educational and cultural development
Africa is a continent rich in natural resources, accompanied by a vibrant culture that educates the youth in many ways. The oral storytelling, artwork and scientific advancements within Africa are why a new crop of rising African scholars see a brighter Africa for the educational and cultural development of the African future. Yet the previous generations of Africans, especially from the sub-Saharan countries, have faced a tough battle in attaining educational progress. Only two-thirds of children in sub-Saharan countries complete primary education, according to the Global Partnership for Education.

Studies from the World Bank showcased the correlation between educational attainment and overall lower unemployment and social outreach: a child who finishes primary school is more likely to finish secondary school and pursue university. Community centers and resources aimed at increasing education create a better array of job-ready individuals who will be able to create a new economy for countries in dire need of infrastructural change.

Giants of Africa

Giants of Africa is a nonprofit, pro-sport and pro-educational program that focuses on helping children around Africa with the opportunity of achieving high educational and athletic development. With annual inclusive camps, the founder and president of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri, has been working since 2003 to educate and cultivate physical, psychological and emotional development for underdeveloped communities. These camps have helped many exceptional African youth players find a pathway way into the NBA and the African National Leagues around the continent. However, more importantly, they have uplifted the educational and cultural development in Africa.

Ujiri has worked vigorously to do two things. First, he wants to find a new crop of African talent, both female and male, to a direct pipeline into the NBA and WNBA, or even collegiate programs. The basketball camps have been a safe place for many African youths to take shelter in. Second, he wants to establish a network of camps that help in the educational and cultural development of the youth in Africa. Ujiri’s specialization in sub-Saharan countries coincides with their growing population.

There has been an establishment of different basketball camps across Africa, mainly those around the most impoverished communities. One of the largest camps is in Somalia, where Giants of Africa works with girls who are in danger of sex trafficking. Partnering with the Elman Peace Centre, Giants of Africa created camps that invited more than 50 girls in 2019 to participate. Here are the areas where Giants of Africa created the camps.

Giants of Africa’s Camps

  1. South Sudan: The establishment of a community center in South Sudan’s capital has been instrumental in giving more than 53 young children rigorous educational lessons. This occurred through a partnership between Giants of Africa and the Luol Deng Foundation.
  2. Kenya: In Kenya, Giants of Africa have teamed up with The Mully’s Children Family organization that focuses on helping displaced women and children who have HIV/AIDS, children stuck in child labor and victims of sex trafficking. Giants of Africa has been instrumental in funding food, education, shelter, educational training, healthcare and counseling resources.
  3. Nigeria: In Nigeria, which is also where Ujiri is originally from, funds went toward making a permanent community center after the annual camps took place. There, Giants of Africa partnered with Little Saints Orphanage in Lagos to establish a community system for the orphaned youth. Ujiri has used Giants of Africa’s sponsorship with Nike to donate Nike apparel and equipment as well as organized funding for the orphanage.

The combined average unemployment rate of South Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria is more than 25% and faces an unprecedented future without the investment of the rest of the world. Africa is an entirely different world with so much potential to blossom.

Educational Performance with the Necessary Tools

Research from a recent World Bank study demonstrates just how important youth development can be towards educational performance, cultural development and social mobility. These camps helped more than thousands of susceptible young children who are the future of Africa.

These results are more relevant now than ever with Africa housing a population in which more than 63% are under the age of 25. Inhabitants within sub-Saharan Africa make up the largest growing youth in the world. The attainment of formal education along with formal events of communal work services could impact the world on a global scale. A recent study that Richard Reeves, a British economist from the Brookings Institution, conducted, found that sub-Saharan countries do revere educational attainment and the social mobility that goes along with it. This goes hand in hand with the results of community outreach and higher-income status.

The lack of research on how community centers and funding have helped Africa grow economically and educationally is a testament to the lack of resources available to them. With the largest growing population in the world, the key to global porosity lies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion

The continent of Africa is now facing a period of educational advancement for the youth. This has occurred not only through the extravagant work of Masai Ujiri but also through the action of many grassroots organizations that see the potential in Africa. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Somalia are at a crossroads with the future of global society. Not only has Giants for Africa established a pipeline for extraordinary young basketball players to forge their journey into a better professional and educational future, but it is also helping the children who are also at a higher risk of not continuing their education.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Unsplash

Mesut Özil’s Charity WorkMesut Özil is one of the world’s wealthiest soccer players. In addition, Mesut Özil’s charity work has related strongly to his athletic efforts. He previously played for Arenal London and recently joined the Turkish club Fenerbahce Istanbul. Arsenal London declared a 12.5% pay cut for its players and manager Mikel Arteta due to the pandemic. However, Özil rejected this cut. As a result, he created discrepancies between him and the club and Özil no longer underwent selection for games. While Özil received some criticism from online communities, many fans continued to support him because he donates significantly to charities.

Özil Recognizes His Privileged Position

Mesut Özil was born in Germany as the fourth child of Turkish immigrants. Özil’s family struggled financially throughout his entire childhood and his mother had to take on several different cleaning jobs to make ends meet. As a result, Özil recognized his incredibly privileged position as a successful soccer player. He is extremely compassionate toward impoverished communities. Thus, Özil has been giving back to those who desperately need aid.

Supporting Impoverished Communities

Özil’s salary at Arsenal London was an estimated $25 million a year in 2013. Thus, the 12.5% cut would have decreased his salary by about $3.2 million a year. Additionally, the club and its billionaire owner Stan Kroenke would gain his loss. Furthermore, Özil and other players were doubtful that their pay cuts would actually aid staff members. Özil stated that he was even willing to give up more of his salary if the club could prove it was necessary. In the end, he decided to increase his charity work instead.

Mesut Özil’s Charity Work

Özil’s refusal to accept the pay cut placed him in the center of media attention in 2020. However, many have known him for his incredibly generous nature for a long time. For example, Özil donated his prize money of $329,000 after winning the World Cup in 2014. He donated to the BigShoe project and financed vital surgeries for 23 children in Brazil. Additionally, Özil and his wife donated to 16 refugee camps in Turkey and Syria after their wedding. Their contribution provided food to about 100,000 people. Furthermore, the couple funded important surgeries for about 1,000 children around the world.

The Way Özil Spent the Money he Refused to Give Up

Özil donated money to support people in need all across the globe after rejecting Arsenal’s pay cut. Homeless shelters and schools in North London received nutritious food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, he increased his financial contributions to the BigShoe project to provide children with much-needed surgeries. He also donated $111,542 to the Turkish Red Crescent in May 2020. The money went toward feeding families in Turkey and Syria during Ramadan. Mesut Özil’s charity work also introduced a new range of footwear and donated all of the money that the footwear earned. It granted children in Italy access to digital education materials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fans and the media continue to criticize Özil’s refusal of the pay cut. Many consider the money he donated to impoverished communities to be more important than giving it back to Arsenal. However, Özil’s charity work has had an undeniable positive impact on many people’s lives.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Tegla LoroupeAt the 1994 New York City Marathon, Tegla Loroupe of Kenya made history as the first African woman to win a major marathon title. For years, African men had great success over the distance and now a female compatriot could share in the glory. Loroupe has won several major world marathons and broken world records. Loroupe has since retired from professional running and has involved herself in supporting peace, prosperity and economic advancement in Kenya and across Africa.

The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation

Loroupe says that she grew up surrounded by conflict. All around her, she saw violence at the hands of warring tribes in Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. In these regions, many tribes depend upon livestock farming to stay afloat. However, resources like food and water can be scarce. This leads to violence among the tribes and what people know as rustling: the stealing of cattle. Many tribes resort to the use of force as they otherwise risk falling into severe poverty.

In 2003, Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF). She wanted an end to the conflict between the tribes and sought peace through sports. Loroupe based the foundation on three pillars: peacebuilding, education and supporting refugee athletes.

Tegla Loroupe Peace Race

A hallmark of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race, a 10-kilometer run that hosts runners from warring tribes. They put their weapons down to compete in this race and build stronger relations with the goal of ultimately preventing further violence.

Loroupe says that the Peace Race had strong effects within just a few years. Deaths from fighting between tribes drastically reduced and people have reached a better understanding of one another. Further, many warriors surrendered their weapons for the sake of peace.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, professional soccer player, Lucky Mkosana of Zimbabwe, agreed that “sports definitely contribute a significant amount to world peace.” He highlighted how athletic competition creates positive exposure to other cultures and fosters “an environment where people can learn” about those from outside groups.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Mkosana understands well that children having outlets like sports can open them up to opportunities. He is a founder of the BYS Academy, a soccer school for vulnerable youth in his hometown of Plumtree, Zimbabwe.

The Importance of Education

Another arm of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Education and Peace School (TLE&PC). Here, children receive the opportunity to learn after experiencing displacement due to conflict. The school also acts as an orphanage for its students, giving them a safe place to call home.

As of early 2020, the school had 460 students and Loroupe hopes to eventually increase enrollment to 1,000 students. Recognizing the importance of a good education, Loroupe wants to ensure that all students have access to a good learning environment. Mkosana said that “talent is spread evenly but resources are not.” Loroupe’s academy makes an effort to provide resources to all.

Loroupe also says that improved access to learning can help reduce violence. Education creates opportunity, and without one, people do what they feel they must do in order to survive. With schooling, this need not be the case. People can create livelihoods for themselves and live without violence.

Heading the Refugee Olympic Team

More recently, Loroupe once again became the leader of the Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympics. The Refugee Olympic Team first appeared in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which Loroupe also led.

Loroupe had experience working with refugee athletes at the TLPF so she was a clear choice to head the refugee team at the Olympics. The 2016 team comprised of 10 athletes, who Loroupe says, “reminded the world of the sufferings and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.”

It was also important for refugees to see that these athletes were able to find success. There was hope for them and they can achieve their dreams just as the members of the Refugee Olympic Team had.

Looking Forward

Loroupe’s promotion of peace through sport through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation has changed much in Kenya since its inception. Warriors are laying down their arms and children are obtaining educational opportunities. The story of the TLPF is a developing one, but from what it has accomplished so far, peace in Kenya is extending further than ever before.

Evan Driscoll
Photo: Wikimedia Commons