Jul 19th, 2012 12:23 PM UTC
This post from Adrian Lovett originally appeared in the Huffington Post
This week we celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday and it is a time for us to reflect on the achievements of the great man. I was lucky enough to share a stage with him in Trafalgar Square in 2005 for Make Poverty History. Today we still share a belief that what we pledged to do that day can be achieved.
Since he left prison in Paarl in 1990 after 27 years, Mr Mandela’s continent has arguably undergone changes as dramatic as any other, certainly in recent years. The Millennium Development Goals have helped focus leaders from around the world on the task of halving extreme poverty and fighting preventable disease and the results have been dramatic.
In the field of health, maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is down by over 40%, child mortality has fallen by 30%, in large part due to extensive vaccination campaigns which have seen more than 5.4 million children’s lives saved in Africa between 2000 and 2009. And new vaccines recently developed against some of the biggest killers of children – diarrhoea and pneumonia– will save even more lives in the coming years.
The progress made against HIV/AIDS is staggering. Nearly 4 million Africans have been placed on life preserving antiretroviral treatment since 2002. And we now know how to prevent mothers passing HIV onto their children.
In education more than three-quarters of children on the continent are enrolled in primary education, over 46 million of these children since 1999, as Africa’s teachers set out to create the continent’s leaders of tomorrow.
Each life saved and life changed is living proof of the incredible progress we have all helped achieve.
These statistics feed into a bigger picture about the how the rest of the world has come to perceive Africa. Once dismissed as the “hopeless continent” it is now home to six of the ten fastest growing economies on the planet and foreign investment continues to flow in. Premier League football team Sunderland Athletic recently announced a two-year shirt sponsorship deal with “Invest in Africa”. With its vast natural resources, innovative tech entrepreneurs and growing working-age population Africa’s potential has seen it described by fund managers as “the best investment story on the planet.”
These examples, whilst impressive, are only a checkpoint on the road to 2015. Mr Mandela knew as much in 2005 in Trafalgar Square saying: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” We have achieved so much, but we cannot rest now that we are nearly there. Still 7.6m children die of preventable treatable diseases each year and a billion people go to bed hungry every night.
There is no reason to believe that we cannot finish the job. It is a long walk, but Mr Mandela is used to those. We have 1000 days between now and the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It may not seem like long but a lot can change in 1000 days if minds are focused and leaders committed. In just over 1000 days from walking free from prison, Nelson Mandela and others managed achieve what was unthinkable to many: to peacefully end apartheid and draw up a road map for a new nation.
In honour of the man himself and in recognition of his 67 years of public service, people around the world are choosing to mark Mandela Day by giving 67 minutes of their time to help others, be it towards the MDGs or local projects. My pledge is to keep working for the MDGs and to rally others to do the same, whether it’s joining ONE or making your own Mandela pledge.
Because of what has been achieved in recent years in the fight against poverty and disease, an entire generation of us in our twenties, thirties and forties can realistically contemplate a world where these scourges can actually be wiped out. In a few years, we could see the elimination of polio, even the beginning of the end of AIDS. We can plan for a time when no child is born with HIV, when diarrhoea and pneumonia rarely claim lives, when famine is a Biblical notion, not a present-day obscenity, and when extreme poverty is on the way to being a thing of the past. These goals are within our grasp and we should be determined to achieve them. Let’s be determined to take some great strides forward – not only in our lifetimes, but in Nelson Mandela’s too.
Sep 8th, 2011 12:44 PM UTC
To mark International Literacy Day, Tererai Trent, PhD, Educator and Humanitarian, talks about the importance of education as a pathway out of poverty.
It began with a geography book. I was eight-years-old and excited to look at a book my brother had brought home from school. But when he opened the pages, nothing made sense to me. I cried, pleading with him to tell me what was in the book.
Today, as we mark International Literacy Day, I am reminded of the despair I felt 40 years ago, in a small village in Zimbabwe, living in the darkness of illiteracy.
Poverty and time-held traditions prevented many girls like me from going to school at that time, but I was determined to learn what my brother learned at school.
In the afternoons, after taking our family’s herd of cattle to graze, my brother and I would sneak away to sit under the shade of a Munhunguru tree. He would patiently teach me how to sound out words in English and Shona, our local language, and explain their meaning.
The world has changed a lot since then. More children in low-income countries are in school today. Wealthy nations have done more to promote and support education in developing countries. And developing countries have made education more of a priority.
It is an achievement of which we all should be proud. But rapid enrollment has brought its own set of challenges, among them overcrowded classrooms, children entering school for the first time at different ages, and ill-equipped and unprepared teachers.
Indeed, more children are attending school, but many of them do so without learning. Research by Save the Children in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal and Pakistan reveals that a startling number of children in the early grades could not read a single word.
Education is a proven pathway out of poverty, but only if children know how to read and learn along the way. How can we achieve this?
First, we need trained teachers. There are many teachers whose dedication is beyond reproach but who have not received guidance on how to teach children properly. This is true especially in conflict-affected countries where education systems have been disrupted, often for years.
My own story reveals the impact a skilled teacher can have on a child. My brother’s teacher, Mr. Gwaradzimba, caught on that I was doing my brother’s homework. Instead of penalizing my brother, he pleaded with my father to let me attend school.
The first day I stepped inside the classroom, shoeless and wearing my father’s shirt as a dress, Mr. Gwaradzimba warmly welcomed me. He had faith in me and often said, “Tererai, the way you read and write is not perfect, but I will teach you how to do it better.”
But the responsibility of teaching our children how to be better readers and learners does not rest on teachers alone, regardless of how well-trained they are. Within communities, a culture of reading outside classrooms must also exist.
This culture develops when reading is encouraged at home and through community activities like creating reading materials or encouraging children to read signs that they see as part of their daily life.
Finally, countries need to put in place policies and investments that support children’s literacy programs. In today’s climate, where budgets for global education are in danger of severe cuts, it saddens me to know that gains in education are being threatened. There are children who may never be reached.
Forty years ago, I was a young cattle-herding girl with a dream for an education. Who would have imagined that I would go on to get my bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees? As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded that the need to create social justice through education remains urgent. There are children who still need the same opportunity that I received. Why should my dream not be possible for all children? It is achievable – Tinogona.
ONE would like to thank Save the Children US for their help in preparing this blog post. Photo of Tererai Trent by Glen McDowell photography. Photo of children reading at the Matau Primary School courtesy of Save the Children.
Feb 15th, 2011 7:30 AM UTC
By Angelique Kidjo
Computer technology today can help us better educate girls in Africa. A birth certificate is the key to enrolling girls in school, and with a computer in villages we can register kids at birth. That can help us also fight child trafficking. Especially in my country, Benin, it’s is a big issue for me. I am working with UNICEF for example so we can get computers into villages and also at the main ports and borders to stop children being taken out of the country, because if a child is not registered he or she does not exist.
Technology can also help girls report any abuses they are encountering and stop the problem of hearsay, which allows teachers and adults to get away from abuses that they commit.
The Internet also allows girls in school to connect with the rest of the world. Where they can chat together and work together. It gives them a window outside of their world and makes them understand the importance of the education that they are having at this time.
With my Batonga foundation every time I meet my girls their dreams for the future always amaze me. And computer technology can help realise them. To the ones who want to become doctors and neurosurgeons, I always ask them “Where do you get all those big names from?” They say they know what they want to do; they know how they want to impact their community, their country and Africa, and to take the lead in the future in a different way. So computer technology will help them connect with other doctors or other children who are studying and open new perspectives to them.
One day one of my girls was telling me that she wants to become a future president of Benin and I said to her “Why do you want to get yourself into politics? Why do you want to be president?” And she looked at me and said “With all due respect to you ma’am, men have been leading our countries for so many years and what good comes out of that for us?” Computer technology empowered the girls to speak out for their own right to report abuses not only done to them, but to their community, and to empower them in a way so that they can see the future of what they are learning and what they are going to become tomorrow.
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