Thursday, December 21, 2006

A time to cut

This could be good news for you if you live in East Africa and you are male. Maybe not. If its not good news to you, probably its because you’ve been under the knife.

Recently, it’s been in the news that circumcision can cut the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men by as much as 50%. In South Africa, in fact, the decline was found to be 60%.

I can imagine what’s going to be happening in the next few years. I can imagine what is going to be happening to the thingies of a lot of males in the region.

It is said that when circumcised, men are less likely to bleed and thus less likely to get infected. That the HIV sensitive cells under the foreskin are removed at circumcision and so letting off the guys.

Good news really. Just imagine what that says for the fight against AIDS. The crippling effect of the disease on Africa’s economy and the way it decimates whole communities in East Africa will be greatly curtailed.

Usually, when such reports are released there is a cynical response from different quarters because it is a report just like a million others. In this case, the cynical retort is from me. I know that the west will fund studies into why this is the case and probably try to disprove it. It sometimes feels like these people don’t believe anything can be good about Africa.

Big Pharma, as I call the medicines industry, the guys who are making a killing supplying the dying world with meds are not about to be happy when the people they are selling drugs to are not falling sick anymore.

I expect a lot of opposition just like they forced Dr. Ssali (RIP), the guy Savage referred to recently, to close shop and to die almost penniless. Strangely, Mariandina, his food supplement drug has been given the green light in the UK by the system. They did it quietly, shamefacedly.

That’s why I am happy for the fact (according to the report) that circumcision reduces the chances of men catching AIDS. I am happy that the gospel of Jeffery Sachs and Bob Geldorf, that HIV/AIDS is one of the greatest obstacles to African development, is going to be thought about more seriously by our governments. What I am skeptical about is really the actions that are going to be taken by the guys who hold the world’s purse strings.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas party

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teefffffff.”
Alvin and the Chipmunks

The mommies didn’t really have to respond to the invites because they were too unclear. When they got back home, they were surprised by the white envelopes that lay at their door steps. The writing was fine. The papers were fine. It was the fact that there was no sign at the bottom. Plus the fact that the invitees were the mommies’ little boys and girls.

That’s what was puzzling about the whole business. Because in the end they left their darlings go to the party and they left them at the strange looking house, to be picked at the end of the day.

The party was in full swing when Iwaya got there. He was clutching his doll fiercely and staring down everyone. He was spoiling for a fight of course because he knew someone would joke about him and the dolls he played with. All the other little boys play with cars. So what was wrong with this little boy?

In the corner, down-weighed by his daddy’s jeans and his mom’s shades, Sav sat at the small table holding court. Around him, the little boys who all wanted their friends to know that they had the bestest little toy cars jutted little jaws out. Sav was holding court because everyone had accepted that they had to be second to him. He had brought the real thing, or so he said. He’d told his little friends that he had driven his dad’s car to the party. And that daddy dearest had let him.

In the middle of the room, the girls were singing. Or talking. Or crying. It was difficult to know what was going on with them because any of these activities was possible with them at any moment. Someone was crying because someone had tagged on their hair. Another was giggling because Degstar had said something in her ear. It was probably something naughty.

The girls there included this one and this one and this one and this one. This one and this one and this one had not turned up yet.

At the bar (of course being small boys and girls, there was nothing strong at the bar. We were all just playin, you see), was Baz. The pirate’s rag on his head and the stupid looking nose ring didn’t do much to disguise him. He was looking like one of those little men in those Nigerian flicks.

Also hanging and trying to look cool was this guy and this guy and this guy. It was said others were on their way. Probably their moms were still trying to find the place.

That’s when the big guy in a red suit and a silly beard appeared. He kept on saying things like “ho, ho, ho.” The kids looked at him and just got mad. The more he spoke, the more the anger rose. These were definitely not his kind of kids, it turned out.

The bottles and cakes started flying. Not at the silly red guy but at anything that could be perceived as a target. Cakes, sweets, shoes, pillows and tables. Four year olds carrying mahogany tables over their heads just before they tossed them at each other.

The silly red guy in a silly suit escaped. Outside, he met the press and the police. It was a jungle. He was all over the evening news. He said all he ever wanted was to call the kids to a Christmas party. He wanted to wish the children of the neighbourhood a nice festive season. But then, how can you do that when the kids spend their time on the net doing something as crazy as blogging? This when normal kids are out playing with their friends.

‘Tis the season to be merry, I think.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The cycle

It’s hard to say this but it’s the truth. Kampala is under the attack of cholera. Again. So far, over 300 cases have been reported. A number have died. There is an emergency station in the parking lot at Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s premier referral hospital.

It’s a shame because the circumstances through which one gets this disease are embarrassing; it’s got through ingestion of human waste.

Now it’s not like Ugandans have developed a taste for the stuff, no. It’s the floods that we’ve had since the beginning of November.

Many of the latrines in some parts of the city, especially the north of Kampala are rudimentary. Peeps be doing their bizness just out in the open or in shacks disguised as toilets.

When the rains came, they washed all the shit that’s been lying around into drinking water sources. The good habit of eating fresh fruits has also become dangerous because in many cases, people have been brought in because they ate some mango which they washed with water infested with the bacteria.

The rains usually come with the grasshopper season and the places where the insects have been devoured most have also recorded big numbers of cholera cases. Peeps be eating these things while they are still raw, it seems.

It was just a matter of time.

So why are people still dying of cholera? Why do people still die of preventable diseases in this continent of ours? Cholera, malaria and all these things. Instead of getting ourselves and our kin out of poverty, we are fighting diseases that we shouldn’t be.

In Kampala, those who have airtime to call the radio stations and ask what topic is being discussed have been saying that the cause of the flooding is the Northern by-Pass that’s being constructed in Kampala.

People seem to have very short memories. Every year, the areas of Bwaise have been flooding every time it rains. In fact, back in school, it was a running joke that to live in Bwaise, one needs to invest in a boat.

But that’s beside the point. What I want to know is why these people stay in that area year in year out knowing what’s coming at them at the end of the year. I sure wouldn’t want to have only bleak memories of Christmas. Coz surely, by Christmas time, they have lost a lot.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Three Ages

Robert Kiyosaki has been called a populist and a free loader. His books have been criticised for their fluffy feel-good nature and that they dont show readers the truth. Think what you want but i know alot of what i do in the next few years will have the backing of this man's philosophy. I am reading Jefferey Sachs' The End of Poverty and i want to see if it's all that. The economists of the world could be making noise just because he's their tight drinking buddy, y'know.

Exerpts from one book...

In the Agrarian Age, the rich were those who owned a castle that overlooked large tracts of fertile land. These people were known as the monarchs and nobles. If you were not born into this group, you were an outsider with very little chance of becoming an insider. The 90/10 rule controlled life. Therefore, the 10% who were in power were there because of marriage, birth or conquest; the other 90% were serfs or peasants who worked the land but owned nothing.

Then came the Industrial Age and wealth shifted from agricultural land to real estate. Improvements such as buildings, factories, warehouses, mines and residential homes for the workers were placed on top of the land…improvements. Suddenly, rich fertile agricultural land dropped in value because the wealth shifted to the owners of the buildings upon the land. In fact, an interesting thing happened. Suddenly rich fertile land became less valuable than rocky land, where farming was difficult. Rocky land became more valuable because it was cheaper than fertile land. It could also hold taller buildings such as sky scrapers or factories and it often contained resources such as oil, iron and copper that fueled the Industrial Age.

When the Berlin Wall came down and the World Wide Web went up, many of the rules changed. One of the most important rules that changed was the 90/10 rule. Although it’s likely that only 10% of the population will always control 90% of the money, the access to the 10% has changed. Today it does not take being born into a royal family as did in the Agrarian Age. It does not require massive sums of money, land and people to join the 10%. The price of admission today is an idea, and ideas are free.

Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter.
Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing

Friday, December 01, 2006

E=mc…okobye ki?

Future scientists without a language

Uganda’s Education ministry is facing a storm. It hasn’t entered the public debate yet since the bimeeza are still obsessing about Betty Kamya and Salim Saleh and the pros and cons of a government minister doing his job (Giving out money to people who need it, regardless what party their area MP shouts for).

But when the shit hits the fan, there’s going to be lots of smelly faced people around because they didn’t see what was coming at them. It is being called the new Thematic Curriculum.

Starting next year, kids from Primary One to Primary Four will be learning in their mother tongues. After that, English can be introduced. The powers that be have decided that since the children learn their first language at home and it comes in the way of real comprehension when they go to school, it is better to continue the basic education in this mode.

The campaign has started and soon, the radios and TVs will be chocked, I guess. To follow will be the bill boards on the roadside so the parents can see what’s coming as they drive their kids to Kitante Primary and Greenhill Academy.

I still haven’t understood the whole “thematic curriculum” spin yet. I guess its one of those things I will have to wait patiently for.

I know if this had happened to me as a kid, I’d probably have flunked badly. But then again, it is said the kid’s mind is like a super computer. Kids can adjust quickly to all sorts of change.

Or can they?

I think in English. Have thought in English since I was a kid. I know lots of kids today who learned English before their first tongue. And in this age of Babarita and all her Latino cousins masquerading as actresses on TV, I know there’s going to be a few more kids that think in English. Because their mothers don’t live here. Where they live, cool kids speak English.

Maybe it’s okay for our generation, since we are already wasted. But what about the generation of the Solanges, Shaniquas, Tyrons and Laquandas that are causing lots of aural pain to priests as they try to christen them every week? What is going to happen to the TV generation of a few years from now?

True, government has survived bigger storms. They have introduced strange policies without sensitizing the public and they’ve gotten away with it. Somehow. They’ve pushed VAT on us and a decade later, we still don’t understand what its all about. They’ve given us UPE, USE, Multiparty politics (when all along they said this is the devil’s business)…

Maybe English is becoming obsolete. Recently, His Lordship, the Mayor of Kampala said he admired the Chinese so much because they “can’t speak English yet they are very successful.” And it’s true. Those guys, like many others around the world don’t need to know English to do business.

My generation is full of people who believe that what they’ve had growing up is the best and they want to give the same to their kids. This of course goes against the progressive thinking that you should always be ready to question your old beliefs. But they will probably be teaching the chilluns English on the sly.

Enter home schooling. And you thought it would never come to Ug! Short of teaching your child from home, how are you going to keep them from being confused? If you speak English at home, Junior is going to speak English wherever he goes and when he gets to school, depending on where you live, he’ll come back speaking a language you have never heard before.

Maybe it’s worth it. Just think; a whole new crop of scientists who don’t speak the same language. That Swahili project seems to have stalled somewhere and without a national language, with English being kicked out, we’ll probably have a Tower of Babel right here along the Equator.