Monday, July 30, 2007

Hey ho! Rentabook adds up.

Yes, it all adds up. Every last dollar. It's the end of the month and time to decide what we'll sponsor at the School of St Jude this month.

I don't really mind what I sponsor, 'cos I see that the money is well-used. Good planning goes a long way towards ensuring that things go smoothly, but there are always hiccoughs and glitches that mean that plans need to be adapted.

Earlier this year, the School commissioned an internet upgrade that involved a satellite dish and more. After several months of service failure, they have gone back to their previous supplier -- a more limited service, but more reliable! We have to expect these things to happen and to be flexible.

This month, I'd like to remind you about my brainwave – the Rentabook Scheme. This is so simple, it is silly. All you do is stick one of my St Jude's bookplates into the front of your books, then lend them or give them away as usual. The bookplate encourages the borrower (or recipient) to make a small donation to the School of St Jude – they rent the book for a small fee. The fees are paid here on my blog via the ChipIn tool at the top of the page.

Give it a go. Download the bookplates here. Stick them in. Get those books circulating!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Classrooms – learning on the job

Over the years of building classrooms in Tanzania, a developing country, the building materials and the builders’ skills have improved. The paint lasts longer, the floors survive thousands more foot steps, the render on the walls can cope with posters and charts and the blackboards remain black!

At first, the School shipped donated desks and chairs from Australia, but now all furniture is made locally. This way the School can ensure the furniture is the right height for the students and they are creating huge job opportunities for people in the local village and, therefore, the ripple effect is enormous.

The School also believes that staff and students will enjoy coming to school and will want to work hard and with pride for their school and themselves if they have harmonious surroundings. For this reason the School has gone to a lot of trouble to plant trees and grow gardens and lawns around the classrooms. Of course, it’s not all aesthetic - the greenery keeps down the dust and holds off the heat … to a certain extent!

By sponsoring classrooms at the School of St Jude, you are helping to pay for the bricks, cement, steel, wood, paint, render, corrugated iron sheets, building tools and fundis (bricklayers, carpenters, steel workers, builders, painters, cleaners, etc) wages. There is a maximum of 10 sponsors for each classroom – there are many people involved in building a classroom!

So, you can see how valuable your contribution is to the development of the school. When you give to the School of St Jude, you are joining a global team of wonderful people who realise that the fight against poverty starts with education. You can stay in touch with the School by newsletters, the School website and this blog – and feel the immensity of your contribution to many lives.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Capacity-building in the education sector

IRIN reports that education experts have welcomed the Tanzanian government's pledge to hire more teachers in the 2007-2008 financial year to improve the quality of education in the country.

The government allocated 18 percent of this year's budget to education and announced plans to hire more teachers in June.

On 11 July, Education Minister Margaret Sitta told a parliamentary session in Dodoma, the country's political capital, that the government would employ 14,490 primary and secondary school teachers to raise standards. She also said

Permits will also be issued by the government for about 600 expatriate teachers for privately owned primary and secondary schools.

Since free primary education was introduced in 2002, the Government has focused on improving the quality basic education in the country.

Ministry of Education records show that enrolment in primary schools increased from 4,839,361 in 2001 to 7,969,884 in 2006. This raised the net enrolment ratio in primary schools from 65.5% in 2001 to 96.1% in 2006.

This means that nearly all the children of primary school age are now enrolled in primary schools.

Pressure on secondary schools

The increased enrolment in primary schools has put more pressure on secondary schools to absorb those completing primary education. Enrolment in form one, the first year of secondary education, increased from 99,744 in 2003 to 243,359 in 2006.

Suleiman Sumra, a retired professor of education and researcher with Hakielimu, an NGO dealing with educational issues, said that while it was important to expand schools and enrol more pupils, the question of teachers should also be tackled.

When you cannot have everything and trade-offs have to be made, priority should be given to teachers over buildings.

During a debate on the education ministry's budgetary estimates, legislators praised the government's efforts to build primary and secondary schools over the past 10 years. However, they expressed concern over the shortage of competent teachers and teaching aids, as well as inadequate laboratories and libraries, especially in rural areas.

One legislator, Ponsiano Nyami, gave an example of a secondary school in his constituency with only one teacher - the headmaster. This teacher was forced to use the school's head-prefect as deputy and to carry out administrative duties, such as looking after visitors.

Teachers enjoy working at St Jude's because class sizes are limited, they have excellent teaching resources and there is mentoring and staff training.

St Jude's senior staff and leader trainees

Supporters of the School of St Jude know that their donations are going where they are needed most – to one of the poorest countries that is struggling to give its children an education that can lift the whole country out of extreme poverty.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Earthquake or volcano?

IRIN reports on the recent series of tremors in northern Tanzania.

Ol Doinyo Lengai last erupted in 1966

They report –
Livestock herders living near Ol Doinyo Lengai in northern Tanzania have abandoned pastures on the slopes of the mountain after tremors believed to be the result of volcanic activity, a government official said.

Local authorities have embarked on a disaster awareness campaign that focuses on what people should do in the event of a major earthquake and advises them to evacuate if the volcano erupts.

Check out the IRIN news item for more details.

Friday, July 20, 2007

European trade barriers are falling!

Switzerland is leading the way in removing tariffs and quotas on trade with Tanzania. At the same time, they are helping to build trade capacity within the country by funding local trade development programs.

These initiatives will help overcome two trade barriers –
  • the restrictions of tariffs and quotas
  • the barriers formed by food quality standards

This is part of the new wave of assistance and economic restructuring that will lift some African countries out of grinding poverty. This is the future that the kids at St Jude’s will inherit.

The Swiss government has removed all tariffs and quotas standing in the way of Tanzanian exports destined for Switzerland. The new regulations came into force in April 2007, and are expected to benefit a wide range of Tanzanian businesses trading in products such as flowers, cashew nuts and fish.

The capacity building programs include support to the cashew and coffee sectors at farmer level and assistance in boosting the processing sector for the crops, the aim being to increase the value of the exported products. Technical assistance is also being provided to the Tanzania Bureau of Standards to enhance its capacity for testing systems in line with internationally accepted standards, as it certifies potential export products.

A statement from the Swiss embassy in Tanzania noted:

The introduction of this zero duty initiative does not affect the requirement for Tanzanian exporters to satisfy Swiss product quality standards.

These measures show that Western countries now have a better understanding of the complexities of aid and economic development. Tariffs and quotas are not the only barriers to trade, so development aid is being given to build producer capacity and improve local governance so Tanzanian produce meets the requirements of European markets.

I hope to see a lot more initiatives like this over the coming months and years. We're seeing the will and the knowledge to make a difference at the individual level and at the systemic level.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Flamingos or washing soda?

Oh-oh! The flamingos are in trouble.

New Scientist reports that the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is concerned that Lake Natron in Tanzania is about to be ruined by plans to build a factory on its shore.

Lake Natron is a shallow, saline lake covered with a crust of salt, and is home to more than 500,000 lesser flamingos during the summer. That's 75% of the world’s breeding population. The lake has also been the lesser flamingo's only nesting site in East Africa for 45 years.

According to the RSPB, an Indian company called TATA Chemicals has set its sights on Lake Natron's unusual waters and is planning to build a factory on its shore to pump the salty water and produce sodium carbonate (washing soda). The factory will be powered by a new coal-driven power station, and the developers also want to introduce a hybrid shrimp to the lake to increase the water's salinity.

Hmmmm... this sounds altogether not-good, right down to the coal powered electricity generation. The flamingo isn't just another little brown bird, or one of those small frogs that Australian conservationists get all excited about. It is one of the most amazing creatures on the planet!!

How can we value flamingos versus washing soda?

Now, that's a hard one!

Here is a Google Earth image showing Arusha, Lake Natron AND the location of the recent earthquakes (Ol Doinyo Lengai region – that's the little yellow triangle symbol on the left of the image – you can click on the image for a bigger version). The yellow line is the border with Kenya. Arusha is at the bottom, near the little yellow triangle signifying Mt Meru.

How is that for cartographic efficiency!!

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2007: The Tanzanian Government refused permission for the factory. It's good to see they have an eye on the long term benefit of environmental protection.

Tuesday earthquake

NOTE: Updates at the end of this post.

The United States Geological Survey reports a series of earthquakes in the Arusha region.

The centre of the quakes is about 100km north west of Arusha. They have registered magnitudes of about 5 or 6. That's about equivalent to a 30 kiloton nuclear explosion, according to the British Geological Survey. As a comparison, the recent earthquake in Japan that killed 9, injured 900 and displaced 10,000 was magnitude 6.8.

I think I'll take a look on Google Earth and see what that part of the country is like. It may be part of a national park, or it may be farmland. I'd like to find out more about the impact of these earthquakes in northern Tanzania.

UPDATE: News reports note that the earthquake tremors have been felt in Nairobi, but there are no reports of personal injuries or property damage. The Global Disaster and Alert Coordination System has rated it an Orange Alert - i.e. 'medium'.

IRIN (18 July) has some more details here.

A look at Google Earth reveals that the earthquakes are in the Lake Natron region, around the volacno, Ol Doinyo Lengai, as seen on the left of the this picture (click to enlarge). Arusha is at the bottom, near Mt Meru, and the yellow line is the border with Kenya.

UPDATE: The Daily News reports (18 July):

A POWERFUL earthquake shook western Arusha city yesterday, causing buildings to sway and sending thousands of people fleeing into streets.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported from the tremor that measured 6.0 on the Richter scale. It occurred at around 5pm, just as people were going back home for the evening and night.

The Director General of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, Dr Mohamed Mhita, confirmed the earthquake, the third in three days and after several years of inactivity in an area dotted by extinct and dormant volcanoes, including the Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. “The quake follows movements on the Great Rift Valley,” he added. The Valley is a fault line cutting through the middle of Africa from south to the Mediterranean Sea.

The quake was also felt in Nairobi and some parts of Dar es Salaam, he said. It lasted about a minute. The quake was also reported by the United States Geological Survey.

“A strong earthquake occurred this evening,” said Arusha Regional Police Commander, Basilio Matei over the phone. “I felt it myself in the office,” he added. The acting spokesman of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Mr Danford Mpumilwa, said that staffs were evacuated from the court’s building located at the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC). ICTR is trying the key perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda under a United Nations mandate.

Staff of the East African Community and private occupants of the building also scampered out as the powerful quake rattled the town, hub of the country’s northern tourist circuit. "This is the highest magnitude ever recorded in the region for very long," said Mr Walter Maeda, a hotelier, who was at the roof top of his hotel and saw tables “dancing”.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good aid :: Bad aid

Not all aid to poor countries is good. In fact some people say that all aid is bad. There are volumes of examples where well-meaning aid has turned out to be harmful. For example, African street markets have lots of second-hand clothes stalls that feature the clothes bagged and put into charity bins in wealthy countries. The abundance of these cheap clothes means that no local clothes manufacturers can compete, and garment industries simply don't get off the ground.

Beyond any Drought is a report on development and aid in three countries in the African Sahel – Niger, Mali, and Burkino Faso. The key recommendations in the report can be applied to development projects in Tanzania, and to the School of St Jude specifically.

Sahel area of Africa

1. Increase long-term assistance; stay the course. All interventions should be over at least 10 years.
  • The School of St Jude meets this requirement, because Gemma has family roots in Tanzania and this is her life work. Current activities are set within a long term framework that extends decades into the future.
2. Accept that the situation has changed
  • The School of St Jude has shown that it can adapt to rapid change by gearing up rapidly when world-wide support flourished. Gemma has the management skills to keep a goal in view, while adapting to changing circumstances.

3. Understand the detail
  • The School is managed right there, on the ground. The impact and effectiveness of every bag of cement is known. This deep familiarity with detail means that the School develops appropriately and effectively.

4. Plan to improve capacity
  • The School has programs and training in place to develop leadership capacity in staff, so that the leadership team grows with the school. This local expertise will underpin the long term viability of the School.

5. Build on successes
  • In her book, St Jude's, Gemma describes how she has learned from mistakes and events that didn't turn out as expected. From these experiences, she has learned what works, and she continues to apply these lessons. For example, she has learned to be rigorous in selecting capable children from poor families, and she has learned to check and check again to avoid dishonest practices.

6. Believe in flexibility
  • The School of St Jude aims to support the best elements of Tanzanian culture combined with Australian excellence. The cross-cultural approach and rapid growth of the school have meant that flexibility has been a key requirement!

I have great confidence in this project. The School of St Jude delivers quality education to 870 capable children from the poorest households. The local demand for places in the school is massive. 15,000 applicants try for the 170 places each year. There is no doubt that there is local demand for quality education, and that the School of St Jude, delivers what parents want for their children.

This is only possible with the help of people who care to share what they have with others who have less.

Giving and receiving

Here is one way that the School of St Jude acknowledges our donations.

Isn't that colourful? Last month we opted to donate to the boarding school, and ticked the 'Industrial Cooker' option. So I smiled to receive this certificate by email.

We send a donation each month, and often choose the 'general donation' option. Here is what the School says about general donations.

The child sponsorship schemes help to run the school, but it is only thanks to donations that we have been able to expand the capital infrastructure of the school so as to be able to keep up with the exploding enrolment.

Larger donations can buy things outright, and smaller donations can go towards the full purchase of specific items such as generators or a photocopier.

The School has simplified the options for making donations online. Previously we have used the direct bank transfer option, but now we find it simplest to use the Paypal option and use our credit card.

I'm sure you'll find that it is an easy process. Give it ago – at the School of St Jude.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tanzanian Bloggers Association

What’s this? A Tanzanian Bloggers Association?

Yes, indeed it is. And of course, I’ve joined – because my blog is so focused on Tanzania.

Most (almost all?) the blogs in the Association are in Swahili, so if you speak Swahili, you’ll find lots to interest you here.

I can't join the discussions of other Jumuwatas, but they've welcomed me into the world of Tanzanian blogging. Global Voices does an occasional roundup of topics on Tanzanian blogs, so I keep in touch that way. Here is the Global Voices interview with Jeff Msangi, one of the main Tanzanian bloggers.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tanzania's prize winning solar

Look who is winning international prizes! Zara Solar – providers of PV solar in Northern Tanzania.

Zara Solar has won the Ashden African Award for sustainable energy. Funded by British industry, the Ashden Awards are based on an annual competition to identify and reward organisations which have carried out truly excellent, practical, yet innovative schemes, demonstrating sustainable energy in action at a local level. Zara Solar's prize is worth (£30,000).

Zara Solar is cited as:

Zara Solar is the leading provider of solar PV in Northern Tanzania. Given that only 10% of the whole population and 2% of the rural population have access to the electricity grid in Tanzania, solar energy would seem to be an obvious alternative. However, the up front costs and the problems with providing technical support to more remote areas, limits its appeal.

Zara Solar has tackled this problem by selling high-quality, reliable systems at affordable prices and by creating a network of trained technicians that provide technical support to the more remote rural areas. Zara Solar and its sister company Mona-Mwanza Electrical & Electronics, have sold over 3,600 solar PV systems, directly benefiting over 18,000 people and this figure is expected to increase significantly over the coming year.

In order to reach yet more people, Zara Solar is exploring micro-finance packages that will allow customers to use the savings made from replacing kerosene, to pay back the cost of the system over time. From savings on kerosene alone, Zara Solar customers in the rural areas could easily pay back the cost of a PV system in less than two years if the right financing methods were available.

We all need encouragement, and encouragement that includes both recognition and money, is the best kind!

You will know from this blog about the difficulties the School of St Jude has had with electricity blackouts. They have had to buy big diesel generators to guarantee their electric supply. I wonder whether solar panels are an option for their new boarding facilities, or the new campus at Usa River? I wonder whether Zara Solar can help them? Perhaps the first priority is to get the new buildings up and running, and the solar power can come later.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Africa Awakes!

Check out this short video clip on France24 about an exhibition at the City of Sciences and Industry ( Cité des sciences et de l'industrie) in Paris. Called When Africa Wakes Up, the exhibition demonstrates the role of science and technology in African development.

Exhibitions and reports like this are important because they show us a different side to Africa – a side more like the daily life of millions of Africans. Things are changing in Africa and we are part of the story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Navy blue socks for 1740 busy feet

As I noted yesterday, navy blue socks are on St Jude's wish list this month. Actually, navy blue socks are on St Jude's wish list EVERY month – local socks are expensive and low quality. The School provides full uniform for students, and, as I noted earlier, these uniforms are symbols of pride in the local district.

Thanks to the generosity of one supporter, the School is able to help parents keep their child's uniform in good working order by employing a Sewing Lady to attend to daily repairs. In December, I told the story of how St Jude's came to have a Sewing Lady.

Today, thanks to Bill Pavey, who keeps me up to date with the Parkwood Rotary Club activities that support the school, I can share the story of John Tunnicliff, who has responded to the call for socks by packing his bags with bundles and bundles of navy blue socks.

John Tunnicliff, Gemma Sisia, students and socks!

John is the International Service Director at Parkwood Rotary Club, and he has been a great supporter of the School of St Jude from the early years. So, when he was planning a trip to visit the School this year, it was only natural that he stuffed his luggage with as many navy blue socks as he could.

It doesn't sound like much, does it? A few dozen pairs of socks for a country where one in five children die before the age of five. But this is just a small indicator of the great care and generosity of spirit of people like John Tunnicliff, who actively support powerful on-the-ground projects that are making a huge difference to individual lives, and to the future of one of the poorest countries in the world.

Hundreds of visitors go to St Jude's every year, and all of them carry something in their luggage. This is material support that speaks what is in their hearts – great loving care for people who struggle to give their children opportunity and prosperity.

We have so much. In this affluent country, we have so much.

To get your material goods circulating through the world, you can click on the ChipIn button at the top of this blog and send a few dollars to the School of St Jude. You can stick 'Rentabook' labels in your paperbacks so they can earn dollars for the best development project in Africa – the School of St Jude. Download them here.

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The School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, relies on the support of enthusiastic Friends worldwide. Where ever possible, it tries to source local materials so that local businesses and livelihoods are supported. However, it publishes a wishlist of items that are either non-existent, poor quality or very expensive to buy locally.

Here's the latest wishlist. If you are travelling to Arusha, could you add some of these items to your suitcase?

  • Headsets for computer classes
  • Clear Contact for covering books - REALLY URGENT (10/07/07)
  • Industrial pencil sharpeners - they must be really strong or they break quickly!
  • Any good educational software to teach students Maths, World Geography, Science (our bandwith is so narrow we can't use the internet and need offline software)
  • The latest Encarta and Encyclopedia Britannicus CDs
  • Children’s Socks (age 7 -16 in navy, knee-length)

Do you like lists? Things seem to take on fresh meanings when they are lined up with neighbours. This odd assortment of items reflects the real efforts made at the School of St Jude as it tackles the goal of providing excellent education to bright children in a country that is starved of resources.

Even if you're not traveling to Tanzania, you might find a way to send the School one of these items.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Bah Humbug! Building progress

Recently, I read an article in the LA Times that argued that Africa is doing just fine thank you very much. All is not doom and gloom because many African countries have good economic growth. The columnist argued that trade, not aid, is what Africa needs. I got impatient at the over-simplification of this discussion. It seems to me that both sides of the Aid vs Trade argument get over-simplified and people end up slanging off at each other.

So, for peace of mind, I turned my thoughts to the School of St Jude. Here is a project that depends on private aid and that makes a material difference to the lives of hundreds of families right now, while providing jobs and educating the future leaders of Tanzania.

How can this country grow without educated professionals? How can people who live in extreme poverty educate their children without the help of others? While Africa has entrepreneurs who are establishing mobile phone networks and selling minerals to China, it doesn’t have any entrepreneurs who are offering affordable (i.e. no cost) education to the poorest of the poor.

Bah Humbug! Leave them to their debates and take a look at this.

Foundations for three girl's houses

These pictures show progress on the building works for the weekday boarding facilities for over 300 boys and girls at the Moshono campus of the School of St Jude.

A foundation to last for generations

Generations of children will use this accommodation. This school will serve the local area through the coming generations of increasing prosperity. Perhaps at some time in the future, families will be able to afford school fees and will not depend on the consciences of people who live far away.

Columns to support the second floor

These buildings are solidly made, using local materials and local labour. This provides employment for people who can take pride in building their own future, while putting food on the table today.

Good, solid foundations and columns

The weekday boarding accommodation will be open by the end of 2007, ready to house children in 2008. What a change that will be for all the children, and the school. Instead of a two-hour trip to school, they will have a five-minute walk. Instead of trying to do secondary school homework in a two-room house with no electricity, they will have comfortable and safe study rooms and dormitories. At weekends they will spend time with their families.

It seems to me that the poverty in Africa is due to large influences, like geography, and systems of government that have not always been very effective, and trade rules that disadvantage some countries. Individuals suffer the effects of these large influences. Now the system is beginning to change and poor people in Tanzania have the hint of a chance of a better life for their children.

With our help, these children can step into a new future where they can contribute to the ongoing growth and development of this very poor country. So, don't get muddled by Trade vs Aid arguments – your support for the School of St Jude has no downside, only benefits at all levels.

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Tanzania recognised for good governance

Jeffrey Sachs has singled out Tanzania as one of the African countries that has benefited in recent years from good governance. He was speaking in connection with a United Nations push for a “Green Revolution” in Africa to help the continent build stable agricultural systems and rescue tens of millions of people from poverty.

The idea of a Green Revolution for Africa, inspired by a similarly named program that helped many Asian countries, especially India, out of underdevelopment in the 1970s, has been championed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Kofi Annan

At a joint news conference in Geneva, the three U.N. agencies said the African version should not copy the Asian experience but be based on African realities, focusing on small-scale farming and help in empowering women.

Over the past 15 years, according to the FAO, the number of hungry people in Africa has increased by 45 million to a total of 220 million -- around a third of the continent's population and one quarter of the world's under-nourished people.

Yields of maize and other staple cereals in Africa remained at under 1.0 tonne per hectare, about half average yields in Asia and Latin America.

The U.N. agencies said the main causes of food insecurity were weak institutions, insufficient investment in agriculture by national governments and donor countries, a harsh environment made worse by climate change, corruption and mismanagement.

At a separate news conference, the U.N. adviser and U.S. academic Jeffrey Sachs said Ghana, Tanzania, Madagascar and Malawi were among African countries which have benefited from good governance in past years, helping drive economic progress.

Sachs said problems arose because many decision-makers in donor nations "don't know the quality of governance that is emerging in many African countries".

The School of St Jude in northern Tanzania is contributing to the future good government of the country by giving bright children from poor families an excellent education based on good ethical standards. This well-run project is worthy of your support.

African Green Revolution
– an excellent online resource about this initiative.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

MDG – Progress

A recent report from the UN shows progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says recent statistics show the number of extremely poor people living on less than a dollar a day fell to 980 million in 2004. One-and-one-quarter billion people lived in extreme poverty in 1990. He says this achievement has been made despite a sharp increase in the total global population.

The share of children attending primary school has grown from 80 percent in 1990 to 88 percent in 2005," he said. "There has also been strong progress on child mortality because of focused interventions-on measles, TB, dysentery and malaria. I am very encouraged by these statistics.

The report finds South and South East Asia have made the most impressive reductions in extreme poverty. But, the poverty rate in Western Asia has more than doubled.

The report notes some progress is being made in other challenging regions. It says even sub-Saharan Africa is defying all predictions and is doing better than expected in cutting levels of poverty. It says the continent's poverty rate has fallen by nearly six percentage points since 2000.

Despite these gains, it says the poverty gap in sub-Saharan Africa remains the highest in the world. It says Africa urgently needs help in fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as in basic medical care and education.

The U.N. Secretary General accuses developed countries of failing to live up to their commitments to provide adequate funding to help poor countries improve their situations.

The goals are achievable, I think, if countries commit themselves to sound governance and accountability and receive adequate financial and technical assistance from the developed countries. For developed countries, it is also very necessary, desirable to keep their commitment.

Mr. Ban says there has not been any significant increase in Official Development Assistance since 2004. He says that makes it impossible, even for well-governed countries, to meet the Millennium Development Goals. He says the Group of Eight industrialized countries should meet its pledge to double aid to Africa by 2010.

Even with Kevin Rudd's latest promise, Australia falls well behind this. Tanzania is one of the African countries best-placed to benefit from aid – it is stable, well-governed and committed to improving governance even further.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Political promises and memes

You may recall that I have blogged here, here, and here about Australia’s failure to live up to its promises to raise Foreign Aid to 0.7% of GDP. So, you will know that I am pleased to see that Kevin Rudd has announced a timetable for a Labor government to meet this target. He specified 0.5% by 2015-16. It is still a bit vague, but at least he is talking about it!

Kevin Rudd in Darfur, 2006

In an interview on the ABC’s World Today program , Rudd said:

It is in our own interests to tackle poverty in our own region, as part of a wider strategy to deal with the impact of terrorism, climate change pandemics and refugees potentially on Australia.

I have the impression that Rudd is an excellent manager who has a good grasp on the detail of bringing about better practice. He has this to say about helping countries in our region to achieve universal primary education.

For example, in education we would negotiate a timeline to meet a target of universal… truly universal primary education. This in turn will go to the need for comprehensive audits of the state of the region's primary school infrastructure, including the adequacy of teacher training and the adequacy of curricular.

I'm looking forward to fresh approaches to effective government.


Megan at Imaginif has tagged me in a meme ‘Bloggers for Positive Global Change’. What is a meme? Basically, it is a chain of recommendations – I am tapped on the shoulder by someone, and I then tap others. So, here are some blogs about positive global change that I read.

Ben's Blog – Australian blog mostly about aid and policy.

Realclimate – This is the best resource on the Web for keeping up to date with the views of reputable climate scientists. They have a great summary where they debunk 25 myths about Climate Change.

Next Billion – This blog is about sustainable business models for the world’s poorest people – the next billion people.

Center for Global Development: Views from the Center
– This is a group blog that features notes from Nancy Birdsall, her colleagues at the Center for Global Development and others in the development community about new ways to reduce global poverty.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Rent a Book Fundraiser

Here's my latest scheme! You can download this bookplate and stick it into any of your books. Then you lend the books, sell them, or give them away, and the books becomes a fundraiser for the School of St Jude.

Do you like this idea? Can you add these bookplates to your books? Go here to download the PDF file, then print it out and stick it into any of your books. [Right click the link and choose 'save as' to save the PDF file to your computer.]

Your borrowers can use the ChipIn widget on this blog to donate their book rental fees to the School of St Jude.

Get your books working for you! Better still – get them working to educate bright children from poor families in Tanzania.

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World Economic Forum

We hear a lot about the Web2.0 – the new forms of social interaction online, especially user generated content.

World Economic Forum, 2007 – collage of participatory activities

The World Economic Forum, held in Capetown 13-15 June 2007, has an interesting website that webcasts some of the sessions and allowed people worldwide to contribute questions and comments via a blog and SMS. The Forum included some open sessions where panellists responded to questions sent via the blog or SMS. Check it out here.

This is great! – because it allows everybody to see some of the sessions. Those presentations are no longer just one-day events, limited to Cape Town in June 2007, instead they last as long as the website continues.

I can see this kind of possibility for the School of St Jude. A Friends page could allow worldwide supporters to share photos (via Flickr) and video (via YouTube), to post blog messages or join a discussion board for Q and A.

What do you think? Would you like to be part of something like that? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Paving and drainage make me happy

My brother in law is a plumber, so I happen to think that drainage is important – and even interesting. So, take a look at this. Our monthly contribution to the School of St Jude has been put to good use!

The playground and path used to flood when it rained

Up until recently, whenever it rained, the area in front of the classrooms has become a quagmire. No amount of gravel or ground leveling could stop this. Of course, the kids didn’t mind, they just splashed through the puddles ruining pairs of shoes, splattering uniforms and trampling mud through the classrooms. But more serious was the problem of the stagnant water providing the perfect breeding ground for the malaria carrying mosquitoes.

And then the School discovered Hans, a Danish man, who has a paving business using local workers and a local product to provide a very professional paving job and the problem is on its way to being solved!

Thorough preparation is the secret to great paving!

As you can see from the photos, not only do the paving stones save a whole lot of shoe leather and cleaning materials but they really look fantastic, too.

Beautiful paving runs beside classrooms, creating a dry zone

In conjunction with the paving, the School now has a very efficient drainage system to remove the water that used to accumulate in the area to a large underground storage tank. The water from this will be used to water gardens and wash buses during the dry season – a huge saving on our precious water supply.

Ooh... look that that lovely snaking drain

Here is the new drain that runs alongside the main entry road. It's big enough to manage the big tropical downpours that are typical in East Africa.

Now THAT’S a drain!

So, as you can see, our donations really help the School in so many ways – the kids and teachers are kept cleaner, drier and healthier; the cleaners’ jobs are less onerous; the environment is kept healthy and clear of mud and the water saving storage tank will make a huge difference to the water supply in the coming months.

If you would like to add your contribution to the School, please visit their website and click on ‘Support us’. Small donations can be made through the ChipIn button at the top of this blog.

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