Art & Life

Sun,22Jul2018

Art & Life

In Your Classroom: Teachers on strike in Togo


In Togo, teachers have been on strike, saying that they support the return of universal free education but that the state’s resources are inadequate

 

I teach biology and earth science, but there is no laboratory. We have zero, nothing, be it a library or teaching materials. I only have the things that were given to me during my training. I am an auxiliary teacher and we are paid much less than someone who has an official state teaching contract and the title of teacher. ?

 

Last week the teachers decided to go on strike, demanding improvements to the quality of life for teachers. They sent a warning to the authorities with a strike of two days, but afterwards, there will be activities organised at the level of the teachers’ unions. They demand the re-establishment of universal free education, but the state does not have the resources to support such a measure. Another demand of the strikers is payment arrears, which date back to 1999.

 

?It is a question of money, but then it must also be about questions of organisation and working conditions, which need to be improved. There is no continuous training for teaching staff. The school administrations do nothing to get more training for their teachers. All that it boils down to is the individual willingness of teachers to undertake their own research on how to improve. I wish I could make four copies of myself to communicate better with the students.

 

Back to Education Campaign: Low pay becomes a continent-wide crisis

Education Campaign: Low pay becomes a continent-wide crisis

 

Salaries often do not meet the basic needs of their families, so many teachers have to take other jobs in order to carry on doing what they see as their duty

 

“Imagine earning a salary of $50 but having to spend $10 or $15 to go and collect it,” says Emmanuel Fatoma, coordinator at teachers union body Education International’s Africa headquarters in Togo. This predicament is all too common for Africa’s army of rural teachers, many of whom have to spend days travelling to a payment centre to collect their wages, leaving behind empty classrooms.

 

?Problems in the size and delivery process of teachers’ salaries can be acutely damaging to the education of their pupils. Salaries are often too small to meet teachers’ basic needs, including their transport costs to and from school, which are pushed higher by widespread inflation. Many resort to moonlighting, taking second and third jobs, such as driving taxis or giving private tuition in the evenings.

In Your Classroom:

 

Teachers strike over
pay in Lomé, Togo.
Read more. 

 

?“In some extreme cases teachers were even found selling popcorn or sweets to schoolchildren in order to raise money,” says Peter Mabande, executive director of the Pan-African Teachers’ Centre and former chief executive of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association. “Naturally you can understand how much it damages the teachers’ reputation and status.” Sometimes teachers ask parents to help out with money or even dip into the children’s school fees. ?

 

Efforts by governments to crack down on ‘ghost teachers’ and ‘ghost schools’ in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia have added an extra level of bureaucracy for teachers collecting their pay, particularly in rural villages with no banks. Sometimes head teachers are trusted to collect the money and dispense it to their staff, but often teachers are forced to travel themselves to collect their wages. “If you are not there when salaries are paid and the paying officer goes back, you are in trouble because you may not get your salary until after two or three months,” says Fatoma. ?

 

Protests do little good. In one extreme case in February, 19 teachers in Kagera, northern Tanzania, were caned by a police officer in front of their pupils after complaining about regular delays in receiving their salaries.

 

Strike! Strike! Strike!

 

?Discontent over pay has already sparked strikes across Africa in 2009 as economic constraints cause a rise in militancy. In Kenya, a nine-day strike in January by more than 200,000 primary school teachers led to the closure of 18,000 schools; teachers complained that their scheduled wage increase did not keep up with the country’s 26% inflation rate. They were rewarded with a 40% pay increase over three years and a promise from government that it would increase the education budget. Still, following the win, the Kenya National Union of Teachers is now under siege from the government agency that collects its members’ subscriptions through the payroll, over accusations that it went on strike illegally. ?

 

In Zimbabwe, teachers finally returned to school in late February after the new unity government agreed to pay them in US dollars and to conduct a pay review. At the start of the school year in January, 94% of the country’s schools had failed to open as teachers stayed away in protest or had left the country. Teachers in Gabon, Togo (see box) and Nigeria have also been on strike over pay in recent months. ?

 

Teachers unions in Africa have been growing in strength over the last five years as governments give grudging respect to teachers’ democratic right to protest instead of sending in police with tear gas. In Ghana and Sierra Leone, teachers have secured collective bargaining agreements. ?

 

Some of the newly emboldened unions are not convinced that the threat of strike action is fruitful. “Our strategy is not to strike, but to advocate and to bargain in a friendly manner,” explains Teopista Birungi Mayanja, secretary-general of the Uganda National Teachers Union. Formed in 2003, the union now has 68,000 members. It chose to organise a peaceful nationwide demonstration in 2005 that managed to obtain an increase of 50% for the country’s lowest-paid teachers, from $55 to $100 a month. Mayanja says its strategy has been to involve the union in all aspects of educational development. Uganda’s teachers have won respect from government and are speaking up strongly during debates on curriculum changes in secondary schools that could push many teachers into redundancy. ?

 

Although they often grab the headlines, pay demands come alongside necessity for better long-term benefits for teachers, such as accommodation allowances, pensions, and maternity leave. The Ghana National Association of Teachers has created a teachers fund that provides mortgages, and personal and vehicle loans for members.

 

?“Where there are no resources, it becomes impossible for teachers to employ their skills which they have learned in teacher-training colleges,” says Mabande.

Business Schools: Bringing the costs down

 

Making business schools affordable is a tough challenge in the African environment, but some show the way

 

“Ashesi is the most expensive university in Ghana and also the least expensive university in Ghana,” says Patrick Awuah, president of Accra’s Ashesi University. Established by Awuah in 2002 as a private, not-for-profit foundation, it charges between $5,000 a year and $10 a year, using an endowment to support 50% of its students through financial aid. “We were very unabashed about saying publicly that, in our opinion, it should not be controversial that rich families pay for their education,” says Awuah.

 

Public universities dominate Africa’s education systems, but the last 20 years has seen growth in private institutions springing up to offer courses in business, computing, marketing and communications – all subjects where public universities were slow to meet demand.?

 

While some are for-profit, not-for-profit universities like Ashesi have been busy raising standards. Their relationships with government can be controversial, though. In Ghana, for example, there is debate over whether private schools should be eligible for support from a government trust fund, which has already donated computers and buses to private institutions.

 

?In Morocco, where the state is still the main actor in tertiary education, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane has shown the way for Moroccan institutions to achieve financial autonomy. Though Al Akhawayn, founded in 1993, is essentially still a public body, with its board appointed by the king, it is managed privately and controls its finances through a foundation generating donations. ?

 

“We have a lot of flexibility in reviewing the curriculum,” says Mohamed Derrabi, dean of Al Akhawayn School of Business Administration. He says the school benchmarks its success on international accreditation, for which independence from the state is important. “Institutional accreditation agencies, they really look at this as a very good advantage for us because we can adapt without too much bureaucracy.”

 

?The curricula offered by Ashesi and Al Akhawayn follows the US liberal-arts model, with a broad range of subjects. At Ashesi, business students study technology and philosophy; at Al Akhawayn, they study arts, science and history. ?

 

Ashesi’s not-for-profit model is based on an endowment, philanthropy and high fees that support 90% of operating expenses. The university has secured 94% of a $3.4m fundraising target to build a new campus and is seeking a further $2.5m from the International Finance Corporation.Although the majority of Ashesi funds come from donors in US’s Pacific north-west, its young alumni also contribute – a potentially lucrative income stream for the future. 

Interview: Mahmoud Triki, Dean Mediterranean School of Business, Tunis

 

The Africa Report: Do business-school students find it difficult to integrate into family businesses after graduating?

 

?Mahmoud Triki: During the last five years, out of the 250 participants from the Maghreb in the Mediterranean School of Business (MSB) Executive MBA, about 80% of them are employed by large family businesses. We have to consider the cultural evolution in Maghrebi societies. Communication and increased mobility of the population have tremendously reduced traditional family ties. Thanks to the internet and to the opening of employment opportunities worldwide, many graduates prefer to look for a job outside of family businesses, and in some cases, outside of the country – especially those graduates from prominent schools. They can have better professional prospects and more attractive salaries. This may change temporarily with the current world economic crisis.?

 

What kind of jobs do business graduates fill when they return??

 

Except for small companies where managerial positions are limited, business-school graduates get promoted when they return to their companies. Based on our experiences at MSB, almost all of our graduates who got promoted stayed with the same company. However, those who did not get promoted got frustrated and left to join other, often multinational, companies or started their own businesses.?

 

Are those who have studied at Maghrebi business schools better able to integrate than those who have studied abroad??

 

Most of our participants are from Maghrebi countries. As a consequence, the setting, the teamwork and class discussions revolve around business situations as experienced in the Maghreb. The thinking, the cultural setting and the applicability of the concepts acquired is easier to adopt and to integrate into the Maghrebi context than it is for those who have studied abroad.

 

Back to In the Maghreb, a younger generation looks outwards

 

Education Campaign: In the Maghreb, a younger generation looks outwards

 

The need for greater professionalism and training has been recognised among family-owned businesses in Morocco

 

In Morocco, a new elite is emerging among the children of dynasties dating back some 50 years. Trained in the best schools of Europe and the United States, this younger generation is bringing with it new management techniques and strategic vision.?

 

Many of the Moroccan graduates from the best European and American schools are heirs to the commercial and financial companies founded at the time of independence in 1956, or else during the first wave of Moroccanisation of businesses during the 1970s. Against a backdrop of privatisation and the emergence of a financial market in the mid-1990s, most of these business empires were then developed or restructured, and they are now applying new management methods that are shaking up the traditional cultural codes of the family-run business world.?

 

For Bouthayna Iraqui Houssaini, president of the Association des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises du Maroc (Association of Female Heads of Enterprises in Morocco), these ‘heirs’, who more often than not have been trained abroad, bring a new business mentality as well as the tools needed for modern management. The changes they are bringing to family businesses could be vital for the survivial of these companies.?

Interivew with Mahmoud Triki, Dean, Mediterranean School of Business, Tunis

 

Although the vast majority of businesses in Morocco and Tunisia are still family-owned or family-controlled, there have recently been fundamental changes in the way these companies have chosen to develop, says Mahmoud Triki, dean of the Mediterranean School of Business in Tunis. Responding to harsh pressures from international competition, larger companies now show “a higher level of professionalism among their top executives”, he adds.?

 

Among the emerging new elite of the Moroccan business scene there is strong evidence of this professionalism. The strength of the continuing family influence in Ynna Holding, with extensive interests in real estate and the construction industry, is a remarkable one. The children of Miloud Chaâbi, a shepherd-turned-millionaire, now occupy strategic positions in the group, while the septuagenarian Miloud continues to preside over its destiny.

 

In the family?

 

Trained in marketing in the US, Omar Chaâbi, the youngest of the family, is now Ynna’s executive vice president and director of communications. The role of Ynna vice president and head of development is carried out by Faouzi Chaâbi, another son and himself a graduate in business management in Paris. Daughter Asmaa studied at Oxford University and before joining the group was elected Morocco’s first female mayor, representing Essaouira.?

 

“What’s good about being a family business is the ability to reinvent oneself very quickly,” claims Omar. By innovation and redefinition of its strategy, the Ynna group has continued to evolve since its conception. It has followed the changes in the world economy, a trend accentuated by the efforts of the children. A turning point came at the end of the 1990s when the company diversified into markets including distribution, hotels and wind-produced energy. The youngest of the family takes care of ‘China-proofing’, in other words protecting the business from the competition China poses, taking advantage of Morocco’s proximity to major markets and the quality of its services. Today, Ynna Holding has 18,000 employees and a turnover of almost Dh10bn (about $1bn).?

 

A brother and sister head the Bensalah family holding company, Holmarcom, a player in the food, packaging, logistics and finance industries. Their story began in the 1930s, when their late father, Abdelkader Bensalah, came up with the idea of bottling water from a natural source in the region of Khémisset, near Rabat. Since then, the mineral water of Oulmès has become one of the most profitable subsidiaries of the conglomerate. For 19 years, the head of the business has been Meryem Bensalah Chaqroun, a formidable businesswoman. After an affluent childhood in Casablanca, she left to study abroad, starting in Paris where she obtained a degree from one of its best business schools, the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce. Then she went to the United States and obtained her MBA in international finance and management at the University of Dallas. Finally in 1990, at the age of 31, she threw herself into Oulmès.?

 

Mohamed Hassan Bensalah, younger brother and president of Holmarcom, is a graduate in management from the Sorbonne and the Paris-based management school l’École des Cadres. He has led the restructuring of the group, which had been in decline, establishing partnerships with other companies. One success that ensued was the creation of Regional Airlines in 1998. Oulmès’s growth was linked to a partnership with another large Moroccan family group, which in 2003 obtained a licence to bottle and distribute the Pepsi drinks range. In 2007, Oulmès boasted a turnover of more than Dh1bn.

 

Juggling?

 

In her office in Casablanca, Lamia Tazi, 34 years old and director general of the pharmaceutical company Sothema, juggles phone calls in French, English and Arabic. The company was founded 30 years ago by her father, Omar Tazi, who remains president. It employs 600 people in five factories in Bouskoura, near Casablanca. Sothema is listed on the stock exchange with an annual turnover of Dh700m, three times as much as it had ten years ago. ?

 

Lamia, with a doctorate in pharmaceuticals from her time in Belgium, is the eldest of three children and the only one of them to work in the family business. She says she is proud to have put “new techniques of management and communication” in place. Over the last five years, Sothema has moved into exports. The father-daughter team seems to function harmoniously. Father Omar is the strategist for the development of the African and Middle East markets, and a factory in Dakar has been commissioned to start production in the first semester of 2009. His more technically-minded daughter will deal with the European and American zones, where the group seeks to develop its business of sub-contracting for large multinationals.

Athletics: Valuing Life in Addis Ababa

 

One of the toughest races in the world, the annual Great Ethiopian Run through Ethiopia’s capital attracts thousands of participants and spectators – a big event for athletes and civil society activists alike

 

Ask any of the 32,000 registered participants impatiently waiting for the start of the Great Ethiopian Run why they are there and the answers will be as diverse and varied as the people. “For my health,” says one. “To celebrate Ethiopia’s athletic success,” says another. “To have some fun together,” says a third.?

 

But time and again the runners return to the messages the race works to publicise. “I’m running to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS,” said Yared, and his friend Nabayou agreed: “All the people have a slogan about HIV. They are saying ‘Use a condom’.” Megdes was running “to support orphaned children” while Samson declared: “What I love most about the race is its message ‘Value your life’.” ?

Interview: Haile Gebrselassie
Ethiopian long-distance runner

 

For Addis residents the best thing about the run is its atmosphere – the joy and sheer exuberance of the participants and the enthusiasm of those watching and cheering on the sidelines. For the runners, it is a high-altitude slog through the heart of the city along a 10km circuit, and for the spectators it is an exhilarating melee of noise, heat and colour generated by the estimated 40,000 people taking part, who all wear the same red and yellow T-shirts and are boosted by unofficial hangers-on. At the latest event on 23 November 2008, an estimated extra 8,000 people joined in the throng.

 

?A top Kenyan athlete who took part said the race was a challenge even for experienced runners: “It’s a really tough race – it’s the toughest in the world,” he said. Mohamed Farah, the Somali-born athlete who runs for Britain, also felt the special atmosphere. “For me it was a very good experience, the crowd were just amazing. They were completely different. They were cheering ‘Anbessa, anbessa’ which means like a lion and ‘Ayzoh, ayzoh’ – be strong.”?

 

Last year’s was the eighth Great Ethiopian Run. It was launched in 2001 with the help of Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia’s best-known and best-loved long-distance runner, and former British Olympic athlete Richard Nerurkar.?

 

Gebrselassie played a critical part in securing the initial sponsorship and in smoothing out the tensions between the race organisers and the Ethiopian Athletics Federation, which was reluctant to support the first event. “A few days before the race some people at the Federation tried to stop it from happening,” said Nerurkar. “Had Haile not been there they would have closed it down, even though we had 10,000 people registered.”?

 

Impossible is nothing

 

?The event did go ahead and was a triumph. From the outset it was never planned to be just another mass-participation race. The organisers wanted to provide ordinary Ethiopians with an opportunity to participate in their country’s national sport, but they also had loftier aims. They hoped the race would help cultivate a more positive image of Ethiopia, something far removed from its habitual portrayal as just another war-torn, famine-blighted, poverty-stricken African state. And early on they saw its potential as a vehicle for public health messages. One of the original sponsors of the race was DKT International, a US-based NGO working to increase the distribution of condoms and promote family planning. ?

 

The Run is now the largest road race in Africa, and pictures of tens of thousands of Ethiopians running along the broad tree-lined streets of Addis are beamed to television sets across the world. Thanks to the high profile it enjoys within Ethiopia and the ever-growing international media attention it attracts, the Great Ethiopian Run’s public health messages have been reinforced. ?

 

Haile Gebrselassie explains: “There is nothing too impossible. Every year the race has had a message and we can pass on this message in different ways. We talked about HIV/AIDS first, and education and poverty and so on.”?

 

Central to the Run’s growing standing on the international athletics scene is the competition for elite men and women. In the first few years the list of participants read like a who’s who of Ethiopian track stars. Since 2004, invitations have been given out to the top 500 runners from the best athletics clubs in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian athletics has benefited hugely. “In the last eight years, because of the Great Ethiopian Run, running has just become a part of something we [Ethiopians] do,” says Gebreselassie. “I remember in 1993 when I ran in the world championship, we didn’t have many athletes qualified for the 10,000m – there were only three of us. But these days, how many? There are more than 30 athletes who have qualified for the 10,000m and 5,000m. It’s very difficult to choose and now we have to try to keep this tradition going.”?

 

High altitude draw

 

?The race organisers hope to attract more of the sport’s biggest names in the future, although the prize money is low in comparison with other similar races, and it is a big challenge for any athlete to compete against Ethiopians on their home terrain at high altitude. Even some of Ethiopia’s best athletes shy away, as Nerurkar explains: “From about 2005 onwards there were so many good young athletes who desperately wanted to run this race that it became fiercely, fiercely competitive and the world class guys didn’t want to get beaten.”

 

?For Addis residents the race has become much more than a Sunday fun run. It is a place where citizens feel able to air their grievances – whether with protests about road safety or calls for the release of the popular imprisoned Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro – and the organisers allow them to, as long as the demonstrations are safe and peaceful. ?

 

With the help of supporters, the organisers extended the run’s charitable remit in 2005 by introducing a fund-raising element – an integral part of any such event in the West, but a new and unusual concept here. Free places are given to local charities, granting some of society’s poorest and most vulnerable people a chance to take part in one of the highlights of the Addis social calendar. Last year, a special campaign, ‘I’m running for a child’ was also launched that raised 250,000 birr ($27,500) for organisations working with orphans and at-risk children living in the capital. ?

 

The Great Ethiopian Run is a celebration of Ethiopia, the people, its culture and its proud athletic tradition. People display their medals in shops and cafes and wear the official race T-shirts for weeks after the event. Wami Biratu, at 90 the oldest participant in the race, has committed himself to keep running until the day he dies. “It is the expression of love, unity and health,” he said. “The child and the old man can participate in this road race. It is not only for Ethiopia but for the world as well.”

Letter from Moscow

 

Africans are no longer welcomed as they once were during the era of international socialist solidarity; in fact they now have to take extreme care whenever they travel around the city

 

With more than 12m people, Moscow is Europe’s biggest city and a melting pot of sorts for Russia’s 100 or so different ethnic groups. But Moscow is not Russia. In speed and style, it has been playing catch-up with Western capitals since it shed communism in the 1990s.?

 

Moscow’s powerful mayor Yury Luzhkov, in office since 1992, has spent billions of dollars from the well-padded city budget to give the city a facelift. The drab concrete apartment blocks have given way to brightly-coloured residential towers and glass buildings for investment banks and oil companies. Luzhkov’s government has encircled the city with ring roads and created a business district called ‘The Moscow City’, his answer to La Défense in Paris and Lower Manhattan in New York. Under construction here is the Federation Tower, a 600m steel-and-glass symbol of new Russian wealth and power, designed by British architect Norman Foster to be Europe’s tallest building. ?

 

Muscovites are the richest people in Russia, which explains the stark differences in lifestyle between Moscow and the faraway provinces. Grocery stores and supermarkets such as French discount retailer Auchan have been springing up everywhere. But Moscow was never a cheap option for expatriates and immigrants: for the third year running it has been designated as the world’s most expensive city.?

 

African food is rare here but there are two Ethiopian restaurants downtown, in Krasnaya Vorota and Zemlyanoi Val. Lovers of North African food can visit one of three Moroccan restaurants.??

 

Not-so-cosmopolitan

 

?Moscow’s Metro is a showpiece. Built in the 1930s, the 230km-long underground network is known for the design of its marble stations, many of them decked with mosaics, chandeliers, sculptures and precious materials. Each of its lines is identified by a colour, the Red Line running from south-west to north-east. ?

 

Unlike London, Paris or New York, Moscow never had a resident community of Africans and there is little racial harmony here. The Red Metro Line is a living metaphor for many dark-skinned residents who regard it as a danger zone to be avoided on certain days of the year and at certain times of the day because of frequent assaults and attacks from the city’s skinhead population.

 

?“It is no secret that blacks get beaten up on Hitler’s Birthday or People’s Unity Day by skinheads and football fans on the Red Line,” says Msangi Nsangu, who heads the Association of African Students. “Every time we venture out, it’s like going to a war front, especially in the Metro, where escape is difficult.”?

 

In private encounters and within the confines of their apartments or around the kitchen table, Muscovites are jocular, witty, superstitious and generous. But there is also a deep feeling of otherness rooted in years of relentless communist indoctrination that makes them unwilling to cosy-up to foreigners, especially those with non-Slavic looks.?

 

Moscow’s largest concentration of Africans is in the south-west, at Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University, which attracted thousands of scholarship students from developing countries in the days of proletarian internationalism. Now there are fewer than 1,000 Africans there, down from 2,300 in the 1990s, as stipends have all but dried up and the welcome mat has disappeared. ?

 

Doctor Lyubov Ivanova, a lecturer at the Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies, attributes frequent attacks on African immigrants to the poor image of the continent projected in the Russian media. “The image of Africa as an extremely poor continent is stressed to raise the level of self-esteem of the Russians,” Ivanova said. “A mindset has been created in which Africans are used as scapegoats to redirect social aggression and as the only way for showing masculinity by declassified Russian youngsters.” lTai Adelaja

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