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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

This evening, after leaving the office late, I was tempted head straight home and go to bed early. This past week I’ve had very little sleep; the unfortunate juxtaposition of my obssession with early morning starts, and my partner’s obligation to study well into the morning hours for his Ph. D. Call it burning the candle from both ends.

An early Friday night seemed awfully tempting on a cold and rainy winter’s night, but in the end I stuck to a promise I had made myself earlier in the week, that I would go to synagogue to practice my Hebrew and connect with my community. Now don’t get me wrong, I am about as religious as an apple can be an orange; however, religious event aside, there is something special about being part of a community, being connected to people of similar backgrounds and interests.

Community is important. It connects people together to a common project to better their lives and the lives of the people who live around them. Education without Borders’ mission is to empower parents, teachers, and students to build a community around their schools. The long term objective is not just education, it is also to create a community around the schools EwB supports.

Yet EwB also indirectly helps build community amongst South Africans living abroad. Our NGO achieves this by offering meaningful cultural and fundraising projects (such as the Vancouver South African Film Festival) that bring expats together in a common cause to help improve the lives of fellow South Africans.

In the end everyone is looking to belong somewhere. We are all in search of a community where we can contribute, and where we feel we belong, and where we can be better human beings. Projects such as EwB help build that sense of community for so many people, whether in  Gugulethu at the start of another school year, or here in Vancouver on a cold raining night.

 

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Education without Borders received a recent update from Tanya Arshamian, the assistant artistic director at Cape Town’s ikapa Dance Theatre.

ikapa Dance Theatre is one of Education without Borders’ local partners in the Cape area. They deliver training and outreach programs to bring dance and theatre activities to schools in the Cape Town area. A total of 15-20 students from Songeze Middle School and Fezeka Secondary participate in the program, which has allowed them to develop their dance skills and to take part in a number of dance productions.

Students took part in a four day day-camp at in Stellenbosch hosted by the Department of Cultural and Sports Affairs. The camp included workshops in arts, music, and drama, and allowed Songeze and Fezeka students to interact with other students from across the Western Cape.

Theatre and the arts are important media for youth to express themselves and to learn essential life skills. Education without Borders, ikapa Dance Theatre and the students appreciate the support of volunteers and donors in making this happen!

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The new report on EwB and IkamvaYouth’s joint “Yes We Can!” maths project is now available. The program is the result of a joint effort by EwB and IkamvaYouth to improve math scores amongst Khayelitsha students.

Teachers had identified low pass rates amongst their graduates. The primary reason for the poor math results was that many students lack the basic skills in mathematics in order to be able to “bootstrap” their way up to more advanced levels. As explained by the author of the report, Phillip Luyanda Mcelu, IkamvaYouth’s “Yes We Can!”project coordinator, “maths is like a ladder, you can’t jump one step and expect not to fall. Without understanding grade 8-level maths it makes it difficult to fully grasp grade 9 maths and the chain continues to grade 12.”

The feedback from the students has been positive; however, one of the major challenges over the course of this ongoing program is to ensure high student participation and attendance. Mr. Mcelu has worked on resolving this problem through frequent communication with parents, and also encouraging students to do homework at home by taking their books and materials home with them. Doing so has helped demonstrate to parents the importance and benefits of the math program.

It is hoped that over the years Khayelitsha will be able to graduate more students with the math skills to be able to help them find employment after they finish their studies, thus ensuring livelihoods.

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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”.

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

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Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest metropolis with an estimated population of 3.5 million. The city is also has one of the lowest population densities of any major urban centre in Africa, consequently leading to serious urban sprawl and transportation challenges.

Cape Town’s current transportation system is typical of most emerging economies. The city and surrounding suburbs are serviced by a vast and chaotic system of mini bus taxis, which cause heavy congestion on the roadway network and are often not properly maintained. There is also an aging rail network, known as Metrorail, which offers overcrowded rail services. Neither of these systems are particularly attractive transportation options, which explains why Cape Town’s road network is increasingly congested with private automobiles.

South Africa is in the process of modernizing its public transportation system. This initiative was undertaken as part of the 2010 World Cup, and now is being ramped up to include a $14 billion upgrade of the railway stock in the country. The rail deal is currently up to tender, and Bombardier is hoping to leverage its Gaugteng train success story, but is faced with stiff competition from European and Chinese bidders. Once the rail modernization has been completed, the public will have access to new trains and better security at stations and on the trains, an issue that has long been a concern for commuters and in particular women.

The public transport upgrade also includes the construction of Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) bus service. This IRT bus service will connect with existing minibus and Metrorail networks at specified hubs. The idea behind the IRT bus service is to make as much use of existing road and rail infrastructure so as to reduce the capital cost of the transit upgrade. Unlike traditional bus services, rapid buses in the IRT network will be separate from regular highway traffic, which means they will not be affected by traffic congestion on the roadways; this will ensure secure high-speed service. Furthermore, the rapid transit system is designed to only stop at secure designated stations, or transit hubs.

It is hoped all of these factors will encourage more Capetonians to switch from their automobiles to transit, thus reducing traffic congestion and stress on existing road network.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town

http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/irt/Pages/default.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metrorail_Western_Cape

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-news/african-and-mideast/bombardier-making-tracks-in-south-africa/article2056519/

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