September 1, 2013

United Nations, Volunteers helping those affected by floods in Sudan


African Humanitarian News -  United Nations, Volunteers helping those affected by floods in Sudan

Where: Sudan, Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 300,000 people across Sudan have been affected by the devastating floods. Nearly 50 lives have been claimed by disaster, including six peacekeepers that came to help those in need and were swept away by the flood. Local government estimates for people affected, injuries, and deaths are even higher than WHO estimates.

The head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, Mark Cutts, stated last week that the world body was prepared to help those affected by the disaster. However, he also added that those efforts are made more difficult because the UN humanitarian operations ""have been severely underfunded" this year.

Sudanese authorities and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), along with civil society and volunteer organizations, are providing emergency water and sanitation, health items, food and other support.

Through these efforts, over 52,000 people have received essential household items. Each day water trucks run by the Khartoum State Water Corporation and the Médecins Sans Frontières are reaching about 110,000 people.


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August 5, 2013

Teacher Strikes results in 44 School Closures in Sheema, Uganda

African Education News -  Teacher Strikes results in 44 School Closures in Sheema, Uganda

Credit to Chris Mugasha at

Following a wave of strikes in secondary schools in Bushenyi region, at least of 44 secondary schools in Sheema district have been closed. 

Of the 44 schools, only two schools had not experienced a strike. Out of the closed schools, 29 are private, while 15 are Government-aided schools.

The district education officer, Esau Nshabeirwe, said the decision was reached on Friday during a meeting with different stakeholders at Kyalimanya Hotel in Kabwohe town.

All the head teachers were ordered to send students home for the time being. They will report back one week before the official opening of 3rd term. For 4th and 6th grade students, their district mock examinations have been postponed.

Nshabeirwe told reporters that some students in schools like Sacred Heart SS, Mushanga had caused extensive damage to school property after three arson incidents.

Nshabeirwe said security operatives are carrying out investigations, saying the fires and strikes have become rampant.

The issues the students are forwarding include social hours, corporal punishments, reinstating and half-term periods for students.

“We are in discussion to put in place mechanisms of accommodating some of the students’ demands,” he said.

Nshabeirwe appealed to parents to talk to their children on the issue of discipline, saying it’s very unfortunate they have made schools suffer huge losses.
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Link to original articles:  44 schools closed in Sheema - NewVision

July 27, 2013

Ugandan Teachers and President to Meet Regarding Salaries

African Education News - Ugandan Teachers and President to Meet Regarding Salaries

Credit to Pascal Kwesiga at

The leaders of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) Thursday morning left for Entebbe to meet President Yoweri Museveni over salaries.

According to the UNATU general secretary, James Tweheyo, the President invited them for a meeting at State House Entebbe on Wednesday following a teachers’ meeting which resolved a nation-wide sit down strike commencing September 16 if the promised 20% salary increment is not implemented.

The Government pledged to increase teachers’ salaries by 50% in 2011, starting with 15% in 2012, 20% in 2013 and 15% in 2014. However, the 20% increment was not covered in the 2013/2014 budget that was read last month.

The planned September 16 strike will coincide with the official opening of the third term. The teachers are also bemoaning about the delayed salaries that have not been paid for several months, deletion from payroll and “unnecessary” transfers.
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Link to original articles:  Teachers at State House Over Pay - NewVision

July 15, 2013

Uganda to Cut Salaries for 500 Primary Teachers, who may Strike

African Education News - Uganda to Cut Salaries for 500 Primary Teachers, who may Strike

Credit to and

Salary Cuts

The Government has slashed salaries of 500 primary school teachers from about sh360,000 (139 USD) to sh310,000 (119 USD).

Public service ministry permanent secretary Adah Muwanga announced the changes in a May 31 letter. In the letter, Muwanga asked town clerks and chief administrative officers to submit names of the affected teachers to their district service commissions for resignation. Muwanga said the teachers, whose salaries were affected, had irregularly been appointed as assistant education officers.

“The recruitment was irregular because the position of assistant education officer was not provided for in the primary school establishment,” she noted.

The development comes at a time when teachers are demanding a salary increment and James Tweheyo, the secretary general of the Uganda National Teachers Union, said the action would only spell doom.

Teachers May Strike

Teachers in Uganda are threatening strike action for a living wage. As is happening in both Kenya and Nigeria, the government has long promised increases which have not been forthcoming.

In the case of Uganda, teachers had been promised a 20% pay rise, but the government failed to budget for it and the money has been withheld. As a result, the Ugandan National Teachers Union has given the government notice that if it fails to fund the increase, they will go on strike from next term.

Other public sector workers say they will support the strike. The leader of the National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) told the Ugandan Sunday Monitor: “We are putting the government on notice that come September 14, if the demand by our colleagues, the teachers, is not met as promised, we shall all join them in their sit-down strike . . . If they (the government) cannot respect an agreement, what else can we entrust them with? This is really a bad sign to our young generation and we ask those responsible to reconsider their position.”

This is only the latest episode in an ongoing struggle for proper education funding and rremuneration of teachers in Uganda. As a Ugandan NGO put it at the time of last year's teachers' strike in the country: "the quality of education in public schools has over the years declined compared to that in private schools something that is attributed to less funding to the schools and poor teacher remunerations. The two day strike will help remind government of its obligations to increase funding in public schools to help the learners there attain a better education when teachers are adequately remunerated."

Yet the government is still refusing to pay the teachers a wage which allows them to survive, leave alone live well.

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June 27, 2013

Daughter says Mandela "still there"

African News - Daughter says Mandela "still there"

Credit to

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is still clinging to life, his eldest daughter Makaziwe said on Thursday, but she blasted foreign media "vultures" for violating his privacy as he lay critically ill in hospital.

Makaziwe's outburst came after the government reported another downturn in the condition of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero, who is admired across the world as a symbol of resistance against injustice and of reconciliation.

A deterioration in Mandela's status after 20 days of treatment for a lung infection forced South African President Jacob Zuma to cancel his participation in a regional summit in neighbouring Mozambique on Thursday.

"I won't lie, it doesn't look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He's still there. He might be waning off, but he's still there," Makaziwe told state broadcaster SABC after visiting her father at the hospital in Pretoria where he is being treated.

Accompanied by a group of grandchildren, she angrily criticised the "bad taste" of foreign media she said were intruding on the privacy of Mandela and his family at this difficult time.

"There's sort of a racist element with many of the foreign media, where they just cross boundaries," she said, after running the gauntlet of the pack of camera crews and reporters gathered outside the hospital.

"It's truly like vultures waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there for the last of the carcass. That's the image we have as a family," Makaziwe added.

Her criticism followed several sharp rebukes from Zuma's spokesman against some foreign media reports that have given alarming details of Mandela's deteriorating condition.

Spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the latest report by a major U.S. TV news network that South Africa's first black president was on life support. He said this was part of Mandela's confidential relationship with his doctors.

Daughter Makaziwe said: "If people say they really care about Nelson Mandela, then they should respect that. They should respect that there is a part of him that has to be respected."

She compared the massive media attention on Mandela, who has been in and out of hospital in the last few months with a recurring lung infection, with the coverage of the death in April of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"We don't mind the interest but I just feel it has gone overboard. When Margaret Thatcher was sick in hospital, I didn't see this kind of media frenzy around Margaret Thatcher," she said. "It is only God who knows when the time to go is."


Mandela's fourth hospitalisation in six months has forced a growing realisation among South Africans that the man regarded as the father of their post-apartheid "Rainbow Nation" will not be among them forever.

"Mandela is very old and at that age, life is not good. I just pray that God takes him this time. He must go. He must rest," said Ida Mashego, a 60-year-old office cleaner in Johannesburg's Sandton financial district.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is due to visit South Africa this weekend, said his thoughts and prayers were with the Mandela family and South Africans.

Speaking in Senegal, his first stop on a three-nation Africa tour, Obama said that if Mandela dies, his legacy will live on for ages. He confirmed he still planned to travel to South Africa in the coming days, in response to speculation he might re-schedule his trip because of Mandela's deteriorating health.

Mandela is revered for his lifetime of opposition to the system of race-based apartheid rule imposed by the white minority government that sentenced him to 27 years in jail, more than half of them on notorious Robben Island. Reuters
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June 24, 2013

A Non-profit IPO? Warren Buffet Says 'Yes'

Charity News - A Non-profit IPO? Warren Buffet Says 'Yes'

Credit to Paul Lamb at Huffington Post

Can a private non-profit organization go public by selling shares of its organization through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), just like businesses do when raising investment dollars?

Investment and tax law say no but an innovative nonprofit group serving the homeless has another take. Homeward Bound of Marin in California recently launched an "IPO" in an attempt to raise $1 Million for a new housing complex for families moving out of homelessness. In fact Warren Buffet has lent his name to the effort, purchasing the first $50 share himself.

Why isn't the Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS going after Mr. Buffet and his charitable co-conspirators? Well, because Homeward Bound's IPO is an "Immediate Public Opportunity" and not an Initial Public Offering.

The organization's Immediate Public Opportunity is a clever re-branding of an IPO where charitable donations are recast as "shares." By purchasing shares stockholders do not actually own stock or shares in Homeward Bound or any of its assets. The fundraising shares simply offer shareholders an opportunity to "take stock in their community." All money raised goes toward the housing complex capital campaign.

Says Homeward Bound's Executive Director, Mary Kay Sweeney, "This IPO offers the chance for people, groups, or businesses to invest at the same level as Mr. Buffett."

Homeward Bound has taken it one step further in mimicking the traditional IPO. For purchasing at least one $50 share each shareholder receives a shares certificate and an annual report which details how the money is used and the impact of dollars spent on the community. Homeward Bound shareholders are even invited to attend an Annual Shareholder Meeting with other investors.

Through the current campaign the group has already raised over $163,000 toward their $1 Million goal. During a similar non-profit IPO in 2008 Homeward Bound successfully raised over $1 Million for a housing and job training center for the homeless.

Hats off to Homeward Bound of Marin and their non-profit IPO. Not only have they pioneered a new fundraising strategy, but more importantly they offer an important reminder to focus on human investments and not just the financial kind. Warren Buffet or not, it's an investment worth making.
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June 19, 2013

Without Parliamentary Approval, Ugandan Teachers Go Unpaid

African Education News - Without Parliamentary Approval, Ugandan Teachers Go Unpaid

Credit to Mary Karugaba and Henry Ssekanjako  at New Vision

Health workers, teachers and other government employees who may have expected their salary to hit their accounts soon, may have to wait a little longer.

Ugandan students during a teachers strike.
Parliament yesterday rejected a proposal by finance state minister Fred Omach to expeditiously approve a sh46b supplementary budget without following the usual procedures. The bulk of the money was meant to cater for salaries for the month of May.

According to Omach, some of the employees have not received their salaries since April.

Accountant General Gastavio Bwoch said the Government last week released sh120b for salaries, but there was still a shortfall that would be covered through a supplementary budget. He said they would borrow the money from Bank of Uganda and other sources.

However, unlike in the past when Government spent first and sought approval later through a supplementary budget, this time, Parliament has to approve the supplementary first before the money is spent. This is because the ministry has gone over and above the required ceiling of 3% of the approved budget.

Public Service state minister Sezi Mbaguta told MPs that: “We are required by law to have completed all the payment processes by the 20th of every month. We do not want to enter a new financial year with salary arrears.”

Presenting the supplementary budget schedule II, Omach said the money was urgently needed to resolve the looming financial crisis in government ministries and departments.

“Madam Speaker, this is an emergency. There is a crisis in Government. Secondly, we urgently need money to pay salaries for health workers and other government employees,” he said.

Omach had tabled a motion seeking to suspend rule 47 to enable MPs to pass the budget without it being scrutinised by the budget committee. If the motion had been passed, Parliament would have constituted itself into a committee of supply, made a report and then passed it.

But MPs, especially from the opposition, rejected the proposal, arguing that the supplementary documents had gaps.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Nandala Mafabi, said: “We have just passed sh45b for health workers. Who are these new people? Where did their money go? We need the list. Secondly, the budget committee has experts who can competently scrutinise this supplementary and report to us.”

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said the document had significant errors that needed to be corrected and sent it to the budget committee. “Let them scrutinise it and notify me when they are ready,” she said.
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Link to original article:  MPs Refuse To Pass Teachers Pay - NewVision

June 9, 2013

Digital jobs offer skills, promise to Africa's unemployed youth

African News - Digital jobs offer skills, promise to Africa's unemployed youth

Credit to Kristy Siegfried  at IRIN News

Although Africa’s economy has expanded rapidly in recent years, it has not kept pace with the growth of its youth population or their need for jobs.

With almost 200 million people between 15 and 24 years old - a figure that is set to double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook’s (AEO) 2012 report - the continent has the youngest population in the world. Yet despite the increasing percentage of Africa’s young people with secondary and tertiary educations, many find themselves unemployed or underemployed in the informal economy. Part of the problem, according to the AEO study, is a mismatch between the skills young jobs seekers have to offer and those that employers need.

The world’s increasingly digitalized economy needs workers with the skills to capture and manage the vast amounts of data it generates. With appropriate training, such tasks can be performed anywhere in the world. Data generated by a high-tech company in Silicon Valley, for example, can be processed by youth with smartphones or tablets living in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. This means that digital work could potentially alleviate the unemployment and poverty hampering development in many African countries.

Both the private and humanitarian sectors are starting to recognize this potential and find ways to harness it.

Skills for the future

The Rockefeller Foundation recently launched Digital Jobs Africa, a seven-year, US$83 million initiative to improve the lives of one million people in six African countries through digital job opportunities and skills training.

Eme Essien Lore, the foundation’s Nairobi-based senior associate director, explained that having identified youth unemployment as one of Africa’s most pressing problems, the organization was looking for ways to help young people on the continent gain sustainable, long-term job opportunities.

“The reason digital employment really rose to the top for us was because we saw the skills they get from these kinds of jobs as a springboard to other types of employment,” she told IRIN. “We know young people take time to figure out what they want to do. Also, we don’t know what the future labour market is going to look like. So we thought this was a very important sector because it develops skills they can use whether they stay in the digital economy or move into other sectors.”

The six focus countries - Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa - share particularly high youth unemployment rates and have rapidly developing information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructures. Some, such as Nigeria and South Africa, have booming ICT sectors in need of labour, while others, such as Morocco, are well-placed to meet demand from Europe and the US, said Lore.

Winnie Mwihaki, 24, is among 500 Kenyan youths from poor backgrounds recruited by one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s grantees - San Francisco-based non-profit Samasource. Globally, the company has connected an estimated 3,700 young people in nine countries to paying work and hopes to expand this number to 5,000 by the end of 2013.

Samasource secures data- and content-processing jobs from its US-based clients, and then uses its specially developed software to break these large digital projects down into small computer-based tasks it calls “microwork”. This work is then distributed to local partners that are responsible for recruiting, training and managing employees.

Unlike most companies in the business process outsourcing (BPO) and information technology outsourcing industry, Samasource only employs people living below the poverty line. Workers must also be between 18 and 30 years old, and preference is given to women, who are less likely to have access to formal employment.

“Part of the criteria is that people need to be literate in English,” added Lauren Schulte, director of marketing and communications at Samasource. “They don’t have to have any computer skills. We can bring someone in with virtually no experience, and in a matter of weeks they can start doing small tasks on a computer.”

With her monthly salary of 13,000 shillings [$149], Mwihaki is able to assist her mother, who had been struggling to care for their family of six. “Because of the money I earn from here, I am now able to help my mother [and] to also be a breadwinner in the family,” Mwihaki told IRIN.

Mwihaki grew up in Korogocho, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, where crime is commonplace. She was unable to proceed to college after secondary school because her parents could not afford it.

“Now I will use part of what I earn from this job to sponsor myself through college,” she said.

A new trajectory

Samasource is not the only company targeting disadvantaged people in low-income areas with digital employment. Another Rockefeller Foundation grantee, Digital Divide Data, operates on a similar principle and employs more than 1,000 people in Cambodia, Kenya and Laos. Both companies are considered pioneers of impact sourcing, which the Rockefeller Foundation defines as “the socially responsible arm of the BPO and information technology outsourcing industry”.

A relative newcomer to the sector, and another Rockefeller Foundation grantee, is the Impact Sourcing Academy (ISA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. ISA combines a training and job placement programme with a fully functional call centre that gives its students the opportunity to obtain practical work experience while earning enough money to help support their families.

“We’re not so much interested in just giving them a job as a call centre agent,” said ISA head Taddy Blecher. “We really want to make sure they’re doing part-time studies while they’re working, getting access to more knowledge and training so they can move into higher-level jobs.”

Once graduates are fully employed and earning a decent salary, they are encouraged to fund another student from a similar background. Using this model, the academy is already about 65 percent self-funded and aims to be completely self-funded in the future.

Blecher described the Rockefeller Foundation initiative as “a massive opportunity” for South Africa, given the need for skilled labour to work in its booming BPO sector and its 51 percent youth unemployment rate. “In a short period of time, you can bring a family out of poverty and put them on a whole new trajectory,” he told IRIN.

Opening doors

For now, evidence that impact sourcing really can lift families out of poverty is limited to the small studies the Rockefeller Foundation has conducted with Samasource and Digital Divide Data. “What we want to do next is really measure the impacts on a household level,” said Lore. “Anecdotally, we’re quite convinced, but we need to work on measuring over the next seven years.”

The Rockefeller Foundation does not stipulate a minimum wage that its grantees must pay, and the line between a living wage and an exploitatively low wage can be a fine one. “This is a sector where companies’ first priority is really around cost savings,” acknowledged Lore. “If you take the example of someone living in a slum, [a job like this] won’t get them into a nicer neighbourhood. But it might be able to buy food for the family and get younger siblings into school,” she said.

She added that the demand for young people with these skills is such that they are often poached by rival companies offering slightly higher salaries. “We’ve seen that when people move from these jobs, usually after about two years, they go on to better jobs. You rarely see people sitting in these types of jobs indefinitely.”
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May 29, 2013

Ugandan Primary Education Schools in Financial Crisis

African Education News - Ugandan Primary Education Schools in Financial Crisis

Credit to John Semakula at the New Vision (Uganda)

A classroom at Kyamatende Primary School, located in Namasagali.
The new term begins began on Monday, but Stanley Shambusha, the head teacher of Kanyangusi Primary School in Kanungu district, is in a dilemma.

Shambusha said that last term ended by God’s grace because the school’s account was in ‘red’.

“I secured loans to buy chalk and other requirements. I cannot go back this time,” Shambusha said.

He hoped that the money for the fourth quarter would be released at the beginning of the second term, but this was still a dream.

“I could ask parents to contribute money to kickstart the term, but that is illegal. Besides, our parents are poor,” he added.

There are 324 pupils at Kanyangusi who receive a capitation grant of sh650,000 ($250 USD) from the Government, every quarter. That is about sh2,000 ($0.77 USD) per pupil.

But, according to the education ministry, each pupil receives sh7,000 ($2.69 USD) per term.

Shambusha said the money is very little and the situation is made worse by the delays.

Mukonyezi to forego some needs

Mary Mukonyezi, the head teacher of Katasenywa Primary School in Masindi district, said next term, she would run the school with funds left over from last term.

“We have been told schools will not receive funds for the last quarter. We have to do whatever it takes to survive. The school will forego certain needs, such as desk repairs, until we get funds,” Mukonyezi said.

Hoima district education officer Godfrey Serwanja said the district education department only received the inspection grant for the quarter.

“We have been asked to send details of the last quarter to the finance ministry and we hope to get feedback soon,” Serwanja added.

There are 412 students at Katasenywa Primary School, whom Mukonyezi will have to take care of with or without Government funds.

She said the funds allocated to pupils per term had reduced over time, to less than sh3,000 ($1.15 USD).

“I will need a loan to run the school if the Government does not release the funds,” she said.

Ministry speaks out

The commissioner in charge of budget and evaluation in the finance ministry, Kenneth Mugambe, said schools received UPE (Universal Primary Education) funds in the previous quarter.

“They get UPE funds on a termly basis and not quarterly,” Mugambe said.

Gloomy picture

Whereas a pupil in a private school pays a minimum of sh100,000 ($38.46 USD) per term, his counterpart in UPE (Universal Primary Education) is facilitated on sh7,000 ($2.69 USD).

There are about nine million pupils under the UPE programme, whose second term studies may be jeopardised by the delayed dispatch of the funds.

A 2012 report by a commission of inquiry into the mismanagement of UPE funds set up in 2005 recommended an increase in funds for pupils under the programme, from sh8,000 ($3.08 USD) to sh15,000 ($5.77 USD) to cater for the high inflation rate.

It also recommended that funds be sent directly to the school accounts to avoid delays.

Education ministry spokesperson Patrick Muinda said a proposal had been tabled before Cabinet to increase the capitation grant per pupil.

“The ministry is waiting for a response from the Cabinet. If the proposal is endorsed, the funds will be increased to sh15,000 ($5.77 USD) as the commission recommended,” Muinda said.

There are concerns, however, that the Government may not increase the grant due to the recent cut in donor aid to the country.

But the Minister of Education, Jessica Alupo, said the Cabinet constituted a special committee of members from different ministries to study the recommendations.

“The committee has submitted its findings and Cabinet will discuss them. If it endorses them, the capitation funds will be increased,” Alupo said.
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Link to original article:  UPE Schools in Financial Crisis - New Vision

May 23, 2013

Charities solicit donations to help Oklahoma tornado victims

Charity News - Charities solicit donations to help Oklahoma tornado victims

Credit to Rick Rojas at the Los Angeles Times

As residents in the Oklahoma City area grappled with the aftermath of the massive tornado that wiped out homes and businesses in its 20-mile path of destruction, killing at least 24 people, relief organizations solicited donations to help.

By and large, the charities expressed a preference for donations of money rather than goods.

Monica Diaz of the Red Cross in Los Angeles said donating money "allows us to get the items that are needed the quickest faster."

Donations to the Red Cross will be added to the organization's disaster relief fund, a pot used for disaster aid across the country, not just for the Oklahoma tornadoes. The Red Cross opened one shelter in Moore, Okla., and three in Oklahoma City, and sent dozens of emergency response vehicles to the stricken area early Tuesday.

Donations came be made on the Red Cross' website,; by phone, (800) RED-CROSS; or by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999, which will make a donation of $10 by way of the donor's phone bill.

The Salvation Army is providing support to tornado victims and first responders, with several canteens, or response units, opened in the region. Donations can be made online at; by calling (800) SAL-ARMY; or by texting "STORM" to 80888, which will make a $10 donation. Checks can be mailed to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157.

According to the Salvation Army, a donation of $10 can feed a disaster survivor for a day; $100 can serve snacks and drinks to 125 people at a disaster scene; and $500 can keep a canteen operational for a day.

"The devastation is far-reaching in both human life, property and livestock loss," Maj. Steve Morris, Salvation Army divisional commander for Arkansas and Oklahoma, said in a statement. "Many of these impacted communities will take months or even years to recover. The Salvation Army is committed to being there with them throughout and providing aid wherever it's needed."

A local organization, the Oklahoma City Tornado Recovery Fund and Community Emergency Fund, is also accepting donations to help with intermediate and long-term recovery. That fund, established by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation in the aftermath of the devastating May 3, 1999, tornado, said it will donate 100% of the donations it receives to those affected by the storm.

Those donations can be sent to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1146, Oklahoma City, OK 73101-1146, or can be made at

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Link to original article:  Oklahoma Tornado Charities - LA Times

May 14, 2013

Mastectomy Disclosure by Angelina Jolie May Help Reduce Stigma in Africa

African News - Mastectomy Disclosure by Angelina Jolie May Help Reduce Stigma in Africa

Credit to Cindy Shiner at

In disclosing in the New York Times on Tuesday that she underwent a double mastectomy, actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie also called attention to the many women in Africa and other developing regions who die from breast cancer each year.

Jolie underwent the double mastectomy, and subsequent breast reconstruction, earlier this year after discovering that she carried a "faulty" gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases her risk of developing certain kinds of cancer.

"My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman," Jolie wrote in Tuesday's op-ed. Her mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, comprising 16 percent of all female cancers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and rates are expected to rise steeply in the next 20 years.

"Some of this rise is due to better detection and more women having access to mammography," said Florence Williams, author of "Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History," a 2012 New York Times Notable Book. "Some of the rise is also due to environmental and lifestyle factors, such as women having children later in life, which increases your risk, and women taking drugs such as hormone replacement therapy."

About 69 percent of all breast cancer deaths occur in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages, WHO says.

Jolie discovered her risk after undergoing genetic testing, which costs more than U.S.$3,000 in the United States. "It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live," Jolie wrote.

But testing is more complicated than it appears. An important factor is that the gene mutation that Jolie has, BRCA1, has been patented by a private U.S. biotech company, Myriad Genetics.

"Myriad controls that gene along with BRCA2, and has a monopoly on running the tests, for which it charges thousands of dollars," Williams told AllAfrica. "This puts the tests out of reach for women without insurance or women whose insurance companies won't pay for it, which is a common occurrence."

Medical, research and consumer health groups have brought suit against Myriad, arguing that a company cannot patent human DNA. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But there are some important points to note. The defective version of BRCA1 is not common, and it is unclear how stringently the Myriad patents would be enforced in developing countries with less medical and legal oversight in general. At the same time, it is unclear if the technology would even be available in those countries to conduct such tests, and if so it would likely be cost prohibitive. Even the simple procedure of getting a mammogram can be complicated in countries where hospitals might depend on generators for electricity.

And for African women, testing for genetic mutations would probably take a backseat to other concerns.

"In much of the developing world there is still a stigma associated with breast cancer, which keeps many women from seeking detection and treatment," Williams said. "I'm heartened to see more educational and cancer awareness campaigns growing worldwide. Women at risk for cancer need the support of their families, communities and doctors to help fight and treat the disease."

She said it was also important to lobby for meaningful environmental regulations and protections in countries that are quickly industrializing because industrial pollution also likely plays a role in breast cancer development. But she said it's difficult to determine how big that risk is.

Even though Jolie's particular kind of gene mutation and testing that detects it may not be available to many women in Africa, having a Hollywood star known for her sex appeal talking about having her breasts removed could help reduce the stigma of breast surgery. Women in Africa might then be more likely to discuss breast cancer and the treatments available with their families and doctors, which could save lives.

Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, raise six children together. She is a special envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and is a former UNHCR goodwill ambassador. She has traveled to Africa and other parts of the world to bring attention to the plight of impoverished children, refugees, the displaced, victims of natural disasters and survivors of rape. She and Pitt adopted one of their children, Zahara, from Ethiopia, and Jolie gave birth to their daughter, Shiloh, in Namibia.

If you would like to help children in need receive a quality, life-changing education, please visit our website to donate or volunteer. Thanks!
Link to original article:  Jolie Mastectomy Disclosure May Help Reduce Stigma in Africa - All Africa

May 9, 2013

One Million Kenyan Children Still Out of School

African Education News - One Million Kenyan Children Still Out of School 

Credit to Joseph Kariuki of The Star

One million children are still out of school in Kenya two years to the deadline set by government to realize Universal Primary Education by 2015. The report "Education for all monitoring report 2012" by UNESCO notes that while this is almost half the number in 1999, it is still the ninth highest in the world.

This is despite the launch of Free Primary Education(FPE) by President Mwai Kibaki in January 2003.The government introduced FPE to enable the country realize Universal Primary Education by 2015 inline with MDGs.

The report notes that even those who are lucky to access basic education, primary education is not of sufficient quality to ensure that all children can learn the basics.

"Among young men aged 15?29 years who had left school after six years of schooling, 6% were illiterate and 26% were semi?literate. The figures are even worse for young women, with 9% illiterate and 30% semi?literate after being in school for six years," the report says.

The proportion of semi-literate or illiterate women after six years of schooling has worsened in recent years: in 2003, 24% were in this situation, compared with 39% in 2008.

Most hit areas are the arid areas where most children have no access to education facilities like schools, and where there are schools there is lack of basic facilities like classrooms and teachers.

"The poor, and girls most of all, have far less chance of making it to school. In 2008, in Nairobi, almost all children from rich households had been to school, whether boy or girl. But 55% of poor girls living in the North-East had never been to school, with 43% of poor boys in the region in the same situation. This is, however, an improvement since 2003, when 71% of poor girls and 56% of poor boys in the North-East had never been to school," notes the report.

The report says although the abolition of secondary school fees reduced the costs for many poor families, indirect costs are still twelve to twenty times as much as the monthly income of parents in rural areas, leaving secondary school out of reach for the poorest households.

"The US$164 that is allocated to compensate secondary schools for having abolished school fees is ten times the amount per pupil annually received by primary schools. Only a minority of children from poor rural households or urban slums make it to secondary school. The increased investment would be more equitably distributed if it were geared towards remote rural areas, slum settlements and pastoralist communities.

The report praise Kenya for showing strong commitment to funding education

"The economic downturn does not seem to have adversely affected education spending: 6.7% of Kenya's GNP was spent on education in 2010, increasing from the 5.4% spent in 1999. This strong spending helped increase the primary net enrolment ratio from 62% in 1999 to 83% in 2009."

The reports further says compared with other sub-Saharan African countries, a relatively small proportion of the education budget is funded by aid in Kenya, around 4%.

Jubilee manifesto on Education

The Jubilee coalition is promising that Kenyan children and youth will get affordable, quality and relevant education that would make them competitive players in the world economy.

To achieve this, the Jubilee manifesto says they will increase education funding by one per cent each year so that by 2018, it reaches 32 per cent of government spending. They also aim to increase the number of schools in disadvantaged areas, restrict class sizes to a maximum of 40 and recruit 40,000 more teachers.

This you can put in bullets in a corner somewhere.

Challenges facing FPE

• The Free Primary Education in Kenya is not constitutionally protected. This makes its policy subject to political interference and its future uncertain. Education is a human right that every child must benefit from, and therefore needs to get constitutional recognition and protection

• There are still many children who are not going to school, and instead are engaged in communal/child labour to generate income for the family

• Some schools have experienced over-enrollment, putting a serious strain on the limited available facilities

• There seems to be lack of capacity and preparedness on the side of teachers to handle issues of pupil discipline after the ban on corporal punishment.

Teacher shortage in many schools is causing heavy workloads for teachers and poor teacher attention to individual pupils. The teacher/student ratio is still too high for effective learning. This leads especially to lack of personalized attention for slow learners.

• Inadequate instructional and learning materials due to overcrowded classes

• Lack of support for Early Childhood Education (ECD) has led to the transfer of early childhood lessons to the primary section because many parents are not willing to pay any money for ECD while FPE is free.

• Wastage on the part of the schools which have continued to purchase items like text books over the years, despite having achieved the necessary ratio of books per child.

• There are no transparent procurement guidelines for schools. Often teachers and their business associates end up as suppliers fuelling conflict of interest in the management of funds.

• Corruption by head teachers and systematic attempts to lock out from SMC community members that are well informed to question or are critical of their management practices.

If you would like to help children in need receive a quality, life-changing education, please visit our website to donate or volunteer. Thanks!
Link to original article:  One Million Kenyan Children Still Out of School - New Star

May 3, 2013

Crowdfunding raises $2 million for Boston victims

Charity News - Crowdfunding raises $2 million for Boston victims

Credit to JoNel Aleccia, Senior Writer, NBC News

Nearly a week after the Boston bombings, crowdfunding websites that raise money for medical tragedies from car crashes to cancer say they’ve received more than 23,000 pledges promising more than $2 million for the victims and families of the marathon attack.

Patrick and Jessica Downes of Boston each lost a leg in the marathon bombings.

That includes nearly $500,000 for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran of Lowell, Mass., a mother-daughter duo who were both severely injured as they stood at the finish line. And it includes more than $560,000 directed to Boston newlyweds Jessica Kensky Downes and Patrick Downes, who each lost a leg in the blasts.
“All of us were like, ‘How can we help?’” said Leslie Kelly, 56, of Pebble Beach, Calif., whose two daughters grew up with Jessica Downes, 32. “We felt so helpless. I thought, we can’t all send flowers. I couldn’t sleep all night. I got up the next morning and started a Wells Fargo account and then got the word: You need to do something online.”

Kelly started an account at GoFundMe, while other friends of the pair turned to GiveForward, two of the top three sites that say they provide a quick, easy way to get money directly to specific victims at a time of need.

“Crowdfunding is actually very empowering to the donors and supporters,” said Brad Damphousse, chief executive of GoFundMe, which has raised nearly $1.3 million through its “Believe in Boston” campaigns. “It’s a way of being part of the solution instead of smoldering about the problem.”

But experts in charitable fraud warn that the fundraising efforts based on the model may be a risky way to offer help. That site helps painters, filmmakers and musicians raise funds for creative projects, and was the first online crowdfunding website to make the practice widespread.

“You want to make sure that the money you donate goes to the intended party,” said Allan Bachman, education manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

The top crowdfunding sites -- GoFundMe, GiveForward and YouCaring -- all say they vet the people who set up fundraising accounts for medical victims, and they all say they’re quick to pull the plug at the first sign of anything suspicious.

“We’ll suspend and investigate the fundraiser after one flag,” said Ethan Austin, co-founder and president of GiveForward, which has raised more than $41 million since it started in 2008.
The nature of the Internet and the personal ties to the accounts mean that the environment is self-policing, said Damphousse, whose site has raised about $54 million for medical, educational and other causes since 2010.

“The thing about crowdfunding is, it’s all based on social proof,” Damphousse said. “There’s so many more eyeballs on these campaigns ... If you’re a bad steward on the Internet, word travels fast.”
The way the sites work is this: Friends, family or sometimes the victims themselves set up an account. The organizers review the requests before allowing them to go live. If approved, the funds go directly to the recipients, usually within three to five days, Damphousse said.

GoFundMe takes a 5 percent fee from all money raised and another 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction goes to billing fees charged through WePay or PayPal, a total of about 8 percent. GiveForward charges a 7 percent fee, including billing charges, but offers donors the option of covering those so that all money goes to the recipients. About 63 percent do, Austin said.

YouCaring doesn’t charge fees at all and instead gives donors the option of giving extra money to run the site, said Michael Blasco, a spokesman for the company that has raised about $20 million in two years.

“You look at some of these fundraisers and they’re raising $300,000. That’s $20,000 to $30,000,” he said. “We’re completely free.”

But fees aren’t the only worry, said Ken Berger, president and chief executive of Charity Navigator, an independent, nonprofit group that evaluates charities.

A system that approves accounts within hours and promises to move money within days is ripe for problems. “It’s better than nothing at all, but self-policing has its limits,” he said.

Leslie Kelly said she felt good about the vetting that GoFundMe performed before she was allowed to open an account for Kensky, a Massachusetts General Hospital nurse, and Downes, 29, who just received a graduate degree from Boston College. They were married last August.

"There's so many more good people out there than evil," Kelly said, adding that the funds will go to pay for medical care not covered by the couple's insurance.

More than 70 percent of those who seek funds on GiveFoward have coverage, but it doesn’t cover lost work, transportation and some procedures,  Austin said.

“Cancer is really our No. 1 fundraiser,” he said. “The costs are so enormous. There’s a huge gap between what insurance pays and the out-of-pocket costs.”

While critics understand the impulse to donate to one particular victim, they’re wary of any effort that promises to do that. Bachman suggests that people donate to established charities. If they must give to individuals, they should ask for an address to send a check instead of divulging financial information online, he advises.

Berger urges people who want to help marathon victims to send money to The One Fund Boston Inc., the charity just formed by Boston Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Menino. Even though it’s new, it will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the BP oil spill fund.

It’s a sound way to direct the flood of compassion -- and money -- that inevitably follows a U.S. tragedy.

“That’s part of the reason that scoundrels and thieves are prosperous in a disaster, "Berger said, "because the generosity of the American people is phenomenal.”

If you would like to help children in need receive a quality, life-changing education, please visit our website to donate or volunteer. Thanks!
Link to original article:  Crowdfunding raises $2 million for Boston victims - NBC News

April 28, 2013

Ugandan teachers feel neglected by the government

Ugandan Education News - Ugandan teachers feel neglected by the government

Hardly a year after Ugandan government promised teachers a 30% salary raise, they are complaining that the pledge has not been honored.

Last year, President Yoweri Museveni promised teachers a salary raise after they met him at State House Entebbe to resolve a strike that was threatening the education sector. However, they were only given a 15% increment.

According to the 2013/2014 budget framework, they won’t be getting any salary increment.

During a Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) symposium at Hotel Triangle Kampala Wednesday, teachers complained that the Government has turned a deaf ear to their pleas.

“We are in class, but only physically. Psychologically, we are absent,’’ said Bernard Onyango, teacher at the Ntinda School for the Deaf.

“How do you concentrate on your class needs when you are thinking of how you will get money for rent, supper or your child who has been sent home because of tuition arrears?” asked Onyango, who has been a teacher for over 37 years.

The symposium held under the theme “every child needs a good teacher – one qualified, well-supported, and motivated, was held in commemoration of the global action week on education, which ends today.

Onyango, a father of eight, said the Government was frustrating them.

“Apart from waiting for pay, I don’t know the exact amount I earn. I am not sure of my salary. Today I get 300,000, the next day I find 340,000 and the next 290, 000,” he lamented.

He said that since last year, the Government had stopped giving them payslips.

“I am 60 years old and next year, I will be retiring. But where will I get school fees for the children? I am disillusioned,’’ Onyango said.

Margret Rwabushaija, the union’s chairperson, said the Government had done little to improve the learning environment.

“The Government is not recruiting enough teachers and in most cases, a teacher handles over 100 pupils,” Rwabushaija said.

If you would like to help children in need receive a quality, life-changing education, please visit our website to donate or volunteer. Thanks!
Link to original article:  Ugandan Teachers, Government Neglect - New Vision

April 24, 2013

Street kids turned acrobats: Helping Zambia's homeless children.

African Charity News - Street kids turned acrobats: Helping Zambia's homeless children.

Barefoot Theatre Acrobats. Zambia, Africa.
Dressed in eye-catching red costumes, a high-spirited troupe of barefoot acrobats storms across a dusty yard in the heart of Lusaka, Zambia's capital, their grinning faces painted with bright colors.

Using an elaborate mix of flips, kicks and twists, the skillful performers sing and whistle as they dance their way onto a makeshift stage, while the pounding beats of skin drums and cheerful clapping summon scores of excited children from nearby neighborhoods towards the spectacle.

They're all part of the Barefeet Theatre, an uplifting project that's aiming to transform the lives of street children and orphans in Zambia by using performing arts as a way of engaging youths who have suffered through poverty, drug use or other traumatic issues.

Throughout the year, the group puts together a series of outreach events and workshops to help vulnerable kids participate in creative activities, such as theater, art, dance, music and storytelling. Organizers say they are all designed to help children express themselves, gain valuable information and ultimately prevent them from living on the streets.

"We engage the children with arts and theater to encourage their creativity and stimulate their curiosity," says Adam McGuigan, who founded Barefeet Theatre in 2006. "We help holistically to their development and we see our interventions as crucial to any child's development -- as important as schooling, as accommodation or food."

Accidental beginnings

Back in the mid-2000s, McGuigan, a young artist hailing from the north of Ireland, left Europe to pursue his dream of taking a one-man street show to Africa. He embarked on his mission in South Africa, where he spent six months before heading north. But one month into his stay in Zimbabwe he was mugged and without most of his belongings, McGuigan had to get to the nearest Irish embassy, which was in Lusaka.

And that's when everything changed.

"When I got here I had nothing planned, but I happened to come across a guy who was working with street kids in a center called Fountain of Hope in Lusaka," recalls McGuigan.

"So I came to do some workshops with these kids and it was absolutely incredible -- the energy, the passion, the enthusiasm and the talent that these kids had was just so infectious.

"At the same time I met a group of older guys who used to stay on the streets and were living at the center, and were also artists. So we were interested in how we could collaborate and work with these children. So it started very modestly and organically with just a few workshops and blossomed from there."

From those initial sessions, Barefeet has grown into a group working with thousands of children, typically aged from seven to 20, in five cities across Zambia. The charity occupies its own office space, has a paid staff of more than a dozen people and receives funding from UNICEF.

The group's members, many of whom used to live on the streets themselves, run a series of artistic modules focused on issues affecting vulnerable kids, from physical and emotional abuse to HIV/AIDS and other major problems. As part of their training, the children also have to work together to stage performances for their communities, using the skills and information they gained during the workshop sessions.

"That's when you can instil all the information and internalize it," says McGuigan. "And then it's more lasting."

The group's performances culminate in its annual Youth Arts Festival, a vibrant 10-day event at the end of August where children from across Zambia meet up to sing, dance and perform in front of enthusiastic onlookers.

Held in various locations in Lusaka, the popular get-together includes a colorful carnival procession as well as an array of performances and art exhibitions that give children a platform to showcase their talents while highlighting the dangers of life on the streets.

'I thought that's the end of my life'

In Zambia, loss of parents, poverty and family breakdown have pushed thousands of children onto the streets. According to UNICEF data, there are 1.2 million orphans under the age of 15 in the country, 800,000 of whom are affected by HIV and AIDS. In many cases, children take to the streets to try to earn money for school fees or supplement their family income.

Exposed to cruel living conditions, many start begging and stealing while others resort to drug use.

"Once you get sucked into that life, it is quite hard to disengage yourself," says McGuigan. "Once you're full time in the street, you're open to a whole world of abuse -- sexual, physical, psychological," he adds. "It's survival; it's really going from day to day trying to get food, trying to get enough money for drugs."

As former street children themselves, many of Barefeet's performers are well aware of the neglect and abuse suffered by many of their beneficiaries.

"I was born in a family of five, of which I was the last born," says Barefeet facilitator Chembe Mwanza, one of the group's success stories. "My mother died when I was three months old so my dad had to marry another wife, which became my step mother."

Mwanza's step mother disowned him when he was only eight, forcing him to run away to Lusaka and fend for himself. "I got stranded, I never knew where to start from," says Mwanza, whose drumming now accompanies the group's energetic performances. "I was left alone, I never knew anyone -- I just felt so lost, I thought that's the end of my life."

It all changed when Mwanza was 14 and saw the Barefeet crew for the first time.

"They were just making different scowls, and they just have different energies and their stories," he remembers. "They were advocating for children that live on the street. It gave me confidence so I can stand."

'Life-changing effects of art'

For most children living on the streets, entertainment is a rarity. That's why the Barefeet troupe regularly pops up unannounced in low-income areas, attracting at-risk youth with their dancing, singing and drumming.

The performers say the troupe sees itself as a conduit for providing help. Any child in need can be connected with other NGOs or local professionals able to provide care. The genius is that none of the group's activities looks like serious work so children are more likely to play along without realizing they are being offered help.

Looking ahead, McGuigan says the group's dream is to turn its festival into a global hub where youth can come to perform and collaborate with Zambian artists, as well as share skills and experiences about issues affecting children in different parts of the world.

"We want our festival in the heart of Africa to be a hub for other young advocates and artists across the world who can come here and see whether they can be inspired by the life-changing effects of art in our country," says McGuigan.

If you would like to help children in need receive a quality, life-changing education, please visit our website to donate or volunteer. Thanks!
Link to original article:  Barefoot Theatre - CNN