Millennium Development Goals

As we come towards the end of the first quarter of 2014, it means we have less than 2 years to 2015; the year we are supposed to see the world meeting the Millennium Development Goals. In my opinion and having been following development events globally, Goals 4 to 8 have had some great successes so far, as we have seen a reduction in new HIV cases, reduction of child mortality rates, improved maternal health, reduction in malaria cases and  formation of a global partnership  for Development. Even though I included Goal 7 of Environmental sustainability as a success, there is still a need to revisit the issue of displacement due to major corporate projects. We might say that tsunamis and hurricanes are natural phenomena, but if we look closely, it is Mother Nature’s way of paying us back from the way we are abusing the very natural resources that are supposed to be life-sustaining. Development of mega-projects have to be done; they provide irrigation and supply clean water and electricity, but focus should be on finding better ways of relocating the people to be displaced and not bunching them in areas with sandy soils and no hope of meaningful cultivation. Let’s move away from the corporate mindset that everyone needs to be employed so as to earn money so that they buy mass-produced goods; people need to carry out their quiet life in their compounds, preserving their cultural heritage (read Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’).

Goal 1: genetically modified crops are not the answer to hunger and poverty eradication. There is so much food being produced in the world and there are so many resources, but it’s the distribution that is problematic, and that needs to be addressed. Let me be clear here that re-distribution of resources does not mean developed countries going into under-developed countries to occupy and grab resources with little or no compensation.

Goal 2: Primary education needs to be free and more schools have to be built and equipped. This is one area that needs more funding as it builds the foundation of a child’s future.

Goal 3: A lot of progress has taken place towards gender equality and empowerment, especially the fact that most men have joined in the move towards eradicating violence against women. The most recent rape case in India shows how men have come together with women to decry such heinous crimes. A lot needs to be done in terms of placing women in decision-making positions at all levels, to view women as partners, to avail equal opportunities for the girl-child as much as the boy-child.

Two more years is all we have to work towards reaching these goals; everyone has a part to play.


Is the cost of Education producing a Return on Investment for Students?

Imagine the joy of completing high school, getting a place in University or College and getting approval for a government loan to start paving a way to greater heights. The only downside is that the loan does not cover the cost of text books and the student has to pay rent, buy food, clothes and all other personal needs, hence they have no option but to find a part time job while studying.

The effects of this are; long nights of doing shift work, doing homework and attending classes. The burden becomes even more for mature immigrant students who have dependents back home to take care of. Even though most mature immigrants have work experience and education from elsewhere, these are not always accepted, especially in the West. The latter contributes highly to stress and depression among most immigrants, and the development of diabetes mellitus cannot be ruled out among these groups.

Having struggled through work and school, and finally obtaining that sought after degree, the new graduate now has to join the labour market and the thousands of job hunters, and guess what, one only gets a six-month leeway before you are expected to start paying back the student loan.

Every year, for example in Canada, there are more than 100 000 students graduating, and probably Twenty percent of these get jobs in their field of study and the rest end up in MacJobs. The government is struggling to recover student loans but the most important and immediate thing that it should focus on is providing jobs for these new graduates, then it will be practical to recover student loans.  This can be achieved through attracting investors who will create jobs. This will not only mean a return on investment for the government, the corporations but to the students too. The rate of unemployment among graduates is discouraging young people and mature immigrants from pursuing post-secondary education as they see no benefits at the end of the road, so the government needs to critically analyze what these people will end up doing instead of going to school.

The world is now becoming full of unemployed graduates who could be directing their knowledge elsewhere; whether it is for the good or bad for mankind is a question that governments really need to take a closer look. The government needs to revise the acceptance of educational credentials from elsewhere and work experience. There has to be policies in place or incentives for companies to hire mature students and consider their work experience from outside of Canada. Mature new graduates and experienced workers will contribute a rich mix of ideas to any workplace.

Reducing stress and depression among its population will save any government lots of money in the health sector.

Food for thought……..


Mystery of the Missing Plane

There have been so many theories in connection with the disappearance of the Malaysian Flight MH370 plane, and I am sure most people are waiting for answers than more theories. The families are distraught and no amount of money can substitute having your loved one back, but can we accuse those who are searching for not coming up with the wonderful words that all want to hear, like (“the plane has been found!”)?
The most troubling thing about the missing plane is the idea that only the pilots can switch off all tracking measures and the simple “good night” message that the pilot sent before the disappearance. Maybe this is a wake-up call for aeroplane designers that pilots should have limitations on what they can switch off in emergency circumstances, and maybe the planes should have devices that can enable the ground crew to track it, even if the power is shut down, e.g. a battery-operated monitor which can have a 72-hour battery life.
Our prayers are with the passengers and crew, and the families who are waiting for a word of hope. We also thank the countries who have brought in their resources and manpower to help search for this missing aeroplane.

New Year Message from the CEO

Dear Readers,

Now that the year is coming to a close, it is time to reflect on the year and what it bestowed upon the world. Let us take this moment to reflect on those who passed away due to floods, war and other mishaps; from coast to coast.
Most of the deaths have been caused by humans. Sometimes we wonder whether the person who invented the rifle and the bomb ever knew that it would cause deaths of such magnitudes in the world. If we look at globalization and the externalization of jobs from the expensive American workforce, to the cheap labour in the East; factory disasters have had their share in wasting human lives. If we look at floods, it is mostly due to the way we are treating the environment and global warming.
This begs the question; are we our own destroyers? The more we seem to create new technology, the more disasters we seem to have. Where are we going wrong?
One prominent event to mention is the passing away of a prominent son of Africa; Nelson Madiba Mandela. Enough tribute has been paid and all we can say is that, we hope our younger generation and current leaders will be able to take a leaf out of his Book of Life.

The world is constantly being inundated with strife and sadness, sometimes it over-shadows the good, but we have to stay positive as there is a lot of good in the world.

As we move into 2014, let us ask ourselves; “How can I make the world a better place to live?” Please do not make any New Year resolutions because seriously, I have yet to come across those who can keep them until the end of the year, let alone the following week!
Thanks to you our readers. We hope to bring you more news from around the world in the coming year.

Have a safe, fruitful and blessed New Year!


Nelson Madiba Rolihlahla Mandela – The Hero

The world is mourning today, for one of Africa’s greatest sons. The leaders of the world, the celebrities, and all and sundry, are finding time to stop and acknowledge the death of one of Africa’s heroes.
Mandela fought against apartheid rule because he was someone who believed in democracy and fairness. He believed that being a human being had nothing to do with the color of your skin, and that all people were created equal before God. He worked within the ranks, from working with the youth, to fighting for equal rights, HIV programs and different charities.
Mandela was incarcerated and spent 27 years in isolation on Robben Island off South Africa, and when he was released, his health was not the best, despite the excellent medical attention he got. Despite these challenges, he became the first African President in an apartheid South Africa – a great achievement under the circumstances.
Mandela has lived a full life and has done numerous great things which we cannot cover very well here. We would like to join the rest of the world in mourning this great son of Africa and say, rest in peace Madiba Rolihlahla, you fought a great battle and many have learnt from you.

“Who will take care of my children?” – Socialism vs Capitalism

I am sure most of you will remember the saying, “government for the people, by the people”, which literally meant people chose governments so that they take care of their wants; this unfortunately is no longer the reality. The advent of capitalism and globalization has brought a new era of individualism. We have moved from a communitarian way of living to individual wealth accumulation.
Within the last five years we have seen the fall of many governments and witnessed recession in most countries. Governments are failing to provide basic healthcare, accommodation, jobs and social services for their populace. Government priorities are no longer social services but armaments and global capital accumulation. We are now living in a “one-man-for-himself-and-God-for-us-all” paradigm, which unfortunately, has left millions of people without food or shelter. We are two years away from 2015 and I am wondering how many of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved. There is more talk and less action in feeding or clothing the world. More land is being used for the production of things, other than foodstuffs.
We continue to destroy our environment and the world is seeing more bloodshed and poverty than success. For as long as governments fail to abide by the Social Contract of looking after its own, we will know no peace and our people will not be healthy. Because of globalization, people from one part of the world are being displaced and forced to migrate and provide cheap labour in other countries. Labour movement efforts to keep jobs at home are being frustrated as there is continuous job-outsourcing from the West to the East and a brain-drain from the East to the West.

I would like to refer you to read “The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State” by Wahl Asbjorn (2011, ISBN: 9780745331409) for a better understanding of the Welfare State.

The Importance of Education: Reflections on Michelle Obama’s Trip to Africa

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama arrives for a virtual discussion event with youths at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg June 29, 2013

During her recent trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania with the president, Michelle Obama emphasized the importance of one issue over others – a good education. Speaking to children and youth in schools, vocational training centers and clinics in all three African countries, the first lady consistently stressed the role education can play in transforming lives and the well-being of the continent as a whole. Her message was clear: “don’t ever forget that by investing in your education, you are doing the very best thing you can do – not just for yourselves, but for your children and your grandchildren. And you’re also doing the very best thing you can do for your country.

Though the first lady was often speaking directly to children, hopefully her message was heard by the international community and African government ministers as well. Despite steady progress over the last decade in getting more children into school, sub-Saharan Africa is still home to over 50 percent of the world’s 57 million out-of-school primary aged children. Half of them will never make it into a classroom at all. More concerning is that the number of children not in school in sub-Saharan Africa – 30 million – has not budged over the last five years. 

In addition to improving access to education, there is an urgent need to improve the relevance and quality of the education that children receive. The Center for Universal Education’s Africa Learning Barometer found that as many as half of the continent’s primary school age children will fail to acquire the most basic reading and math skills even after four years of school. The real learning deficit is illustrated by the inequities that persist between social class, gender, rural/urban divides and minority ethnic groups. Zeroing in on South Africa as an example, the barometer estimates that on average almost 34 percent of children are not mastering basic competencies, but this can rise to as much as 48 percent of children living in rural areas and 53 percent for children from the poorest quintile of the population. 

In a blog post recapping her Africa trip, Mrs. Obama addresses some of the many barriers girls face by not only enrolling in school, but the challenges that they face even when they choose to stay in school. Building on her 2011 speech to the Young African Women Leaders Forum in South Africa, Michelle Obama reiterated that girls’ education is a transformative investment and the best one a government can make to foster economic growth and stability. 

The first lady was not alone in her commitment to improving educational attainment in Africa. While in Johannesburg, President Obama also addressed the importance of investing in Africa’s youth by announcing the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a new flagship program which brings youth to the U.S. for training and mentoring on fostering economic growth in Africa. 

Yet despite the president and first lady’s commitment to education in Africa, U.S. foreign aid to global education is actually declining. Recently released figures by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics show that between 2010 and 2011, 6 of the 10 major donors (Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States) to basic education reduced their levels of aid. In sub-Saharan Africa alone this is a decrease in financial support of 7 percent.

Figure 1: Many of the Largest Donors Cut Aid to Basic Education Over 2010-11 (In 2011 Constant Prices)

Now post the president and first lady’s Africa trip, the U.S. government has an opportunity to recommit funding to basic education in Africa in order to lead by example and encourage other donor governments do to the same. As Michelle Obama said, “Mandela’s most important quote, of the millions of things he has said, is that education is probably the most powerful weapon for change.”