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Archive for May 16th, 2011


Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

By Harrison  Mwirigi  Ikunda, Nairobi-Kenya

I have been closely observing and doing some analysis on Nairobi Stock exchange lately and comparing it with trends in some of the other African markets and after consulting a good number of financial experts found there are great opportunities in it and African markets as well. Nonetheless countries like our neighbouring Uganda which looks economically promising have a very delicate future politically. President Museveni having already turned into a typical African despot (a story for another day) is a big cloud that darkens Uganda’s political dispensation into the future. But staying purely on Kenya’s political and economic  trajectory, the country looks very promising but still has an albatross called political succession on its neck.

Most of foreign experts and investors that I had an opportunity to talk to, rate the very unpredictability of African politics as one of the biggest hindrance for greater investments in Africa. It is a big headache for business conglomerates in planning their business strategies in Africa. New and potential investors have it as a big hindrance in their attempt to make forays into the African business space. In a continent that has already seen a horrid political past not many would like to take chances. Those who have dared in the past have seen their fortunes grow in Africa but yet still some have been caught in quite nasty political developments in Africa. Kenya for instance is right now on the throes of an impending presidential succession and a complete transformation of its political map. With a new constitution in place (though requiring a lot to be done with urgency) the future looks more positive than it could have been with the old constitution.

However there is a big concern on the person to inherit the presidency and what his or her presidency would portend for Kenya and the region as well. Speaking with a cross-section of Kenya most do acknowledge tremendous changes that has occurred politically and economically during president Kibaki’s presidency after he took over leadership in December 2002. Most cite the rapid reforms in the economy, revival of then dying or dead industries, infrastructure development and widening democratic space. This plus the many social programmes and obviously the rebirth of the nation in a new constitutional dispensation are some of the things often cited by Kenyans as some very positive things that has happened during his presidency.

Kenya however is facing some uncertainty and this still rest on the politics. One often cited weakness in Kibaki’s presidency is that in as much as he created space for his ministers and civil servants to perform, people tended or still tends to take advantage of it. Kibaki created room for everybody to do his work but apparently people have taken it as a weakness or negatively exploited it. For instance implementation of the new constitution is being blamed on trusted senior government officials and the numerous wrangling between PNU and OPM partners.

Obviously there seems some people ready to take advantage or create vacuum to create advantages or to strongly position themselves to inherit the presidency by exploiting or creating loopholes. Hanging on the president cocktails are a number of his lieutenants and not least of them the vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka . They would cherish to inherit the presidency by having state advantages over their rivals. The Prime Minister Raila Odinga who looks to have the most of the grassroots work sewn up save for Central Kenya and lately Rift valley is viewed as a common enemy and most of the presidential contenders seem to push for their case for presidency playing a very hostile and anti Raila card which has inevitably crossed reason and created tribal feelings at a time this nation would better forestall the madness.

The ground in Kenya is quite fertile for any of the contenders who would be perceived to bring more positive transformation and revolution of the state to a more friendly reformed environment to spur investments, tame the many ills bedeviling the country and give the energetic, intelligent and very promising youths and women who have so much to offer the country.  The two groups have already shown they have the mettle to transform the economy given an opportunity. The two groups main disadvantages lie in limited opportunities and access to resources such as land.

In the meantime there is a lot of dithering and alleged conspiracies especially in the implementation of the new constitution. One wonders when Kenyan leaders will learn to move in tandem with the needs of the public and needs of the state. Methinks the country would be positioning itself to take the advantages bestowed by nature, geography and the potentials of the East African countries. It would make sense if sorting out the implementation of the constitution is facilitated while busy engaging to ensure the economic integration of the East African economies which has lately expanded is given the right gear.


The writer is a Consultant and Researcher working for a Not for Profit Organisation with an office in Kenya covering the African region.

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A Letter to President Obama From Fly-Over Country

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

Murrells Inlet, South Carolina                        
Nancy Morgan
May 16, 2011               

Disclaimer: With the exception of Sen. Jim DeMint, these views are not endorsed by our local and state officials
Dear President Obama,
My neighbors here in Murrells Inlet have appointed me their spokesman in order to relay to you the results of our latest kitchen cabinet meeting.
We believe we’ve come up with some great solutions to many of America’s pressing  problems. Of course, not a one of us is an expert or has any letters after our names, but we’re hoping you’ll listen anyway. (And we have no problem if you want to take  credit for them.)
The economy: Did you know that reducing tax rates actually increases tax revenue to the government? Both JFK and Ronald Reagan found this out when they cut taxes. If you cut taxes instead of increasing them, both the government and the people end up with more money. We know that sounds strange, but Gary Murkowski, our local fire inspector and resident history buff, assures us it’s true. I checked it out, and, by golly, he’s absolutely right!
On energy: Penalizing big oil actually harms people like us in fly-over country. Neal Boortz has pointed out that the majority of stock in big oil is actually owned by mutual funds and IRA’s. (That’s us here in fly-over country) When you penalize them, you’re actually taking money out of our pockets. Frankly, if I lose any more value in my IRA, I might have to take a another job, and that would displace some poor illegal immigrant. Ha ha, just kidding.                
Seriously, though, we’re all pretty sure that if you just quit fighting the judge’s order to issue more drilling permits, that would have a very positive effect on both the jobs market and the rising price of gasoline. It would also have the advantage  of reducing the amount of money we’re sending to Arab countries.
(PS. Billy Joe is wondering why we’re sending billions of dollars to Brazil so they can drill offshore, but we can’t even drill here in our own back yard.)

 Entitlements: We all really appreciate that fact that you and your administration are looking out for us, but there’s no need to bother. Everyone here in Murrells Inlet already has a pretty good safety net in case of emergencies. We’ve got a vibrant community, active churches, local charities and strong families that provide for us during rough times. As far as I know, no-one in this neck of the woods will even take hand-outs from the government. (Except for Betty Sue, our resident liberal, God bless her soul.)                    
Illegal Immigration: There is a strong case to be made that merely enforcing our existing immigration laws would be an effective solution.  Attrition would eventually reduce the number of illegals already here. (When they go home for holidays, etc., we could just stop them from re-entering.) Wouldn’t  that be better than endorsing and rewarding people who have broken our laws? In  addition, we know of several organizations made up of regular Americans that are willing to help police our borders – at no cost to the government. Granted, they’re  not union members, but, hey, no solution is perfect.
Health Care: All of us guys here in fly-over country believe that individual states are in a better position to determine health care policy than is the federal government. (See the Tenth amendment) We’re willing to bet good money that if the federal government just got out of the way, the free market would immediately result in much lower health-care costs. Across the board.
We know these proposed solutions don’t conform to the “progressive” template, but there’s a lot to be said for tried and true solutions that are grounded in history. Here’s hoping you give them careful consideration. After all, just because we’re a lot of white, middle-class guys doesn’t mean our views should be excluded.
Before we sign off, we’d like to give you a big shout-out for killing bin Laden. Like the media keeps saying, (over and over) that was a real gutsy call.                        
Say hey to Michelle and the kids for us.
PS. Did you get my last letter?
Nancy Morgan is a columnist and news editor for conservative news site
She lives in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina , USA

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ICC Prosecutor goes for Gadhafi – Warrant of arrest request today

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

According to Daily Nation, Kenya – “The UN war crimes court’s chief prosecutor said Monday he would seek arrest warrants against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence head for crimes against humanity.” “Today, the office of the prosecutor requested the International Criminal Court (issue) arrest warrants,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo said at a press conference in The Hague, where the International Criminal Court is based. The Argentinian prosecutor said there was evidence “that Muammar Kadhafi personally ordered attacks on innocent Libyan civilians”. A panel of ICC judges will now have to decide whether to accept or reject the prosecutor’s application, based on his case file.”

This request to the ICC judges by Prosecutor Moreno will even make Gadhafi more stubborn. He will not surrender. He may even become more and more difficult to deal with.

The UN wants ceasefire and Gadhafi is willing to talk, but not to surrender power.

By Chief editor Korir

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News in Brief from RightBias Online.

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

By  RightBias   – USA   


White Americans See Anti-White Bias on the Rise: 

Both white and black Americans perceive significant progress in the fight against anti-black bias, but white Americans believe the progress has come at their expense, a new survey finds.                   Wall Street Journal                 
U.S. To Hit Debt Ceiling Today

The debt-laden US government’s credit card will hit its limit Monday, creating a cash crunch that puts the country’s credit standing at risk as politicians battle over its long-term deficit.        Breitbart
Gingrich Backs Obamacare’s Individual Mandate 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday that he strongly supports a federal mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance a position that has been rejected by many Republicans.            Newsmax
Administration Approves 200 More New Obamacare Waivers:
The Obama administration approved 204 new waivers to Democrats’ healthcare reform law over the past month, bringing the total to 1,372.    The Hill

Of Interest:  Goodbye, White America:
The numbers are in: the white population is moribund. The latest figures from the 2010 census point to the emergence of a new America to be eventually dominated by minorities, especially Hispanics and Asians, the two fastest-growing ethnic groups in the land.   Dr. Grace Vuoto

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Envoy Appointments-Now Kenya Adds Nepotism, Cronyism and a Dynasty to its Export Portfolio

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

Written last year 2010 – 05/10/2010, Republished today 16th. May 2011 on writer’s request.

  • Written by David Ochwangi 

The just revealed list of appointments of Kenya’s ambassadors/envoys to various stations around the world, discreetly revealed to the media even after the government promised highest ethical standards and transparency; the appointments are so shrouded in supreme secrecy and done in the dark, exposes yet another rot and excesses in a government too drunk and too arrogant with power to care about any ramifications of the outcome of its follies. It is not enough that the country’s image has suffered immensely around the world in recent years or that this government spends Millions of dollars to spruce its image abroad, it is not enough that the government courts a criminal enterprise, Mungiki,  to sell the draft constitution while shunning Christians, it is not enough that this government also promised to fight impunity, corruption and provide most opportunities to all Kenyans irrespective of tribe or family background; now it comes out that this government has not only failed to practice what it preaches but is now the biggest champion of double speak and hypocrisy, making a complete mockery of public service where performers are relegated to back offices and non-performers are rewarded with awards, family and friends are appointed to the most strategic posts around the world; how do you reconcile Wako being the best performer in Kenya when corruption is so rampant and murderers are roaming free in Kenya’s streets?

How do you reconcile the appointments of members of one family as envoys to the United States, both as Ambassador and Consul General respectively against nepotism? Isn’t this a clear conflict of interest? How do you reconcile the appointment of the personal assistant to the PM as ambassador to Egypt against cronyism? How do you reconcile appointments of complete neophytes to to key diplomatic appointments against cronyism? Kenya is a country of almost 38 Million people, hundreds if not thousands of them qualified career diplomats, why weren’t they picked for these positions? Something is badly wrong with this picture; good people stand up, evil triumphs when good men say nothing, and at this rate, we are perilously headed down a very dangerous path.

These appointments confirm yet again that the rot in government is excessive and has metastasized  to dangerous levels, abuse of office and authority is the norm in Kenya now as the coalition government only pays lip service to its pledges and cares not what ordinary Kenyans think , that the cries for fairness, equality and expansion of opportunity to all Kenyans by PM Odinga were in fact a ruse whose outcomes and benefits were primarily  meant for and intended for his family and those in his inner circles and not necessarily all Kenyans including those who shed blood ignorantly for this cause! Almost all the recalls and administration changes the Coalition government has made over the last year have overwhelmingly and disproportionately favored the PM’s family and those closest to him-not the General Kenyan population, it is an unbridled expansion of the Odinga dynasty and I think it is just plain wrong. 

Nepotism has no place in modern day Kenya and it is wrong to export it outside of Kenya much less to the United States of America! President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton have railed against this practice; these are the injustices, ironically, that the PM rallied the country to campaign against Presidents Moi and Kibaki; these are the arguments he made to “Kenya’s friends”, Dr. Annan and the team of “Eminent Personalities” in demanding “Portfolio Balance” in the Grand Coalition that reflected the face of Kenya and yet now it is now palpably clear that the only “Portfolio Balance” worth any mention is skewed in favor of this family; is this what Kenyans died for in 2007/2008? To bestow, expand opportunity, power and influence unto just one family!  Just less than a year ago, the Consular General in Los Angeles was recalled to Kenya and replaced by the PM’s sister, hitherto a chemistry professor; there is no record or evidence cited of her qualifications for the top rated diplomatic position in such a strategic location nor do we know of any shortage of qualified experienced diplomats who would have filled the spot. Fast forward to present, a decision has been made to recall H.E. Ambassador Ogego from Washington and his place will be taken by the PM’s Brother in law! That is a clear conflict of interest to have such a management hierarchy in the same office where relatives run Diplomatic affairs of an entire nation of Kenya in the United States of America. The reported designee to Washington is Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, just recently appointed as ambassador to France and is being elevated to the US, is married to the PM’s first cousin, who is the sister to the Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, the MP for Gem and an ODM stalwart. Even companies have policies designed to prevent or at least mitigate conflicts of interest and many bar same family members from working is similar positions and reporting to each other. Odinga’s sister in LA will be supervised by her brother in-law in Washington, DC, this is just plain wrong and I wonder if Secretary Clinton and President Obama are aware of this arrangement and whether or not they will condone it, we’ll see. 

Dave Arunga, designated to Egypt was the PM’s “Personal Assistant” and is being rewarded with Ambassadorship to Egypt.  I mean the least is simply endless, the PM’s brother, Oburu Odinga is an Assistant Minister for Finance, other Odinga relatives in high positions include Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi, Minister Fred Gumo, etc, etc. This is but a synopsis of the wider web of the PM’s family dynasty power expansion in government courtesy of the Coalition government but I don’t think this was the intent of “Portfolio Balance” under the “Power Sharing” agreement- this is not what the US Administration had in mind; rampant nepotism in government coordinated and supervised by the PM. We the people can no longer stand by and do or say nothing as this will only get worse and lead to more ethnic tension, I mean the in your face audacity in these appointments is stunning! Now some of the PM’s supporters are so emboldened by these developments that they now openly dare those of us not happy with these shenanigans to “swallow blades” or “hang yourselves”! 

Kenya has a long list of distinguished and experienced career diplomats that the government can pick from and avoid creating yet more tensions among the population or tarnishing the country’s image abroad and it is disheartening that these people are denied these opportunities, particularly the young graduates and students of diplomacy, the message is very clear, your education and credentials don’t matter, your name and relations is all you need to land a plum appointment in Kenya. Didn’t PM Odinga “fight” the Moi and Kibaki governments against this? President Kibaki, are you aware of these shenanigans? Did you approve of this? Is this how you improve Kenya’s tarnished image abroad, exporting nepotism and cronyism? If it is, let me assure you right now that you have lost on this one, WATCH! Foreign Affairs Minister Wetang’ula, are you in on this sir? Why was this exercise conducted in such secrecy? What are you guys hiding?

What you may also not know is that this action by the Kenya Government in this regard would have bad unintended consequences touching on President Obama himself. Conservative media stations such as FOX NEWS NETWORK whose primary mission, it seems, is to detract and besmirch the US president have attempted numerously in the past to link PM Odinga personally to President Obama; so much so that they will invariably see these appointments as an Odinga-Obama nexus to run Kenya and the US and pounce on it big time; trust me, President Obama is way above these pettiness and yet it is possible that his name would unwittingly be drawn into this especially around election time, you got to be very careful Kenya! You have no clue how these networks embellish information, violence, communism, socialism, etc, etc, are all media synonyms for the Odinga-Obama agenda; I wouldn’t do this if I were you; the irony is that Ambassador Ogego’s stand in defense of President Kibaki’s administration has played extremely well politically in the US for the President. Kenya can buy all the public relations expertise to influence the US perception of the country but that can only take you guys so far, it is a waste of resources; the US Administration is not stupid, they can read and see through these schemes, give the administration some credit, they are extremely competent, you can’t hide nepotism, tribalism, cronyism from the Administration especially if you are exporting it to their homeland! Get a grip. 

Finally, the Kenyan government must get its priorities straight; focus on getting the constitutional draft right first and avoid alienating key stakeholders in this process; prosecute PEV perpetrators, ALL of them starting at the top just as Ocampo has promised to do, he can only take so much of a caseload; prosecute corruption at all levels; resettle IDPs; avoid these rotten shenanigans of growing dynasties on the backs of Kenyans and run a clean open, ethical  and transparent government not beholden to special interests or familial ties, we ALL have a stake in our government and ALL Kenyans deserve and MUST be permitted to participate, NOT just the few family members and the well connected, nepotism and cronyism are unethical, they breed and fuel animosity. STOP!


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IMF boss in trouble in New York – Rape is the charge

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

According to the Daily Nation, Kenya – “IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a man who would seem to have it all: a brilliant career which has taken him to the pinnacle of success with a real shot at becoming the next president of France. But early on Sunday he was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York, only hours after being escorted off an Air France flight about to take off from the city.”

His future is now upside down if he does not manage to convince the court that he did not rape the woman. Many observers say the accusation may be political, that he may have been set up so that he does not manage to take over as next president of France.

If this is a set up then he will be cleared. However, it is an uphill task. The question is , who is the woman and who brought her to work in the hotel, how did they know the IMF boss would be there. Politics is dirty and this may really be a set up.

By Chief editor Korir

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Kenyan athlete jumps to his death after a fight with his wife

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

According to the Daily Nation, Kenya – “Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru has died after apparently falling from the top floor of his home in Nyahururu, central Kenya. According to the police, the 2008 Beijing Olympic champion died from injuries sustained after jumping from top floor of his home in Nyahururu town at about 1am local time.”

In March this year, the champion had attacked his wife and a guard. He was glad when the two withdrew charges against him after elders brought them together for a good talk.

This time, he had come home in company of a female friend and it is reported he did not expect his wife to turn up in the house that day.

The police confirm that the couple quarrelled and he decided to jump. Now the female friend is being held by police. His wife and the guard have also be questioned by police.

By Chief Editor Korir.

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Stories of 12 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women and men

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

MALAWI: Queer Malawi lifts the gay curtain

Stories of 12 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women and men

JOHANNESBURG, 11 May 2011 (PlusNews) – Africa is generally not a safe place to have a same-sex relationship – you can be shunned by society, beaten up, thrown in jail, or worse. In Malawi you can get 14 years in prison with hard labour.

In a bold move, Malawi’s Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) and South Africa’s Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) have collected the stories of 12 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) women and men and published them in a book, Queer Malawi.

The book was compiled in the shadow of the high-profile 2010 trial of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, two Malawian men charged with sodomy and indecency after they became engaged to be married in December 2009. The couple were found guilty but later released on condition that they have no further contact.

Fear is a theme that runs through the stories in Queer Malawi – fear of not being accepted by family and community, of violence and arrest. Human rights activists noted that the trial heightened anxiety in Malawi’s underground LGBT community and compromised HIV prevention efforts among men who have sex with men (MSM).

“There is the painful story of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were arrested because they were very much in love,” wrote “Shy Amanda”, a gay man using a pseudonym, as do the other authors in Queer Malawi.

“My boyfriend and I… are afraid to stay together – we only visit on weekends. When I see a policeman passing by my home I fear that maybe today they are coming to take me.”

Many African countries, including Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Malawi, have banned same-sex relationships, with the legislation sometimes being interpreted so as to leave individuals without adequate protection by the law and open to beatings and arrests.

In the case of lesbians, such legislation has sometimes led to “corrective rape”, in which men rape lesbians in the violently mistaken belief that this will “turn them straight”.

HIV/AIDS outreach

A foreword penned by the Coalition of African Lesbians provides a context for the stories in Queer Malawi and insight into the complex dynamics in the LGBT community, including the divisions between its men and women.

Africa’s lesbian, bisexual and transgender women remain largely invisible, and the activism and funds for addressing their needs, especially those related to health, are slight in comparison with the money allocated to assisting MSM.

The complex underlying dynamics of aid and HIV often influence advocacy of the LGBT community’s needs. In a highly politicised and often deeply religious context, funders and managers often link outreach programme to this population to human rights and health.

Gay, bisexual and transgender men have been at greater risk of contracting HIV through anal sex, and many funders and programmes identify them as a priority group, despite cries from the lesbian community that their low risk of HIV does not mean they are at no risk, especially with a rising level of corrective rape.

Lesbian women find it hard to stand together, because we do not have any resources or an organization that represents us,” wrote Takia.  “There is one organization that does education for gays – they only support men loving men.”

After the international publicity of the Malawi court case, even HIV prevention programming aimed at MSM was compromised, as this group went further underground out of fear of arrest, CEDEP said.

The 12 voices heard in Queer Malawi all tell a love story – young love; unrequited love, heartache and acceptance of ourselves and the often rocky terrain that is love. The book also aims to dispel the negative stereotypes often attached to homosexuals.

These are business owners, church-goers and breadwinners; women who move outside of gender norms, men who strive to portray positive male role models to their children, including HIV-positive orphans in their care.

The book is not without unsettling aspects. Multiple concurrent partnerships – a driver of HIV infection in southern Africa – and cross-generational sex feature in almost half the stories. Two of the 12 writers recall that their first sexual experience was with a family member.

At the book’s launch in December 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa, GALA and CEDEP indicated their intention to release the book in Malawi, but IRIN/PlusNews was unable to ascertain from GALA whether this had occurred. For more information on Queer Malawi, go to go to

llg/he/kn source

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Violence has affected the delivery of aid

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

In Brief: Violence hurting Palestinians in Syria

Photo: IRIN
A Palestinian refugee camp at Syrian border. Violence has affected the delivery of aid to them (file photo)

NAIROBI, 11 May 2011 (IRIN) – Continuing violence in Syria has affected the delivery of aid to Palestinian refugees, raising concerns about the impact on 30,000 people in Dera’a and surrounding areas, including 120 patients who receive insulin, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said.

“UNRWA has attempted to send urgent medical supplies to Dera’a but this has not yet been possible,” said Christopher Guinness. “UNRWA has expressed its concerns to the government of Syria and hopes the resumption of normal operations will be possible soon.” The agency has 118 schools across Syria teaching 66,000 pupils; 23 primary health centres, six community rehabilitation centres and 15 women’s centres.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said: “I am concerned about the lack of humanitarian access to parts of Syria, including Dera’a, and cities on the coast including Latakia, Jablah, Baniyas, and Douma,” in a statement. A proposed assessment mission to Dera’a scheduled for 8 May did not go ahead.

On 9 May, the EU imposed an embargo on arms and equipment that may be used for internal repression, an asset freeze and a travel ban targeting 13 individuals.

eo/mw source

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Many schools in poor areas like basics like text books

Posted by African Press International on May 16, 2011

SOUTH AFRICA: Poor marks for education

Many schools in poor areas like basics like text books

CAPE TOWN, 11 May 2011 (IRIN) – Instead of providing much needed opportunities, South Africa’s ailing education system is keeping children from poor households at the back of the job queue and locking families into poverty for another generation.

By the age of eight, school children from the most affluent 20 percent of South Africa’s population are already significantly out-performing children from poorer backgrounds, according to new research by the Social Policy Research Group at Stellenbosch University.

The study, “Low Quality Education as Poverty Trap”, found that the schooling available to children in poor communities is reinforcing rather than challenging the racial and economic inequities created by South Africa’s apartheid-era policies.

Using newly available data sets, including those linking information on income with numeracy skills, the report analyzed how low-quality tuition in the post-apartheid education system is perpetuating “exclusion and marginalization”.

Money not enough

The government allocated R190 billion (US$28 billion) or 21 percent of its 2011/12 budget to education, but 80 percent is spent on personnel and the remainder is not enough to supply thousands of schools in mainly poor areas with basic requirements like electricity and textbooks.

Yet the top 20 percent of state schools – which largely correspond to historically white schools and charge fees to compensate for insufficient public funding – enjoy adequate facilities and attract the best teachers.

South Africa’s status as one of the wealthiest countries on the continent has not helped its educational performance – the poorest 25 percent of students ranked 14th out of 15 sub-Saharan countries in reading performance, and 12th for mathematics, according to the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality surveys of 2000 and 2007.

“When seen in regional context, South Africa grossly under-performs, given that it has more qualified teachers, lower pupil-to-teacher-ratios and better access to resources,” the report on the study noted.

Nomusa Cembi, spokesperson for the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), whose nearly 250,000 members make it the country’s largest public sector union, said many teachers had received an inferior education as a result of apartheid’s “Bantu” education system, which was deliberately designed to disadvantage black learners and only ended in 1994 when a new democratic government came into power.

There are a host of other problems besetting schools in poor areas. According to Yoliswa Dwane, spokesperson for the education advocacy group, Equal Education, over 2,000 schools had no piped water supply, 3,600 lacked electricity, and over 90 percent were without libraries or a functioning laboratory.

Poorly trained teachers

SADTU and other teachers’ unions have opposed national calls for education to become an essential service, which would prevent strike action. In August 2010 a teachers’ strike closed schools across the country for three weeks, contributing to a public perception that SADTU and some of its members did not have learners’ interests at heart.

“The focus needs to be on teachers’ development,” said Cembi. “We’ve had changes in the curriculum since the new [post-apartheid] era, but we find not much focus on training teachers.”

Many teacher training colleges were closed in the late 1990s after new legislation required them to merge with existing higher education institutions. Plans to transform the training colleges into university-level institutions have not materialized, leaving thousands of teachers without any specialized training.

In recent years, SADTU has called for the reopening of training colleges because the shortage of teachers has meant that some schools in poor and rural areas have had to hire individuals who do not meet the official requirement of holding a teaching diploma.

According to the report, insufficient teacher knowledge is a problem, with many teachers scoring poorly in basic reading and mathematics tests.

A large number of changes to the national curriculum, beginning with the 1997 adoption of Outcomes Based Education, many subsequent adjustments, and the final decision -announced in 2010 – to scrap it, have further stressed an already failing system.

The way forward

Equal Education’s Dwane said the debate needed to move past “blaming teachers” and towards how to achieve a “serious commitment to a national education programme that would spell out what needs to be done over the next 20-30 years”.

Such a plan would have to include an assessment of existing teacher knowledge, followed by a national teacher training programme, but Dwane stressed the need to consider factors beyond teacher knowledge, including teacher motivation, and a lack of community and parental involvement.

Her view was backed up by the Stellenbosch study, which identified the lack of regular and meaningful student assessments and feedback to parents as another major weakness in the education system.

“For the parents to know how their child is performing, and by proxy to know how the teachers are performing, is very helpful,” said Ronelle Burger, one of the study’s lead researchers. “Very few top-down measures can be as effective as getting the people who are affected to act to correct the problems.”

The researchers found that the job prospects of school leavers were determined not only by the number of years of education attained, but the quality of that education.

“The labour market is at the heart of inequality, and central to labour market inequality is the quality of education,” they concluded.

“Policies that address inequality by intervening in the labour market will have limited success as long as the considerable pre-labour market inequalities in the form of differential school quality persist.”

lm/ks/he source

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