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South African poverty and educationSouth Africa is a country with 19.6 million children, making up about 35% of its total population of 56.5 million people. Of these 19.6 million children, about 98% have “attended some form of an educational facility.” However, these high attendance rates do not mean high-quality education and lack of academic resources is a large contributing factor to the correlation between South African poverty and education.

Education in South Africa

Despite having high rates of education enrollment, the quality of education in South Africa is poor. Reports have shown that of the students who attended school for five years, only half can do basic math. Furthermore, there are little to no standards for the teachers to be held at. About 10% of teachers across the country are absent from school on any given day and 79% of grade six math teachers do not have the content knowledge to be teaching at their respective level.

Education is compulsory until grade nine, and over the years, there have been increasing numbers of drop-out students, for a variety of reasons. The main reason is unequal access to resources as a result of poverty. The disparities between female and male students also continually present issues in the South African education system, especially with low percentages of girls pursuing careers in science, math or technology.

In addition, South African schools have struggled to teach basic skills such as reading and writing as well as early development for young children. Only 38.4% of children ages zero to four attended a school system such as day-care, playgroup or pre-kindergarten programs. The early development issue is further seen as 46.8% of parents say they do not read with their children and 43.15% say that they do not color or draw with their children.

South African Poverty and Education Correlation

South Africa has struggled with high rates of poverty for many years and the correlation between South African poverty and education is present in many different aspects of the relationship. In rural areas in the former homelands, about 81% of children are below the poverty line and 44% of children in urban areas live in poverty as well. Education in rural areas suffers especially, simply as a result of the barriers presented by the location. For example, critical resources such as water, electricity, books and technology are missing from many schools, which present obstacles for South African children to have a complete educational experience. Furthermore, the location of schools in comparison to students’ homes, present long commutes. Without reliable transportation, students and teachers both struggle to consistently arrive at school.

Why Low Education Enables Poverty

Poor education is a leading factor in continuing the cycle of poverty. Research continually supports the idea that children who suffer from high rates of poverty are more likely to drop out of school after grade nine as a result of the barriers poverty creates. Increasing the quality of education results in a growing economy, lowers income inequalities and decreases the risk of disease and violence. Without a basic education, South African children struggle to become members of the workforce, and as a result, cannot escape poverty. Education not only teaches basic skills such as reading and writing but helps to develop important qualities such as strong communication and social skills. Without this, it is difficult for children to become working members of society. Furthermore, education differences between the poor and the rich as well as males and females, increases inequality, resulting in poor systems that cannot fix the underlying issues.

Partners for Possibility

Partners for Possibility is an example of a grassroots organization that works to fix the issues between South African poverty and education all while improving businesses in the United States. Business leaders from companies in the United States go overseas to South Africa for a 12-month program in which they teach principals and leaders of schools about leadership and engagement. By doing so, business professionals help to change the unstable and ineffective system of South African education, while simultaneously learning about poverty and culture in South Africa. The program has had extremely positive outcomes as education leaders, teachers and parents become more invested and engaged in the school system, which in turn, benefits the children.

South African poverty and education are strongly linked and this presents many issues for children. However, it is not an impossible mission to address and Partners for Possibility demonstrates the mutual return for U.S. businesses and South Africans that comes with finding these solutions.

– Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

5 Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders Diagnosed in South AfricaFor the past few years, rheumatology has improved in South Africa, populated with more than 1.2 billion people. However, there is still a lack of resources needed for appropriate education, testing and diagnosis to improve rheumatology patients’ quality of health care. This piece will explain five rheumatic diseases and disorders that have been regularly diagnosed in South Africa. The difference between a disease and a disorder is that a disorder disrupts regular bodily activity and functions while the disease has specific symptoms and causes. Despite the number of rheumatic care providers, rheumatic diseases and disorders continue to be diagnosed in South Africa.

5 Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders in South Africa

  1. Sjogren’s Syndrome: Sjogren’s Syndrome is a rare and often forgotten autoimmune rheumatic disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects one’s salivary glands. An autoimmune disease is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks its healthy functioning cells. The main symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome are dry eyes and mouth. In general, women are more likely to present symptoms, although males can be diagnosed with the syndrome. The disorder is typically diagnosed in those who are older than 40. Treatment and medical advice for Sjogren’s Syndrome can be found in South Africa. There are practices like Dr. Ajesh Maharaj’s Rheumatology; however, treatment is based on the service required in terms of the patient’s length of service and condition, which may or may not increase the amount of money that will be charged for their use.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: There are six forms of arthritis, and roughly 50% of people can be living with it and have no idea. From the six forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is most common. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, commonly known for affecting the body’s joints and causing inflammation. Rheumatoid Arthritis can be diagnosed at any age and include symptoms such as weight loss, fever, pain in joints, fatigue, and weakness. The percentage of people with rheumatoid arthritis is 2.5% in South Africa’s urban settings and 0.07% in its rural settings.
  3. Scleroderma: Scleroderma affects women three to four times more than men. The disease is diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 50, and it makes the skin and tissues harden. Scleroderma is treated in South Africa in different hospitals such as Life Healthy Care Hospital Group, Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and Life Kingsbury Hospital.
  4. Lupus: Lupus is an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with Lupus than men. Like many other rheumatic diseases and disorders, Lupus goes undiagnosed in South Africa because of the lack of awareness and resources people are given. When there is no education on a disease or disorder, it goes overlooked and frequently misdiagnosed.
  5.  Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis that is less common in African countries because it often goes underreported. Common symptoms of gout include severe pain, redness and tenderness in joints. Pain can occur randomly and can be helped with anti-inflammatory medications. Patients are usually recommended by a health professional to transition to a healthier lifestyle that includes exercise and a diet that includes more vegetables and water. Males are more likely to be diagnosed with gout than women. People who are at high risk may have a higher intake of alcohol or are obese.

Poverty and Accessing Treatment

Accessing medical care is difficult, especially for those who are suffering from extreme poverty. In 2015, 18.8% of South Africans were living in poverty. The poverty rate between 2011 and 2015 increased by 2%. Efficient healthcare prominently available in private hospitals in South Africa; however, there are also public hospitals that treat patients. Yet, public hospitals are reported to suffer from long waiting lines and a shortage of staff.

More than 57 million people live in South Africa. Still, the region reports having only 85 adult and pediatric rheumatologists that treat rheumatic diseases and disorders. According to disease specialists, there should be a rheumatologist specialist for every 180,000 people, making the lack of medical care for rheumatology in South Africa clear. The shortage of rheumatologists is addressed by organizations such as the South African Rheumatism and Arthritis Association.

Organizations Helping Aid South Africa’s Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders

The South African Rheumatism and Arthritis Association (SARAA) is an organization that consists of medical professionals who are knowledgeable in the rheumatology department. The nonprofit organization of medical professionals represents South Africa’s rheumatology and brings awareness to the rheumatology field. They encourage other medical professionals to become members and believe in promoting their IDEAL vision: inclusiveness, dynamic, excellence, advancement and action and leaders.

The African League Against Rheumatism (AFLAR) is an international organization that promotes rheumatology in Africa, rheumatology education and its practice in Africa. It was established in 1989 and continues to work on educating medical employees and African citizens about rheumatic diseases and disorders in Africa.

Rheumatic diseases, such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and scleroderma, are diseases. or disorders that affect people worldwide, including South Africa. Suppose rheumatologists in South Africa are given support in bringing awareness to the different health conditions and given more medical resources. In that case, South Africa’s rheumatology department can progress, meaning earlier detection and more knowledge on diseases and disorders.

—Amanda Cruz
Photo: Flickr 

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing global economic downturns, food insecurity and unemployment, many communities in developing countries have turned to small-scale farming and home gardening as a solution. When the pandemic took full effect in March 2020, an upward trend in gardening around the world followed. In developing countries where access to food was dangerously inhibited by the pandemic’s economic effects, embracing small-scale gardening became crucial. To navigate a food crisis, residents of various developing countries embraced gardening and its many benefits, plotting gardens wherever they could find land. In addition to helping communities survive a food crisis by staving off hunger and providing necessary nutrients, gardening also supports struggling local economies and improves mental health. Gardening is helping people survive a pandemic and has taken root to assist communities to cope with the crisis.

3 Places Where Gardening is Helping People

    1. Palestine: In Palestine, the recent farming initiative began when a municipality near Bethlehem reacted to surging unemployment and poverty rates by distributing various herb and vegetable seedlings for residents to plant in their yards. By June 2020, some produce was already ripe for picking. Noting the success of this effort, the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry distributed over one million seedlings and the Applied Research Institute in Bethlehem (ARIJ) contributed 40,000 seedlings. Residents that lack land are encouraged to move their gardening efforts to the roof and the ARIJ is instructing them on how to construct gardens with easily attainable equipment like water pipes. The ARIJ has also brought these gardening initiatives to refugee camps, helping them build planting boxes and even greenhouses so crops can be grown all year. By increasing home gardens, residents have been able to better sustain themselves and benefit from the satisfaction of harvesting from their own gardens.
    2. Lebanon: Prior to the pandemic, the Lebanese economy was already struggling and the added hardship of COVID-19 led to empty supermarket shelves. Since 2019, Lebanon’s currency has decreased in value by 80% and poverty has risen to over 50%. Following a massive explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, that destroyed Lebanon’s largest port, imports, which make up the majority of Lebanon’s food supply, are even harder to come by. However, similar to Palestine, officials have urged residents to take up gardening as a means to survive. Residents are utilizing plentiful family land or backyard spaces to plant vegetables and raise chicken and sheep and many are freezing food to prepare for a tough winter. In March 2020, the Ghaletna initiative was created to connect people to their land by teaching farming techniques and helping disperse surplus yield to families most in need. Beyond supplementing Lebanon’s food stocks, these gardens provide residents with a sense of comfort knowing that they no longer have to rely solely on imports. Likewise, this transition is prompting Lebanese people to embrace traditional, local foods.
    3. South Africa: In South Africa, gardening is helping people as well. A local farming initiative is not only helping its community by providing produce but is also helping the area’s economic recovery.  In the Uitenhage region, a small-scale farming effort called the Lima Gardening Initiative began when three men with no gardening or farming experience bought a plot of land just as lockdown took effect. Gardening efforts began with spinach, cabbage and beetroot but has expanded since March and locals are now able to purchase produce at affordable prices. In addition to supplying the community with easily accessible food, a primary goal of the Initiative is to encourage youth participation and change the idea that gardening is for the elderly. Once the produce is harvestable, the Initiative plans to employ the youth and help correct rising unemployment. Additionally, the group hopes to use the profit they attain from selling produce at affordable prices to open a soup kitchen and further give back to the community. Through these efforts, the Lima Gardening Initiative is helping a South African community adjust to the economic effects of the pandemic.

    Although these farming initiatives began out of necessity, people in Palestine, Lebanon, South Africa and other countries around the world are learning the benefits of gardening. Beyond coming into use in a time of economic crisis and food shortage, residential and small-scale gardening is helping to support local economies, employing those in need and providing gardeners with a sense of satisfaction and a safe haven.

    –  Angelica Smyrnios
    Photo: Flickr

 Cape Town Water Crisis
Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital, has a population of about four million, which is nearly 8% of the entire South African population. South Africa has been successful in cultivating a democratic country, but it has a persistent inequity issue. In 2015, the bottom 60% of the country only held 7% of South Africa’s net wealth. Although more than 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line, 93% of black South Africans live in poverty. Cape Town, although not exempt from issues of inequity, is a thriving metropolis to South Africa. When the Cape Town water crisis rose to a peak in 2017, it became imperative for the city to make some serious changes before they ran out of water completely. Here is how Cape Town recovered from its devastating water shortage and a look at where the city is today.

How the Crisis Began

Cape Town has long been praised for its award-winning water management achievements and efficient use of the city’s six largest reservoirs, which can hold up to 230 billion gallons of water. The city was well aware of the impending climate changes and took measures to decrease overall water consumption.

Despite their efforts, Cape Town neglected to factor in the steady decreases in annual rainfall. This oversight was minor at the time and the city’s reservoirs were full in 2014. However, a sudden three-year-long drought drained the reservoirs to only 26% capacity by 2017. The city declared they would shut municipal water taps off when they reached 13.5% capacity.

City Measures

The term “Day Zero” became the name for the day that water taps would be shut off city-wide, essentially the day Cape Town would officially run out of water. With Day Zero looming and reservoirs draining, the city and its residents sprung into action to avoid the ultimate Cape Town water crisis.

At the beginning of 2017, the average city resident used 600 liters per day. City officials lowered that daily limit to 50 liters per day. To put that number into perspective, the average Californian used 321 liters of water per day during the 2016 drought. If a household went above that 50 liter limit, it faced hefty fines and a meter installation to shut off the water automatically once it exceeded the daily limit. The city also implemented severe quotas for agricultural and commercial institutions.

Residents Doing Their Part

The Cape Town water crisis could not have been averted if not for innovative action from the residents themselves. People began to recycle shower and washing machine water as well as limit toilet flushes to once a day. Farmers diverted their water supply away from their own farms for the city to use. Swimming pools and lawns were no longer essentials and residents no longer used water for such amenities. Social media played a key role as well by being a platform to share advice with a large audience. Local restaurants and bars started competitions to see who could refrain from washing their clothes the longest. The combination of these efforts is what saved the 4 million people from ever having to experience Day Zero.

The Role of Poverty

Although the Cape Town water crisis affected the entire city, it hit some residents much harder than others. South Africa is already a country known for its inequity issues, and the water crisis exacerbated that fact. Wealthy residents found ways to get around the restrictions by hiring companies to dig $6,000 wells for them, buying large amounts of drinkable water at inflated prices, and even installing filtration systems to make groundwater drinkable. Poor residents, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the city and had to sacrifice buying food to be able to buy water.

Where is Cape Town Today?

Cape Town finally experienced an average rainy season in January 2018, allowing the city to postpone the arrival of Day Zero indefinitely. After the immediate crisis had been averted, the city began planning for ocean water desalination and groundwater extraction as backup water sources. These are more long-term solutions, but they present issues of their own such as the affordability of such intense installations and the impact on local ecosystems.

Limits on water usage have been loosened slightly; however, they still exist and are strictly enforced. This continues to negatively impact the city’s poorest residents. Perhaps the most helpful action taken since the crisis has been the weekly reports on dam capacities. As of July 2020, all the dams are holding steady at around 80% capacity.

Although the Cape Town water crisis never fully culminated in a citywide water shutoff, the impact of the event still resonates with the poor. Moving forward, efforts need to be made to ensure equal water access for all residents.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in South Africa
Tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial disease, is contracted through airborne respiratory droplets from an infected individual. TB is also contractible from unpasteurized milk containing Mycobacterium Bovis, or Bovine Tuberculosis. Pulmonary TB primarily affects the lungs, but more than 90% of individuals with TB have a latent form known as drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). With tuberculosis as the leading cause of death in South Africa, the government and other organizations are working to help those with the illness. The South African government, with aid from the international community, is slowing the spread of TB through treatment, premature diagnosing, proper medical training and accessible testing. Here is what you need to know about tuberculosis in South Africa.

Tuberculosis: the Leading Cause of Death in South Africa

Tuberculosis is a major public health threat in South Africa, causing more than 89,000 deaths annually. Even so, the government is making strides toward eradicating TB in South Africa. Medical professionals in South Africa encourage early intensive action by screening all patients attending a primary medical provider. While premature screening is an important measure, it is also critical that the South African government encourages and helps individuals receive testing and remain on the treatment.

Treatment Availability and Effectiveness

Most individuals with TB are curable with a series of medicines. There are currently four recognized medicines that can treat TB: Isoniazid (INH), Rifampin (RMP), Pyrazinamide (PZA) and Ethambutol (EMB). After patients take the drugs for three to nine months and depending on the dosage, their bodies can successfully be rid of the bacteria. However, there is a handful of cases that are multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB). Around 1.8% of the new cases in South Africa are MDR.

For those with DR-TB, the efforts of medical professionals and the government are poor. Treatments become inaccessible for many South Africans. Many local clinics run out of medication for MDR patients, or the wait times to receive prescriptions are several hours long. As a result, patients must go to hospitals also with long wait times and crowded waiting rooms. For individuals who lack the time, money and resources to wait, there are few alternatives. This discourages those with an MDR-TB diagnosis from finishing their treatment plans. If a patient skips one dose of the six-month long medication regime, TB can resurface in the individual and come back much stronger. It is crucial that the government of South Africa, with help from other countries and organizations, provide better accessibility to testing, medicine and capable medical staff to its citizens.

Other Obstacles to Overcome

Much of the spread of TB is the result of unknowingly transmitting the disease or total neglect to seek testing because of inaccessibility or social stigmas. The stigma surrounding a TB diagnosis is a real problem. In 2014, the South African Stigma Survey reported that teasing and mockery affect more than a third of individuals who have TB.

Poverty is also an important dimension. On average, treating a regular case of TB would cost 2,500 rand (about $144.05), which is a steep cost for families in a country with a poverty rate of nearly 50%. To reduce TB deaths in South Africa by 90% would cost the government five billion rand per year, or more than $288 million. However, with help from other countries and organizations, eradicating tuberculosis is possible.

HIV, COVID-19 and TB

HIV comorbidity with tuberculosis has been a fatal combination for decades. More than 6 million South Africans live with HIV, yet only one million were screened for TB in 2013. In 2014, only 34,000 of the millions of people eligible for testing received a test.

Now, according to studies from June 2020, researchers believe citizens with active TB are 2.58 times more likely to die after contracting the coronavirus. Still, TB and HIV pale in comparison to other major risk factors for COVID-19 like diabetes or old age.

The skills medical professionals have gained from treating patients with HIV and TB will hopefully help in handling the novel virus. Being familiar with protective gear, tracking diseases and reducing the spread of illness are all important ways in which TB has prepared South Africa for the pandemic.

Organizations in the Fight against Tuberculosis

The South African government could take several actions to mitigate cases of tuberculosis in South Africa. One potential preventative action is active case finding, where health professionals search communities for individuals with TB. Another action is contact tracing, the method of finding patients who have TB and testing those with whom they have been in contact. Many NGOs and campaigns are stepping up to help the government fight TB.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a new plan to tackle the epidemic of tuberculosis in South Africa entitled the End TB Strategy. In collaboration with the National TB Programme, the WHO encourages South Africa to research, use new innovative medicines and tools, collaborate across all sectors of government and properly assess the threat of TB in influenced areas. In addition, The TB Alliance helps to end the spread of tuberculosis by funding clinical drug trials for MDR-TB in South Africa.

 

When considering what the “ideal clinic” is, only 10% of the clinics in South Africa make the cut. These clinics have ample supplies, educated staff and fair policies. It is critical that the South African government receives enough funding to help more clinics reach this status and stay on track to significantly diminish TB by 2035.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce or use insulin well, resulting in a high blood sugar level. When the body fails to make insulin at all, this is type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin effectively. Both types of diabetes come with side effects that are detrimental to a person’s lifestyle. In the African region, South Africa has the second largest population of people with diabetes. Here are five facts that you should know about diabetes in South Africa.

5 Facts About Diabetes in South Africa

  1. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in South Africa. With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes on the rise globally, South Africa is no exception. In 2016, diabetes and other NCDs caused 16% of the total deaths in the country. Diabetes is one of the three leading causes of death in South Africa, the other two being tuberculosis and cerebrovascular diseases. Among the South African population, there is a major lack of awareness of the disease and access to proper healthcare. Because the prevalence of diabetes in South African adults is 12.8%, it is crucial that other countries continue to support the funding and research of diabetes in South Africa.
  2. There are many ill-side effects for those living with diabetes. Diabetics must consistently track their blood sugar levels to ensure they don’t go into a diabetic coma. Additionally, diabetics are two to three times likelier to experience cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks or strokes. Diabetes can cause an individual’s kidneys to stop working. In most healthcare facilities in South Africa, they lack the procedures necessary to help a diabetic undergoing kidney failure, like renal replacement therapy by dialysis or through transplant. Another symptom of diabetes is neuropathy – or nerve damage – in the feet, which can lead to infection or potential amputation. In healthcare centers in South Africa, there is little equipment available for testing nerve damage in the feet and symptoms like this can often slip under the radar. Through an increase in funding from other countries, individuals suffering from diabetes in South Africa can have access to more equipment and medication necessary for dealing with diabetes.
  3. Socioeconomic disparities and other factors contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa. In South Africa, proper healthcare is inaccessible in poorer communities. The deficiency of experienced health professionals and respectable clinics makes it hard for citizens to undergo testing or treat the disease if they have it. More than one million citizens in South Africa do not know if they are diabetic. With more accurate and accessible testing, a greater population can begin treatment for the disease. It is crucial that the government receive funding to build diagnostic centers and train medical staff.
  4. Diabetes in South Africa is preventable and treatable in many ways. Though diabetes is irreversible, there are ways to keep symptoms at bay. Type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood and is usually impossible to eliminate. However, type 2 diabetes can go into remission with medication and changes in lifestyle. A common medication used to treat diabetes is metformin. Exercise and good eating habits are helpful treatments for diabetics. The most effective way to decrease the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is to prematurely educate citizens and encourage healthy decision making. South Africa is currently working towards this goal.One recent preventative measure taken by the South African government is the implementation of a sugar tax. By charging more for sugary drinks and foods, the government is fighting obesity and helping citizens make more conscious decisions. In July 2019, South Africa briefly launched a Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). The DPP aims to integrate intervention treatments into a culturally relevant context through household questionnaires and group gatherings for at-risk individuals. In the conclusion of this program, the DPP will focus on using the information they gathered to create a curriculum that can educate communities about diabetes. To prevent rising cases of diabetes it is important that there is more pervasive awareness of the causes of diabetes. Citizens can learn how to manage obesity and understand when they should seek testing.
  5. Many countries and organizations help by funding testing centers and medical treatment in South African cities. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) works with several organizations in the South African region to help combat the severity of the disease through advocacy, funding and training. The three organizations that are a part of IDF are Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) and Youth with Diabetes (YWD). DSA is one organization that does its part in educating citizens and lobbying the government for better facilities and cheaper healthcare. DSA is a nonprofit that centers around mobilizing volunteers to demand better treatment for those with diabetes.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Theater in Africa
Education is an essential tool to guide the next generation and prepare them for success. In South Africa and Rwanda, education is vital, and a good portion of government spending goes toward education. In 2013, South Africa invested 19.7% of its national budgets toward education, while Rwanda invested 11%. Both South Africa and Rwanda recognize that education impacts the success of their citizens. A mode of education that can transform the way children learn is through theater. The International Theatre Project aspires to teach children in South Africa and Rwanda the building blocks of theater to ignite their confidence. Teaching theater in Africa can produce a new generation of leaders who are passionate about their heritage.

What is the International Theatre Project?

 The International Theatre Project began as a test to see how new programs would impact students. In 2005, two professionals experienced in theater arts, Stephen DiMenna and Marianna Houston, decided to conduct their project in Tanzania with 21 pupils. DiMenna and Houston had the students write a play in English and perform the piece for their community. The play reflected the students’ aspirations for the future. Producing the piece had a profound impact on the students. The 21 pupils who worked on the project tended to score higher on English exams than their peers. Seeing the positive impact of theater on young students, DiMenna and Houston returned the following year, thereby founding the International Theatre Project.

Since then, the International Theatre Project has held programs in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Rwanda, South Africa and India. The students who participate in the programs often lack opportunities in education, and poverty presents even more barriers. According to the International Theatre company, 90% of their students continue their education into college, 80% of students have job opportunities after graduating high school, 100% score higher on their English exams and 100% are inspired to educate others in their communities. The company’s most recent accomplishment is having students perform their original piece in Cape Town, South Africa. A former ITP alumnus, Calvin from Tanzania, states how his experience with ITP, “…gave me the confidence to be more than I think I can be. I can deliver and I never knew that before.”

Programs Offered by ITP

Since its founding, the International Theatre Company has developed several unique programs. For instance, Rising Voices is a program specifically for teaching theater in Africa. Students in this program have the opportunity to write and perform their own pieces. If a student has been with the program for more than four years, they can participate in Leading Acts, where they become mentors for other students. The International Theatre Project also has two opportunities based in New York. Open Doors is a program where recent immigrants can develop the skills necessary to adjust to a new way of life. Alternatively, the Stefan Nowicki Camp Treetops Scholarship Program provides two ITP students from South Africa or Rwanda to participate in a seven-week summer camp held in upstate New York. All four of these programs create ways for children to learn theater as well as develop their leadership skills.

Why Theater Education is Beneficial

Theater emphasizes freedom of expression, and through that expression, one can benefit immensely.  According to a psychological study written by Sydney Walker, there are many advantages students gain by participating in theater. For one, students improve their self-esteem through participation and self-expression. When interacting with others in the theater, students can connect on a deeper level and create an outlet for their emotions. Theatre also allows students to identify conflicts and create resolutions.

Teaching theater in Africa presents students with a new way to learn and participate in their communities. Furthermore, it allows students to create relationships with one another and communicate their own emotions. Organizations like the International Theatre Project create ways for theater to be shared and taught to anyone, regardless of their circumstances.

Brooke Young
Photo: Unsplash

top 7 myths africaAfrica has been in the news for many years now when it comes to global poverty. The continent has been the topic of disease, poverty and famine since the early 1990s. Remember when Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Tina Turner and many others came together to sing “We are the World” to raise money for Africa back in 1985? Here are 7 myths and misconceptions about Africa.

7 Myths and Misconceptions About Africa

  1. Africa’s population is dying off: This is a common misconception. Africa has actually had a growing population throughout the years. Africa’s population is estimated to hit just shy of 2 billion people in the next decade. African countries like Egypt and Ethiopia have populations close to 100 million. Nigeria has a population of over 180 million.
  2. Africa is only getting worse: While certain countries in Africa are impoverished, not all countries have been on the decline. Benin’s GDP per capita has been increasing over the past five years, going from $1,000 per capita in 2015 to $1,200 per capita in 2018. Botswana’s GDP also increased since 2015 and has a higher GDP per capita than the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  3. Inequality in Africa is at an all-time high: The Gini coefficient is a measurement of income inequality using frequency distribution. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being total income equality. There are countries in Africa that have a lower Gini coefficient than the United States. The United States has a Gini coefficient of 41, while Egypt has a Gini of 31.5. Other countries with a lower Gini include Ethiopia at 35, Morocco at 39.5, and Mali at 33. All of these countries have greater income equality than the United States.
  4. Education in Africa is non-existent: Although it is true that education is not the best in Africa, progress has been made throughout the years. The literacy rate for ages 15-24 has been increasing since 2008. While the number of qualified elementary teachers was on a decline starting in 2012, their number actually increased between 2016 and 2017, when the last data was taken.
  5. Africa has no major cities, only land: This happens to be one of the biggest misconceptions about Africa. Africa is home to the city of Cape Town, which is one of the most highly visited places in South Africa. Other major and commonly known cities in Africa include Cairo and Lagos. As one of the fastest-growing continents, Africa is urbanizing at nearly 4% every year along with a growing population.
  6. Africa is a dangerous place to visit: Since the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Africa has not been seen as a huge tourist destination for many people. However, cities like Cairo and Cape Town have been major tourist destinations. Between 2016 and 2017, international tourism in Africa increased by over 10%. Countries such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone exceeding 50% of arrivals in 2015.
  7. Africa has little to no technology: This is a common misconception about Africa, but it is actually the most untrue. South Africa was ranked in the top 20 in the world as one of the biggest financial hubs. Egypt is also considered to be a forerunner in digital media and technology with some of the highest graduating rates.

Africa is one of the largest continents in the world and one of the most misunderstood. Even though there is a lot of improvement that still needs to be done, it is safe to say that Africa isn’t only the version shown on TV. Africa has been industrializing and developing over time. The continent has a growing tech base, major city attractions and an increasing GDP. With more international aid, real change is possible.

– Hena Pejdah
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV in South AfricaFollowing apartheid, South Africa became the focal point of the AIDS epidemic. Despite the rapid rise of HIV in South Africa, the governmental response was slow. During the 1980s, people often assumed that the virus spread because of the behaviors of injection drug users and gay men. However, the spread of the disease in Africa looked incredibly different since more than half of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa were women.

HIV and AIDS in South Africa

When HIV and AIDS started having a widespread impact on South African society and communities, President Thabo Mbeki followed the arguments of Peter Duesberg. Duesberg believed that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS. This was opposed to Western medical approaches to solve the epidemic. Moreover, Tshabalala-Msimang, the Health Minister, advocated for nutritional solutions in 2003.

Other countries tried to help President Mbeki but were unsuccessful in persuading him. Civil society groups raised grave concerns over the need for urgent action. One of the most prominent groups to raise concerns and to have the greatest impact in the region was the Treatment Action Campaign.

The Treatment Action Campaign

Zackie Achmat, along with fellow 10 activists, founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998. Achmat was a gay rights activist living with HIV. TAC was a tripartite alliance between the AIDS Law Project and COSATU. It was formed as a response to HIV in South Africa. The organization was needed because of the lack of urgency that the government and the medical industry had in responding to the virus. 

TAC is a rights-based organization focused on getting those in need access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. TAC is technical and political in its arguments as it utilizes justifications for actions through moral, scientific and economic reasoning. Also, TAC develops partnerships with activist groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP. It aids in training on ‘treatment literacy’ and initiated a more extensive peer education network. In addition, TAC formed partnerships between elites, academics, professionals and press. However, it ultimately served to strengthen the effort for the poor to advocate for themselves. TAC uses its sources for social mobilization, advocacy, legal action and education.

TAC Fight Against HIV in South Africa

TAC’s first action was to argue for the right to access medical resources, namely antiretrovirals (ARVs). The organization found an inherent fault with the World Trade Organization’s 1995 TRIPS agreement, which legally protected intellectual property and patents.

In 1998, TAC demanded that the South African government introduced a program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT). The social movement around advocacy for PMTCT was primarily made up of predominantly poor black women living with HIV. The issue was framed as a moral issue. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was profiteering off the sale of the drug. As a result, TAC demanded a price reduction and framed it as a moral issue regarding the South African constitution. The organization succeeded in its demand for legal action.

TAC’s Success

The essential tools for TAC’s success were its use of legal resources and advocacy. TAC made legal demands of the South African government. It also collaborated with progressive lawyers, scientists and researchers to develop plans and alternative policy proposals. TAC went beyond merely advocating for the poor and based policy on the entitlement of rights. The organization has taken successful litigation measures on many occasions. The past successful cases were supported by the efforts of lawyers and TAC’s actions, which involved marches, media campaigns, legal education and social mobilization.

This was possible due to advocacy and partnerships that TAC formed and developed. The structures in which it functioned also made it possible. Article 27 of the South African Constitution took effect in 1997. It includes the right to access medical services, reproductive healthcare and emergency medical treatment.

A key component that made TAC successful was the context in which it was based. The actions of TAC would not be possible without the tools it employed that were already in place within South African infrastructure and ideology. Additionally, TAC focused on the issues of the affected people. This included economic inequity, women’s rights, post-apartheid race relations and the necessity of medication access. The Treatment Action Campaign met immediate and long-term demands for people affected with HIV by addressing inherent human rights issues. TAC was mostly successful in its response to HIV in South Africa because it mobilized the personal into the political.

Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Goals for Girls: Sports and Empowerment“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they can understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination,” said South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. More than 240 million people play soccer. At least 30 million girls participate in the sport. Goals for Girls helps young women across the globe score their own goals and celebrate empowerment.

Goals For Girls

Goals for Girls changes the world of young women. It started with a team of 16-year-old soccer players who opted to impact the world through soccer rather than compete at an international tournament. Now, Goals for Girls has teamed up with funding agencies, new partners and stars of the U.S. women’s national soccer team to teach and develop young women into agents of change through soccer. The organization aspires to give each young girl the tools to become a world changer.

Sports offer many psychological and physical benefits for girls and women. People who participate in sports benefit from a more positive body image, self-concept and overall well-being. In 2016, Saudi Arabia sent four women to compete in the Rio Olympics. This historical move represented a forward shift for women in Saudi Arabia. Before, they had faced discrimination and had restricted rights; they still do.

Maria Toorpakai, a Pakistani squash player, uses her sport to face and fight the Taliban. She gained their attention as she rose to fame. She moved to Canada to train, but she hopes to go back to Pakistan to bring sports to boys and girls. The U.S. women’s national soccer team is paid one-fourth of what their male counterparts are, but it is paving the way for the equal pay movement.

India

India hosted the first Goals for Girls program in 2014. The program tackled awareness, communication, teamwork and goal-setting. These are the four international summit pillars of Goals for Girls. The organization aimed to facilitate activities that help with issues the young girls faced on a regular basis like gender-based violence, child marriage and education inequality.

Child marriage has been practiced for centuries in India. In 2016, 27 percent of marriages were child marriages. Luckily, this is improving. Child marriage has decreased from 47 percent in 2006. Child marriage facilitates the cycle of poverty which enables malnutrition, illiteracy and gender discrimination. Child marriage also perpetuates a cycle of gender-based violence and education inequality.

Girls are more likely to be pulled from educational opportunities. Additionally, girls who marry young tend to have lower educational levels and are perceived as an economic liability to their family. UNICEF is working with the Indian government to forgo child marriage through girls’ empowerment, which aligns with the mission of Goals for Girls.

South Africa

South Africa became a country of focus after the launch of the program in 2007. In South Africa, the program centers around the aforementioned international pillars, but the activities are tailored toward issues plaguing girls in South Africa like HIV, teenage pregnancy and education inequality.

There have been strides made in recent years to combat the HIV epidemic. Despite having the largest antiretroviral treatment program globally, South Africa still has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Poverty, along with gender-based violence and gender inequality, perpetuates the discrepancy between gender and HIV rates. In 2016, South Africa implemented the “She Conquers” campaign to increase economic opportunities for women, prevent gender-based violence and keep girls in school.

Sports have been a platform for change for many women on a global scale. Goals for Girls is working to make that change even stronger. It is providing girls with education, teamwork building skills and important life skills. Its ultimate goal is women’s equality.

Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr