Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

South Africa has a lot to be proud of.  For a country that many consider relatively isolated, it has achieved leadership in numerous fields, including medicine, commerce, the arts, and human rights.

Many would not know that South Africa has the world’s third largest hospital, Chris Hani – Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto (1). South Africa was also the first country to conduct successful open heart surgery – performed in 1967 by Christiaan Barnard on Louis Washkansky at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town South Africa (2). Groote Schuur also happened to be one of the world’s laregst teaching hospitals at the time.

One of South Africa’s biggest cities, Durban is the 9th largest port in the world, and the largest in Africa. Presumably this is the case because South Africa is also a major manufacturer of automobiles, as well as the world’s largest producer of gold, platinum, chromium, vanadium, manganese and alumino-silicates. For those of you who think think I am nuts, South Africa is also amongst the largest producers of macadamia nuts (3). South Africa also has most of Africa’s phones, internet connections, and infrastructure. It is also a major exporter, producing more manufactured goods than Russia, Singapore, or Portugal.

South Africa also leads when it comes to the arts. The recent anniversary of Paul Simon’s Graceland tour, celebrated with the film “Under African Skies”. Is a reminder of the quantity and quality of musical talent in the country. Famous South African artists include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu of Juluka, and painter Gerald Sekoto (http://www.art.co.za/gerardsekoto/).

South Africa also arguably has the world’s most open constitution, allowing for same gender marriages, freedom of expression, and freedom from oppression. The country will also be the first to have a disabled athlete on its 2012 Summer Olympics team in London (4).

These feats demonstrate that South Africa is a can-do country. South Africans are open-minded, talented, diverse, and hard working. By supporting the work of Education without Borders in Cape Town, South Africa, you know your money is making a huge difference in students lives. By donating just a few dollars a month, you empower students to participate in a country that really is on the move.






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In the early 1990’s South Africa’s brutal Apartheid regime was brought to its knees, ushering in a new era of freedom, democracy, and expression. Many young South AFricans have no living recollection of the Apartheid era, and know only of the country as it is – a place where people of all races have complete liberty of movement.

Yet one of the overarching themes in this past edition of the 2012 Vancouver South African Film Festival is that xenophobia, while no longer legally legislated, is widespread and tolerated in South Africa.

Rape, homophobia, child poverty, and racism towards immigrants are sadly a reality in South Africa. Several films at the VSAFF highlighted these issues, include the acclaimed “Man on the Ground”, the story of immigrants living in South Africa’s vast townships during the wave of xenophobic violence that swept the country three years ago.

The courts in South Africa have begun to deal with certain abhorrent acts of violence, including cases of “corrective rape” – the idea of raping lesbian women to rid them of their homosexuality. Yet the legal system is far behind the situation on the ground, and women continue to die in increasing numbers. (1)

Recently Somali immigrant shopkeepers found themselves the victims of hate attacks, including the destruction of personal property and theft. Many immigrants fear for their lives, but have nowhere else to go. (2)

Apartheid in name is over in South Africa, but in practice the country remains a deeply divided place. Disparities in income, education, land ownership, are exacerbated by government corruption from an ANC in power for nearly 20 years. It remains unlikely that there will be any drastic improvement in the situation in the near term. Ultimately a combination of new governing parties, improved education and literacy, and better health care will allow the country to face down corruption, xenophobia, and poverty.

In the meantime, NGO’s like Education without Borders continue to deliver significant incremental change in South Africa’s townships. Events such as the VSAFF raise funds for real projects run by volunteers and local people. These projects not only improve the lives of South African youth, they also help raise a future generation that will be more tolerant, informed, and productive. (3)

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13908662

(2) http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/storekeepers-smash-somali-shop-in-khayelitsha-1.1302825

(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn3aJKORPEQ&feature=youtu.be

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Many of us in Canada take for granted our access to education. In fact, one may argue that Canada, like many countries in the West, has an excess of accessible education. As long as one has an interest and desire to learn, post-secondary education is reasonably accessible, whether directly at universities and colleges, or online through the internet.

In South Africa the situation is vastly different. As highlighted in a recent Globe and Mail investigative piece, South Africans face enormous barriers to access affordable public education (1). Waitlists for post-secondary institutions are in the thousands, and all this despite a well document need for a more educated work force.

Education without Borders helps to fill the void for many young South Africans seeking to improve themslves through better education. By providing access to improved education, EwB gives the students we support the tools to be one step ahead in the competitive process to access post-secondary education and rewarding jobs.

(1) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/worldview/in-johannesburg-a-desperate-bid-for-education-turns-deadly/article2297297/

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Famous Capetonians

Recently one of South Africa’s most famous citizens had a birthday! Bishop Tutu, SA freedom fighter, global activist, and Nobel Prize winner turned 80 on October 7th. He was joined by friends, family, and well wishers for a giant ceremony at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, where he was Bishop for many years, before becoming Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Cape Town. Guests included U2’s Bono, state presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama was present by camera (the ANC barred his visit after much pressure from the Chinese Communist Government)


As a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tutu has continued his fight in post-Apartheid South Africa, becoming a vehement critic of corruption in the ANC ranks. In fact Tutu has gone so far as to call on his fellow South Africans to vote for opposition parties to end what has been ANC single party rule since the end of the Nationalist era in the early 1990’s. Tutu has now become a thorn in the side of the ANC, criticizing them for choosing a man accused of rape to be the President of South Africa. Tutu is no fan of Jacob Zuma, just as he is a strong opponent of other Southern African leaders, including Mugabe, whom he has called autocratic and should step down. After Zimbabwe’s last failed elections, Tutu called for the West to remove Mugabe through the use of force.


Bishop Tutu’s interests also extend to the children’s rights, education, gay rights, and the Palestinian question. In the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Bishop has on several occasions gotten himself into hot water by equating Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to Apartheid, even when it is fully known that Arab Muslims and Christians living inside the State of Israel enjoy the same freedoms as those of Israeli Jews. Yet despite its controversy, Tutu’s voice has been an important one in pushing Israel’s Conservative Netanyahu government to negotiate with a willing Palestinian leadership.


At 80 Bishop Tutu is as vibrant as ever. His involvement in social issues, as a fighter for those who have no voice, and as a defender of human rights, he is an inspiration for people around the world.


To Tutu, L’Chaim.






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Fezeka School, local educators, and Education without Borders volunteers have been organizing a series of motivational talks for students. Ted and Roger, two local volunteers who have been involved with EwB for some time, teamed up with EwB project manager Vimbai, and guest speaker Unathi, to talk to 50 grade nine students. To learn more about Vimbai, please visit this page: http://www.educationwithoutborders.ca/node/124

Here is some feedback from Roger about Unathi’s talk.

Dear Unathi and Vimbai,


Let me once again thank you, Unathi, for an outstanding presentation. There was no doubt in the mind of Ted, Vimbai and I that you really hit a few nails on the head with your eloquence and clarity. You make a wonderful public speaker. I attach a few photos. I also have some video. All will be put on a disc. I can have this ready for you when you return from France and when we meet I can pass it to you.


In one of the videos, you say “it’s not cool to not have a job and it’s not cool to sit at home.” I think this is powerful stuff. The fact that you were once again surrounded by eager learners, demonstrated their wish to learn more from you. The challenge for Vimbai and ourselves is to create follow up from these talks.


I also think the message that there are a variety of jobs is getting across. One expressed an interest in meteorology, the other being a pilot and the one that intrigued me was “how do I become a spy?”


All good stuff.

Below is a summary of some of Unathi’s key points of advice to the students, as well as some photographs (http://s1217.photobucket.com/albums/dd383/educationwithoutborders/Unathi%20-%20talk%20September%2015th%202011/) – Thanks to Ted Weber for these.

-There is career, a job, and a future out there for everyone

-Make a list of your ideal professions and then think where you are now what subjects you need to achieve this as a main goal.

-It is important to know and to focus now on your strengths

-Choose something you enjoy doing, not what you think others think you should enjoy.

-When difficulties occur, choose a teacher adult role model that you can identify with. Choose someone you can trust and who is respected in the community.

-Look for bursaries in the Sunday papers, the internet, or government training grants through Thetas

-Loosing bad friends early on School is a good thing. It is important to hang out with motivated good friends!

-School is a place to learn and prepare for your future, as well as having fun.

-It is no fun being 25 in a township without a job; so use school as a jumping board to get a good job!

-Unathi, who is a respected wine maker and scientist, discussed how agriculture is cool and how she liked nature biology, the trees, the outdoors, and was good at science. She explained to students how science, biology, and respect for nature are key to improving lives, and that there are many careers in these fields for motivated people and women.

Thanks for all the great feed back Ted, Roger and Vimbai on Unathi’s talk. I look forward to meeting Unathi and Vimbai, as well as some of the students when I visit Cape Town next time!


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My partner is studying genetics at one of the universities in the Vancouver area. As part of his early studies he is taking a course in data analysis, studying an application that enables scientists to work with metadata – essentially data about data, or looking at how data can be reinterpreted to give additional unexpected results. In one his classes they looked this data chart: http://graphs.gapminder.org/world/, which was created using http://www.r-project.org/

Click on the first link, it is very interactive!

The graphic plots development and life expectancy against time for the world’s nations, and shows how countries have improved life expectancy as they have become richer and more economically developed. The animation also shows the effects of World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the ravages of AIDS on human development.

One can also track individual nations by selecting particular data points and charting them versus time. In the case of South Africa, the effects of AIDS are shockingly noticeable in the 1990’s, causing a massive decline in standards of living for most South Africans.

Education is the best defence against the progression of AIDS. An educated youth can confront this disease without prejudice, and can adopt safe sex practices without stigmatisms. Investing in projects funded by Education without Borders is a way for you to improve human health in South Africa, and help confront this disease over the long term.

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The foundation to any stable long-term democracy is an educated, employed, and organized civil society with small differences between rich and poor. One of the reasons why Canada ranks high on the United Nations Human Development Index is because these points are well covered.

In Canada we take this for granted; however, it is distant reality in many emerging economies, such as Brazil, Chile, or South Africa. Brazil and Chile seem to finally be over the hump, having achieved sufficient economic growth and education that the governments of these countries can now be held accountable to the population for the decisions they make. This in the long term should reduce corruption, improve living standards and infrastructure, and increase state tax revenues in these countries as the ranks of the middle class grow.

In South Africa this trend is far from evident. While large portions of South Africa’s majority non-white population have seen an improvement and elevation to the ranks of the middle class, many young South Africans remain un or under employed, with little prospects for the future. High long term structural unemployment combined with HIV is South Africa’s Achilles heel, and the biggest threat to the country’s future. It has also lead to the rise of right wind nationalism inside the country. As reported by the Economist on July 2nd, 2011, Julius Malema was elected without opposition to another term as the head of the ANC’S Youth Wing.

Mr. Malema’s nationalist agenda involves mobilizing the unemployed and uneducated youth of South Africa around a platform of wealth, land, and business expropriation from the white minority and non-white elite. While Mr Malema is not the leader of the ANC itself, and not in line to become the country’s president, he is a brilliant orator and has the means to shape ANC policy.

Mr. Malema finds an audience amongst South Africa’s angry uneducated and unemployed youth who live in massive shantytowns on the fringes of the country’s major cities. South Africa suffers from a history of violence spawned from the racist Apartheid era, today the violence counts over 50 murders and hundreds of rapes a day, many of these occurring inside these sprawling slums. In this sea of misery hatred can only fester.

As long as South Africa continues to graduate generations of young people without basic education and opportunities for honest work, the country will continue adrift, vulnerable to social unrest, HIV, and crime. It is essential for the future of South Africa that South Africa’s educated black and white elite take note, and begin aggressively putting the resources towards education and employment. The country’s enormous wealth and education divide is not sustainable; to ignore this reality is pure folly.

In the word’s of Mandela, “Much has been achieved and much remains to be done”.

The Economist Magazine, July 2nd, 2011
National Geographic Magazine June 2010

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