At a glance
Population: 26.26 million
Official Languages: Malagasy and French
Religion: Traditional/Indigenous (50%) Christian (41%) Muslim (7%)
Fertility Rate: 4.03 births per woman
Life Expectancy: 66.3 years (64.7 Men) (67.8 women)
Literacy Rate: 64.7% (total) 66.7%(men) 62.6%(women)
Currency: Malagasy Ariary
GDP: 4.1% growth (2017)
Form of Government: Presidential Republic
Natural Resources: semi-precious and precious stones, coal, ilmenite, chromite, cobalt, iron, copper, nickel
Exports: cloves, ylang-ylang, vanilla
A Vibrant Ecosystem
Inhabitants of the island nation of Madagascar - and that includes its people, animals, flora and fauna - are among the world’s most diverse.
The plant biodiversity on Madagascar is a botanist’s dream. A staggering 13,900 plant species grow on the island. Its animal kingdom boasts of over 350 species of birds and two-thirds of the world’s chameleon species. (5) Its largest predator, the fossa, is found nowhere else in the world. (2) Not surprisingly, Madagascar is a growing eco-tourist destination.
Madagascar’s human inhabitants are heterogenous, too. Though settlers migrated from the African continent in 1000 AD, earlier settlers arrived between 350 and 550 A.D., from present-day Indonesia. The Malagasy also have Persian and Arab influence from the traders who arrived around the 7th century. Later, in 1896, Madagascar was colonized by the French before fighting and gaining their independence in 1960. Consequently, 18 ethnic groups reside in Madagascar, the groups clustered in regions across the country. Still, most residents are multi-ethnic. (3)
Four times the size of the state of Georgia, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. It is located in the Indian Ocean east of Mozambique. Because of its large size, it has several climates - tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south. From May through October, the island enjoys its dry, cool season while November through April brings the hot and rainy season. The island is vulnerable to monsoons, cyclones, and southeastern trade winds. (5)
The population of Madagascar is mostly rural and poor. Almost 80 percent live on less than $1.90 a day, a benchmark the United Nations uses to define extreme poverty. In addition, only 15 percent of the population is able to access electricity. (4)
A majority of its residents survive on subsistence farming. Crops include coffee, sugar cane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava, beans, bananas, and peanuts. Madagascar is one of the world’s leading producers of vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang. Over thirty percent of the nation’s GDP is in agriculture. Industry takes up a 15 percent share of GDP and the remaining 52 percent is in services. (3)
The Malagasy are proud of a rich oral tradition. Their primary means of expression are poetry, public discourse and proverbs. Music and wood carving are also integral parts of the Madagascar cultural heritage. (5)
A meal one might expect to eat in Madagascar would likely start with a bowl of rice topped with a protein of beans or meat. In some parts of the country, romazava, a side dish made of green leafy vegetables in broth, is served. Some might add spice to their meal with lasary, a condiment made of chili peppers, green mangos and lemon. (5)
The Malagasy religious practices include different forms of Christianity and to a smaller degree Islam. However, half of the population holds traditional Malagasy beliefs. In fact, Madagascar holds one of the highest proportions of its population practicing an indigenous religion. Their beliefs focus on one creator, neither male nor female, called Zanahary. A close relationship exists between the living and their ancestors. They avoid disapproval from these ancestors by observing taboos called fadys. (7)
In Ireland, one in six adults struggles to read and understand basic daily messages: leaflets, bus timetables, medicine instructions. In response, the Irish marked International Literacy Day, September 8, with a conference in Dublin titled “Literacy Matters: Challenges and Solutions for Communicating Effectively with the Public.” (1)
Established by UNESCO (the United Nation’s Specialized Agency for Education) in 1966, International Literacy Day is celebrated by different peoples in different ways. One thing they all shared was the 2018 theme of blending literacy with skills development.
The celebrations stretched across the hemispheres. Here in the U.S. the Jonesboro Public Library in Jonesboro, Arkansas hosted a family storytime including a read aloud, flannel story and music. Following the storytime, children could play in centers set up to encourage specific skills - a sensory spelling center, kinesthetic sand making and color sorting games. (1)
On the other side of the globe in Amritsar, India, college students competed in quizzes, essay writing and a debate, all live-streamed on Facebook. They also organized a social awareness campaign for local citizens.(1)
In Hamburg, Germany, an adult panel discussion took place. Participants focused on the meaning of illiteracy and how it influences a person’s education, career, and daily life. (1)
In Kingston, Jamaica, dignitaries including the country’s poet laureate joined in a morning Read-In .(1)
In 1820 only 12 % of the world’s population was literate. Two centuries later, 83% are literate. (2) We are moving in the right direction, so why the worries?
For starters, literacy is not developed on an even playing field. Of the 750 million people who cannot read or write, two-thirds are women. Also, the largest chunks of illiterate populaces are found in the poorest of countries. (1)
Also important to acknowledge, we are in an increasingly digitized and globalized world, a world where reading is more important than ever. The 192 million unemployed individuals are a vulnerable population in need of both literacy training and skills development.
Let’s step back for a minute and take a look at a brief history of literacy. The earliest forms of written communication are believed to have taken place between 3,500 and 3,000 B.C. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that book production steadily grew as did literacy among the population in the Western World. In the 19th and 20th centuries, literacy rates accelerated in 1st world countries, particularly after the middle of the 20th century when an expansion of basic education occurred. (2)
It is improvement in basic education that will hopefully lead countries such as Tanzania on this same trajectory. Sub-saharan Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world. It is no surprise that the region’s literacy rates are among the lowest. Though Tanzania outpaces some in this region, the country strives to continue improving. It has a current literacy rate of 77.9%, with roughly 83% of males and 73% of females able to read and write. (3)
International Literacy Day reminds us how far our global community has come, but also the inequities and gaps that still exist.
Though social media is utilized by people of all ages, it is with youth that the practice is nearly ubiquitous. Nowhere was the popularity of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, more apparent than recent social movements organized by youth. In 2010, revolutions in the Middle East, now known as the Arab Spring, began with youth organizing through social media. Here in the U.S and with a similar wildfire spread, March For Our Lives, a march on Washington, DC in support of gun-control legislation, was organized as a youth response to a mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. (3) Now, UNESCO is encouraging youth worldwide to use social media once again to promote peace through an UNESCO online youth community on Facebook. (1)
“Safe Spaces for Youth” is the theme of the 2018 International Youth Day celebrated on August 12, and social media is one of these spaces.
What exactly is meant by safe spaces in this context? According to the United Nations, they are gathering places where youth can participate in decision-making processes, take part in activities that address a variety of needs and interests, and express themselves freely. Further, safe spaces ensure dignity and safety. Without them, young people of differing ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds and genders may be reluctant to contribute to their communities. (2)
Feeling powerless can lead to conflict and even violence such as school shootings and political or religious extremism. Empowering youth is one way to build peace. UNESCO’s online youth community “puts young people at the heart of addressing the root causes of violent extremism.” (1)
Aside from social media, young people also exchanged ideas on International Youth Day by way of lectures, debates and symposiums. In Arusha, Tanzania, a youth symposium brought together representatives from diverse groups: University students, disability groups, and clubs. Participants listened to several speakers and then wrote four resolutions to be presented at a national commemoration of International Youth Day. The resolutions emphasized the need for inclusion of special needs students in education, encouraged the empowerment of youth in the economy through vocational training and entrepreneurship, stressed the importance of life skills in education, and requested services be made available to prevent early child marriages and pregnancies. (4)
International Youth Day was first recognized in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly. In 2018, we have 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. Approximately 1 in 10 live in conflict zones, and 24 million do not go to school. These are the youth who are vulnerable to poverty, feelings of hopelessness and violence. International Youth Day raises awareness of the challenges and problems facing youth.(2)
As U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “In making the world safe for young people, we make the world better for all.”(2)
There are two ways to travel. One is to pack your bags, hop on a plane, and go. The second is to pick up a book. On this National Book Lovers Day, join me in journeying to Africa. Let’s explore the great writers from this vast and varied continent. Below are several book lists that might help you discover a few great finds from one of Africa’s many talented authors.
Photo Credit: jeshoots.com / Unsplash
Among the renowned and recognizable of African literary voices is Nigerian Chinua Achebe, author of the highly acclaimed Things Fall Apart in 1958 and winner of the Man Booker International Prize in 2007. Achebe keeps good company with other African recipients of the Booker prize. Any of these prizewinning selections over the past 50 years could make excellent additions for your own book list:
1999 - Disgrace by J.M Coetzee of South Africa
1991 - The Famished Road by Ben Okri of Nigeria
1983 - Life and Times of Michael K. by J.M. Coetzee of South Africa
1974 - The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer of South Africa
Photo Credit: Olsztyn Poland/Unsplash
Four writers from the African continent can lay claim to the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. Residing at points in Africa distant from each other, these authors have contributed much to the African canon of literature. Belong to a book club? Consider adding a work from one of the following authors to your schedule.
1986 - Wole Soyinka, playwright and political activist from Nigeria
1988 - Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian writer of Arabic literature including 50 novels
1991 - Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist and short story writer
2003 - John Maxwell Coetzee, South African novelist and essayist
Another writing award focuses only on authors from the African continent. The CAINE prize for African Writing aspires to expose talented African writers to a larger audience. The 2018 prize was awarded to Kenyan writer Makena Onjerika for her short story “Fanta Blackcurrent.” A great way to dabble among the most up and coming writers on the African continent, the CAINE Prize Anthology includes a collection of short stories written by authors shortlisted for this annual award.
Photo Credit: Slava Bowman / Unsplash
Finally, for those who like new releases but prefer diving into a novel rather than reading short stories, there are plenty of choices. Below are a few that received some buzz in recent years. Each has a link to a Goodreads summary and review.
Desertion by Tanzanian Abdulrazah Gurnah
The Kindness of Enemies by Sudanese Leila Aboulela
TheHappy Marriageby Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun
The Book of Memory by Zimbabwean Petina Gappah
Sometimes There Is a Void by South African Zakes Mda
And After Many Days by Nigerian Jowhor Ile
Enjoy your sojourn to Africa. Read on!
A stroll through a state fair would likely meander through a series of barns housing livestock, by vendors selling and celebrating foods of the region, and to informational booths educating the public on agricultural practices and innovations. Though they often offer amusements rides, music and other forms of entertainment, pride in the state’s agriculture is the backbone of our country’s state fairs.
Tanzania’s Nane Nane Day might be compared to a state fair. Literally meaning ”eight eight” in Swahili, the national holiday on August 8 is also known as Farmers Day. Nane Nane Day celebrates the contributions of all involved in agriculture.
On this Nane Nane Day, 2018, let’s take a closer look at agriculture in Tanzania.
To understand its importance, consider that 80% of men and 84% of women in the labor force work in agriculture. (5) Most of these laborers are smallholder farmers, with few families cultivating more than two hectares (equivalent to roughly 5 acres) of land. (2) In 2017, the agricultural sector contributed 30% of the country’s GDP. (7) Over 90% of the food consumed in Tanzania is home grown. (3)
Crop production constitutes the largest segment of Tanzania’s agricultural GDP at 55%. That is followed by livestock at 30% and natural resources at 15%. (5)
With a wide range of Tanzanian geographic zones and climates, a diverse group of crops are grown. In the northern and southern highlands, maize is a major crop. (2) Coffee is also grown in the highlands, often under the shade of banana trees. The northwestern portion of the country, around and near Lake Victoria, is another coffee-growing region.
In southern Tanzania, macadamia nuts, avocados and potatoes are grown in addition to coffee. (1)
Photo Credit: Maxime Niyomwu/Unsplash
Traditionally, cotton has been grown in the northwest. However, farmers in other regions have begun to grow the crop as the expectation for favorable prices increases. As a result, cotton production is expected to quadruple in 2018. (6)
In the tropical coastal belt, farmers harvest cassava ( a nutty-flavored, starchy root vegetable).
Rice is grown in an area spreading west from Dar es Salaam, while millet (a tiny, round grain) and sorghum( a cereal grain) are grown in the central plateau. (2) In Zanzibar, farmers grow a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices, notably, cloves. (3)
Of these crops, coffee is a major export, earning 17% of the country’s foreign exchange. Other export crops include cotton, cashews, and tobacco. (3)
The livestock raised by farmers includes poultry, cattle, goats and sheep. The raising of livestock is concentrated in the arid and semi-arid center and north of the country as 60% of Tanzania’s rangeland area is infested with the tsetse fly. Overgrazing has led to the erosion of the land. (3)
Photo Credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash
The challenges of Tanzanian farmers are substantial. They include limited access to support services and financial capital, dependence on rainfall, climate change, poor rural infrastructure, crop diseases and pests. (5) Among Nane Nane Day’s opportunities is the chance to learn about agricultural best practices, innovations, and progress in sustainable farming. A goal is to educate smallholder farmers to increase the value of their produce and thus, their income. (2)
Photo Credit: John Matychuk/Unsplash
Aside from the agricultural showcases, the US and Tanzania share one other thing. Following the browsing, observing and learning, it’s time to hit the food stands! Americans’ fair favorites are buttery corn on the cob, cream puffs and deep fried cheese curds. In Tanzania, a favorite is chips mayai, fried potatoes with an egg slathered on top.
Tanzanians, enjoy your Nane Nane Day!
Some spend their 21st birthday dining out with family or friends, others hosting a party or perhaps enjoying a first legal sip of wine or beer. And then there is Malala. She will spend her 21st birthday on July 12, 2018 (also known as Malala Day) doing what she has been doing for the past six years - advocating for girls’ education.
By now, most know her backstory. And yet it is so remarkable it bears repeating. In 2012 a member of the Taliban boarded her school bus, shooting 15-year-old Malala in the head. She had been targeted after blogging for the BBC about her life following the Taliban takeover of Pakistan’s Swat Valley where she lived. By 2008 girls education had been banned, teachers murdered and over 200 schools destroyed. (1) The remarkable part was still to come. As Malala herself said, “I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.” (2)
The repression and violence Malala experienced may be the story of many girls, but what she did about it is not. For starters, she recovered from a gunshot to the head, many surgeries and months of recovery. She went on to speak at the United Nations in 2013 at the age of 16, calling for worldwide access to education for girls. That same year she co-founded the Malala Fund with her father Ziauddin, to fundraise and support girls education. (2)
She celebrated her 17th birthday in Nigeria meeting with the families of girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram and helping to bring the world’s attention to their plight. Later that year, she won a Nobel Peace Prize. In 2015 on her 18th birthday she helped open a secondary school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon. In 2016 she launched #YesAllGirls, a social media campaign in sync with her other advocacy efforts. Her accomplishments before even crossing the threshold into adulthood could make one’s head spin. She continues to travel around the world spreading her message while she meets with citizens and heads of state alike. (2)
The need for her work is crystal clear. More than 130 million girls worldwide are deprived of an education each year. The reasons are multifaceted: child marriage, war, prohibitive cost, health challenges and child labor.
In Tanzania, gender parity has been nearly achieved in primary school. However, a significant gap still exists at the secondary level. Only 60 percent of adolescents are able to access lower-secondary education. Of these, only one-third of girls who enter secondary school graduate. Reasons include a lack of secondary schools in rural areas, an exam that limits access to secondary schools, and unaffordable fees for uniforms and books. (3)
Perhaps most troubling is a government policy to expel pregnant or married girls. More than one-third of girls are married by the age of 18. In 2016, pregnancy led almost 3,700 girls to drop out of schools. (5) In fact, Human Rights Watch reports that pregnancy tests are regularly conducted in schools. (3)
In addition, girls are vulnerable to sexual violence both en route to school and in the schools themselves. Many children must walk several miles in order to access an education. Girls are vulnerable to attacks along the way. (4) The schools themselves are not always safe either. In 2011 UNICEF reported that roughly 1 in 10 girls experienced sexual violence by a teacher. (5)
Investing in girls’ education goes a long way. Consider that each additional year of school cuts infant mortality and child marriage rates. Education among girls leads to healthier young women who raise healthier families. (2) “Girls who receive secondary education will marry later, have higher family incomes, tolerate less domestic violence and give children better care, thereby reducing infant mortality rates,” according to the Africa School Assistance Project, an international organization promoting education in Sub-Saharan Africa. (4)
Malala’s desire to keep learning is as much a beacon as her advocacy efforts. She currently is studying politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University. If Malala gets her way, all girls may have the same bright future - without fear of being the target of a loaded gun.
Happy Malala Day!
At a glance:
Population: 47.6 million (2017)
Official Languages: English and Swahili
Religion: Protestant (47.7%), Catholic (23.4%), Other Christian (11.9%), Muslim (11.2%)
Fertility Rate: 3 births per woman
Life Expectancy: 64.3 years
Literacy Rate: 78% (total) 81.1% (men) 74.9% (women)
Currency: Kenya shilling
GDP: 5% growth (2017)
Form of Government: Presidential republic
Natural Resources: limestone, salt, gemstones, zinc, wildlife, hydropower
Exports: Tea, coffee, horticulture, petroleum products
Kenya is a country located in East Africa along the coast of the Indian Ocean. It shares a border with five countries: Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan.
Five times the size of the state of Ohio, Kenya’s terrain includes low plains to the east and highlands in the central and western section of the country. It is a land bisected by both the equator and the Great Rift Valley, an area of fertility and also what scientists believe to be the birthplace of the human race. The climate is tropical along the coast and arid in the interior. (1)
To highlight the important events in Kenya’s history means to go back 3.3 million years. Archaeologists believe that the earliest evidence of human existence has been found in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. (3)
Skipping ahead to the 7th century A.D., Kenya became the site of incursions from foreign lands. Arab merchants established trading posts along the Indian Ocean coastline including what is now known as Kenya. The Portuguese arrived much later, in the early 16th century, but were driven out by the Arabs by 1720. (3)
Around 1750, the Maasai, nomadic cattle herders, moved in. As different European powers tried to colonize Kenya, the Maasai drove them back. Still, by 1895, the British were able to grab a foothold and declared Kenya a protectorate.(3)
The 20th century brought a guerilla war for independence from 1952-56. Though the British did put down the uprisings, the fight led to a path for an independent Kenya. Full independence was achieved in 1963. Today Jamhuri Day, December 12, is a public holiday which marks both Kenyan independence in 1963 and the formation of the Republic in 1964. It was in 1964 that Jomo Kenyatta was elected Kenya’s first president. (3)
The Kenyan population in 2017 was 47.6 million, more than 40 percent under the age of 15. Population density pockets have formed in the west, along Lake Victoria, in the capital of Nairobi, and in the southeast, along the coast. (1)
Over the years, Kenya has become known as a host country for refugees. Because it is a relatively stable country, hundreds of thousands escaping violence from surrounding countries have fled to its borders. Most recently, Kenya has seen an influx of over 300,000 Somali refugees. (1)
Harambee, a Bantu word meaning “to pull together,” characterizes Kenyan culture. A group-oriented culture, Kenyans practice their shared principle of mutual assistance, effort and responsibility. The extended family is the basis of their social structure, and as such, child rearing is a communal undertaking. (4)
Nyama choma, charcoal grilled beef or goat meat, is said to be a national dish of Kenya. Other staples of the Kenyan diet include rice, bread, chicken and tilapia. A favored drink is chai tea. (5)
Though Kenyans love their soccer, they are world renowned for another sport - running. Kenyans, particularly runners from the Great Rift Valley, dominate middle and distance running, several runners having achieved international status. Studies have shown that a variety of factors contribute to their success, including a cultural emphasis placed on perseverance. The teens in this area are generally very thin; they spend their time as children walking or running back and forth to school, averaging 7.5 kilometers per day. Their endurance coupled with a low bmi is a factor in their running prowess. (6) Another study demonstrated that biology might play a part. Thin ankles and calves are common to tribes living near the equator and are advantageous to distance runners. (7)
At a glance:
Population: 30.4 million
Primary language: Portuguese
Currency: Mozambican metical
GDP: 3.7% growth in 2017 Mozambique Flag Credit: www.worldatlas.com
Natural resources: gold, emeralds, copper, iron ore, bauxite, natural gas
Religions: Roman Catholicism (28%), Islam (17%), Zionist Christian (15.5%), Protestant (12.2%)
Literacy Rate: 47% (total) 28% (women)
Fertility Rate: 5.9 children per woman (one of highest in the world)
Life Expectancy: 58.31 (total) 60.40 (women) 56.12 (men)
Leading Cause of Death: HIV / AIDS
Located on the coast of the Indian Ocean, Mozambique is a long, narrow country bordering six other countries: Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Swaziland. Its land is mostly coastal lowlands. Plateaus and highlands lie to the west with mountains scattered along the western border. The country’s largest lake is Lake Malawi. (1)
Map of Southern Africa Credit:Google Maps
Bantu-speaking people are believed to be among Mozambique’s earliest inhabitants, 2,000 years ago. Throughout its history, people from foreign lands arrived, attracted by the land’s rich mineral resources and prominent position along trade routes. Arabs were the first to arrive, followed by Indians and later the Portuguese. It was gold that lured the Portuguese in the 16th century. By the late 17th century, ivory had replaced gold as the land’s major commodity, Less than a century later, slaves took over as the major commodity. (3)
Though the Portuguese had colonized what is now known as Mozambique, it was in 1951 that Portugal declared Mozambique its overseas province. This led to the formation of nationalist groups which after an armed struggle, gained independence on June 25, 1975. Following independence, 90 percent of the Portuguese settlers left the area. (4)
Samora Machel served as Mozambique’s first president. He came to office with Socialist ideas including the forced creation of communal rural villages. Civil war erupted and continued for 17 years. Much of the infrastructure, including roads, railways, schools and health centers, was destroyed during this time. Millions fled to neighboring countries, and over 1,000,000 were killed. (4)
In 1990 a new constitution was adopted which embraced a multiparty, democratic system and a free-market economy.
Traces of Arab, Indian and Portuguese culture remain in Mozambique, most evident perhaps in the Portuguese language still spoken. (Many indigenous languages and English are also spoken.) It is a blend of many cultures, but the Mozambique people share a love of song, poetry, dance and performance. They also unite around their favorite sport - football (soccer). (5)
Click to watch children performing a traditional Mozambique dance.
The cuisine of Mozambique has also retained some of its colonialist past. The Arabs, Indians and Portuguese each brought with them a variety of spices. One popular Mozambican dish is Matata, a seafood stew using clams in a peanut sauce. Indeed, with its long coastline, seafood is plentiful. A few staple foods are maize porridge and meat or vegetable stew. (5)
Health and Education
With a high poverty rate, both health and education services are meager, especially in rural areas. More than half of the population must walk an hour or more to the nearest health facility. Mozambique has one of the lowest doctor/patient ratios in the world: 3 per 100,000 people. Progress has been made in recent years in reducing mortality rates among children 5 and younger and improving access to care. A 97 percent rate of pregnant women receiving prenatal care, at least 1 visit, has also been achieved. A continuing challenge that Mozambicans face is HIV/AIDS. More than 1 in 10 have been infected. (7)
Education services, too, are scant. Though 94% of girls attend primary school, more than half drop out by the fifth grade. Even more dismal - only 1% of the female population goes on to college. Reading achievement among primary schoolchildren is also low. One positive step the government took in the early 2000s was to eliminate school fees which nearly doubled the school population rate. Because poverty is high in Mozambique, many children must work to help support their families. One estimate showed a 22 percent child labor rate. (7)
It is a celebration of culture, a celebration of history, and a celebration of unity. Both on the African continent and around the globe, Africa Day is marked by parades, festivals, and more.
A little history will shed light on its origin and meaning.
A movement towards Pan-Africanism or the joining together of diverse independent African countries began in 1963 with the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Its founding followed the decolonization and independence of 17 countries from European powers between 1958 and 1963. Representatives from 32 countries met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that year to officially state their solidarity. (1)
It was Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first prime minister, who along with the leaders of 3 other African countries, founded the OAU. (3) Its goals were mainly political and multifaceted in the organization’s early days. The goals included ridding the continent of any remaining colonization and apartheid, promoting solidarity and protecting the sovereignty of member states, collaborating on development, and encouraging international cooperation. (4)
Around this time, several countries began celebrating a day of African unity called African Liberation Day.
Fast forward to 2001, and the organization had grown, taking in 21 more independent countries and transforming from a political to more of an economically-focused organization. The name, too, had changed. It was now called the African Union. (1)
African Liberation Day evolved to African Day. It has become a channel for many cultures to come together and honor their diversity and the goals of the African Union. In several countries including Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Mali, Africa Day is designated as a public holiday. (2)
Other countries, such as South Africa, have found alternative ways to mark the noteworthy growth of the African continent - keeping their eyes on future growth they would like to see. At Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the African Union flag flies along with the flags of the 54 countries of the union. South Africans were also encouraged to learn the African Union anthem. (4)
A celebration in Tanzania includes cultural performances, a food bazaar featuring traditional cuisine, exhibitions and a concert featuring musicians from the DRC, Mozambique and Namibia. (6)
Africa Day is celebrated on other continents too. Some Africans living abroad gather in cultural garb, listen to traditional music and trade recipes. (3)
The Irish celebrate Africa Day in several cities including Dublin where an annual family event takes place. It includes live music featuring both Irish and African musicians, traditional African drumming and dance workshops, and African arts and crafts. (5)
It is clear from Africa Day that the culture from the multitude of African countries carries far and wide.
A teacher wears many hats. Some days a counselor, some a nurse, others a social worker. Always an instructor. Grace Silas Laizer of Saving Grace School in Arusha, Tanzania is at once teacher, administrator and recruiter.
Back here in the United States about 3.6 million teachers fill these multifaceted roles. On this last day of Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s take a look back at how this honorary week began and at the evolution of teaching in America.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt once proclaimed: “Education is the cornerstone of liberty.” It was this value that she placed on education which led her to propose to Congress a day set aside each year in honor of teachers. This national teacher’s day became May 7 and was first celebrated in 1953. (1)
Later, in 1984, the National Parent Teacher Association expanded Roosevelt’s idea when they dedicated an entire week in May to thank our teachers.
Teaching in America has come a long way since our colonial beginnings. In these fledgling days of our country’s inception, it was mostly men who educated the young. The virtues of family, religion and community were emphasized more than the three Rs. The curriculum was heavily influenced by the strict religious teachings of the day. The men were often innkeepers or farmers who stepped in to fill the role of schoolmaster during their off-season. The more educated men in the cities used teaching as a stepping stone to a career in law or the church. (2)
In the late 1830s reformers such as Horace Mann fought to make schools democratic, universal and free. These new public schools were called common schools and with the attempted inclusion of all children in the education process, a demand for teachers grew. In order to fill the staffing shortages and as men were drawn to other professions, new industries and the frontier, communities turned to women to fill the void. (2)
The common school reformers considered one of women’s most important qualifications their femininity. They viewed women as nurturing and of high moral character. They also set a precedent - women would be paid ⅓ of what men received. (2)
In many schools, the “schoolmarms” were young, sometimes only 14 or 15. Some of the pupils might be older than the teachers. Many districts required the teachers to resign when they married. (Such a rule remained in place in some areas as recently as the 1930s.) (5) The job then, like today, had its challenges. Some teachers were in charge of instructing as many as 60 children of various ages in a one-room schoolhouse. (2)
It was in the middle of the nineteenth century that states began requiring a basic academic competence and attendance at summer institutes for training. “Normal schools” were established for the systematic training of teachers. These schools prepared teachers for instruction beyond a grammar school curriculum. By 1867 most states required their teachers to pass a test for a state certificate. Such a test might include U.S. history, geography, spelling and grammar in addition to other basic skills. (3)
By 1900, Horace Mann’s idea of universal education took an even stronger hold. By this time 31 states had passed statutes requiring compulsory education for children ages 8 to 14. Nearly 75% of the teachers were women at this time. Rural teachers struggled with limited resources, run-down schools and inadequate funding. (4)
In the cities, the boards of education were formed by business and professional men who believed that schools should replicate a business model or hierarchy with the teachers at the bottom. The teachers felt powerless, underpaid and insecure with a lack of pension benefits, job security and poor working conditions. The teachers began to push back, forming teachers associations which later became unions. (2)
Throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries teachers continue to struggle with some of the same issues, and it was within this context that Roosevelt astutely proposed the idea of a national day for teacher recognition.
In 2018 teachers are honored in a variety of ways. The National Education Association (NEA) recommended two on its website. The first is their Thank a Teacher project, a request to parents to make a video or take a photo of themselves thanking a teacher who has made a difference in the life of a child. The NEA shared these messages of appreciation to their members throughout the week. (1)
May 9 was designated as #REDforED, a day to show solidarity with teachers who are fighting for school funding, pay and better working conditions. Supporters were asked to dress in red. (1) A movement of teacher protest began in 2018 beginning with the walk out of teachers in West Virginia in February. This spurred walk outs and protests in other states including Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.
Whether wearing red, organizing a luncheon or sending a card, one thing is indisputable - the recognition is but a small step yet well deserved.
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