decision at the highest level, as suggested by the distinguished educationists, to cut the umbilical cord connecting political parties and student bodies.

ii) The 1973 University ordinances and the 2010 Private University Act may be reviewed to ascertain where modifications may be needed; most important, however, is restraint of the political power structure on claiming control over the education system from a partisan angle.

iii) The University Grants Commission (UGC) should be restructured as the Higher Education Council with enhanced authority and professional capacity so that it can guide the development of higher education in larger national interest without wide-ranging control from the Ministry of Education.

iv) The National University should be decentralised to divisional level with appropriate professional capacity and authority, as was considered at one time but shelved without much explanation.

No nation has become a developed one without building a decent higher education system. The choices must be made now.

Manzoor Ahmed is professor emeritus at BRAC University.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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For Many Migrants, No Land Is Sweeter Than Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 05:36:01 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155200 Most migrants to Europe, Australia and the United States from Rangpur in northern Bangladesh leave home at a young age and return when they have just passed middle age. Intensely connected and immersed in family bonds and Bangladeshi cultural values, they tend to return to their birthplace despite obtaining citizenship from a second country. For […]

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Solving Japan’s Fertility Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solving-japans-fertility-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:42:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155122 While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan. Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating […]

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Japan: aging population needs more than short-term solutions. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan.

Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating economic and social consequences.

One such group is the Asian Population Development Association (APDA), that serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) and is dedicated to research and studying population-related issues in countries such as Japan where limited work and research has been done around the issue.

“While population increase has been the overriding global concern, the risks of low fertility and ensuing population decline were not foreseen until recently. Thus it is understandable that no research has been done, nor has any thought been given from the government,” said Chair of the APDA Research Committee on Ageing Kei Takeuchi during a meeting.

The Young, the Old, and the Restless

Though the decline in fertility rates is not a new phenomenon, the East Asian nation has seen its population rapidly diminish in recent years.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman leading to the population declining by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which dispels families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“As the population aged 18 years old is decreasing, the number of universities needs to be reduced, which will limit the number of new academic posts, lack the opportunity to cultivate researchers, and diminish Japan’s competitiveness in the international arena,”

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

Chair of the Asian Population and Development Association Yasuo Fukuda, a former Prime Minister of Japan noted that a dwindling population is not bad in and of itself but rather its rapid decline.

“The true problem is that when the population decreases too drastically, the social systems will become unsustainable and incapable of responding to problems associated with it, which will make it harder for young people to develop concrete visions for their future,” he said.

Are the Kids Alright?

One of the factors that is often considered to be a driving force of lowering fertility is urbanization, APDA said, as urban fertility rates are often lower than those in rural areas.

This is often because urban areas tend to boast better access to services such as education and employment as well as gender equality, all of which affect people’s decisions whether or not to have children.

Japan is one the most densely urbanized countries in the world.

In 1950, 53 percent of the population lived in urban areas; by 2014, the figure shot up to 93 percent.

Japanese rural towns are disappearing at a rapid rate as young adults move to cities for work and the ageing population either moves out or dies out. Wild boars are now found to be taking over the abandoned areas.

However, the correlation between urbanization and fertility is still unclear due to different contexts and data limitations.

Many have also pointed to the lack of opportunities for young people in the country.

Though the unemployment rate is below 3 percent, the rise in unstable employment may be leaving young men and women unable or unwilling to have children.

Approximately 40 percent of Japan’s labor force is “irregular,” or have temporary or part-time jobs with low salaries. According to the Labor Ministry, irregular employees earn 53 percent less than those with stable jobs.

Men, who are still considered breadwinners for the family unit, may therefore be less likely to consider getting married or having children because they can’t afford to do so.

On the other end of the spectrum, Japan’s culture of overwork may also be impacting birth rates as young people find themselves with no time for a social life or even basic needs like sleeping or eating.

Such conditions have even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork, across the country.

Most recently, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work in June 2013 alone, one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

Both deaths were ruled as “karoshi.”

Research, Action Needed

Due to the lack of data around the issue, APDA highlighted the need to promote research in order to help create and implement policies to ensure sustainable development and a stable, healthy population.

Shinzo Abe’s government has begun working on the issue in recent years, promising to raise the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2025.

They have also taken steps to make it easier for people to raise children by providing free education, expanding nursery care, and allowing fathers to take paternity leave. Local governments have even set up speed-dating services across the country.

However, Abe’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough, particularly around labor reform.

“Measures for low fertility, gender-equal society, and work-life balance are three important pillars,” said Chief Research Advisor APDA Project Research Committee on Ageing Makoto Atoh.

The APDA team also pointed to the need to invest in and revitalize regional areas and communities.

“This is a serious situation. We must come to grips with the issue of low fertility, but there is little research on it,” Takeuchi said.

APDA plans to hold several meetings and events in order to raise awareness and widen coverage on the issue of low fertility.

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Temporal Solace for Poor Schoolchildrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/temporal-solace-poor-schoolchildren/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=temporal-solace-poor-schoolchildren http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/temporal-solace-poor-schoolchildren/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 14:56:51 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155094 Amid the somber thoughts of Lent, poor families may find temporal solace in the announcement by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on Monday that the free college education program will start this June, and will be extended to more qualified students. More than 200 schools are expected to stop collecting tuition and other fees […]

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By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Mar 29 2018 (Manila Times)

Amid the somber thoughts of Lent, poor families may find temporal solace in the announcement by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) on Monday that the free college education program will start this June, and will be extended to more qualified students.

More than 200 schools are expected to stop collecting tuition and other fees this coming school year.

That is after CHEd Commissioner/officer-in-charge Prospero de Vera 3rd introduced the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” (Republic Act 10931), or the free college education law, as well as the IRR for the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST under Republic Act 10687).

Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino had endorsed this program, saying that RA 10931 would ensure that Filipino students would enjoy free education in state universities and colleges, CHED-accredited local universities and colleges and TESDA-accredited technical-vocational institutions.

This would also give support to underprivileged students in private colleges and universities through a Tertiary Education Subsidy and a Student Loan Program.

For its first year of implementation, the free college education law will allocate a P40 billion subsidy as follows: P16 billion as tertiary education subsidy (TES), P7 billion for a technical-vocational education and training (TVET) program, P1 billion for the student loan program, and P16 billion for free higher education.

Under the TES portion of the program, subsidy will be granted to a greater number of poor schoolchildren seeking a college degree — with the number raised to 300,000 from the originally set 20,000 beneficiaries.

Additionally, payments to use a computer, library and laboratory, as well as miscellaneous costs such as athletic, development, registration, cultural, computer, school ID, admission, entrance, guidance and medical/dental services will also be borne by the government.

The provision also allows students to apply for “books, supplies, transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses” allowance while “poor but academically-able” students and students with “disabilities” will be provided with separate stipends.

The program will also have provisions for minorities. The law signed by President Duterte in 2017 would benefit 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs) 78 local colleges and universities (LCUs), and technical education skills and authority-registered institutions.

We agree with OIC de Vera when he said the free college education law “is the most important mandate the commission must ensure.”

During this time of reflection, it is heartening to find a piece of good news such as this. The law’s principal author in the House of Representatives, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, said this law will usher in the “next wave social revolution in building a more egalitarian society.”

All these are intended to bring hope for hundreds of thousands of our young generation of Filipinos who dream of educating themselves out of poverty but might otherwise remain destitute without help from a government program such as this.

Worse, they may be thrust deeper into a life of misery and become prey to the evils of addictive drugs and alcohol, which the Duterte administration has made its number one enemy.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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