Education, the New Cure for HIV/AIDS

By Katlego Paakanyo, Daily Nation (Kenya) correspondentbedi.PNG

Many African students are sent overseas to study medicine, money is spent on the course, which covers the duration of seven years, only to have them settle in their respective countries of study, never returning home to practice. The Executive council, in an attempt to address the topic of education and how it links with the strengthening of healthcare facilities and services to combat infectious diseases, delved deep into solutions for the current curricula echoing the need to panel-beat it to suit the African continent.

A motion by the Republic of Ivory Coast to assess tertiary education and how it may be reformed to aid combating infectious diseases lead to the most productive debate for the committee yet. Quite opinionated and realizing the importance of addressing the Education system, delegates did not shy away from suggesting solutions to current problems. In her speech, the delegate from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea stated that “The curricula need to cover prevalent infectious diseases in Africa” further putting emphasis on that money cannot be spent on sponsoring students to study overseas, as although what they learn may be advanced, it may not necessarily fit well into the African puzzle. In addition to the point raised by a fellow delegate, the Republique du Cote D’Ivoire delegate added to the discussion, highlighting the fact that relevance plays a huge role when addressing matters which may be unique to a particular demographic setup, in this case a disease such as Ebola, “trained medical professionals will be able to see problems in Africa since they will be trained in Africa for pressing diseases in Africa”, he added.

Delegates were quick to point out that although changing the tertiary education syllabi might be an effective tool in ensuring progress when combating infectious diseases, the solution may take a long time to implement, they therefore went on to suggest equally significant solutions which would gradually progress the continent to having a specialized tertiary school system. The Federal Republic of Nigeria representative to the council affirmed the need to start off small, pointing out that “Governments should mandate students currently studying medicine abroad to return to their nations after completing their courses”, to prevent the brain-drain which countries are currently facing. There will also be a gradual introduction of the specialized curricula to medical schools across the continent, to a point where eight years into the future the system followed will be highly specialized, including procedural matters such as actions to follow in case there is an outbreak of a deadly infectious disease.

Evidently, the Executive Council is driving the continent on the right path to combating the most pressing infectious diseases at the moment. This is the first step to diminishing the current dependence on external sources for medical training and expertise. The presented substantial solutions when implemented will see the medical arena improved immensely.

The Day I Switched Places With the Chair

By Ekow Bentsi-Enchill, Reuters correspondentSwitcharoo with the Chair.JPG

The Chairperson beckoned for me. Hesitantly, I sauntered towards the bench. I was
apprehensive, not knowing what to expect. My heart fluttered around in my chest like a butterfly, yet onwards I marched for lack of another option. She motioned for me to relinquish my camera, the very extension of my being, and reluctantly I handed it over.
“Had the profusion of clicks and flicks that emanated from my shutter angered her in some way?” Had I taken a picture I shouldn’t have?” She opened her mouth to speak. “Can I take a picture of you?” she inquired, and immediately my body warmed up, my disposition a metamorphosis from petrified to relieved. I graciously accepted and gave her a quick tutorial on the workings of the camera and the art of focusing, after which she offered me her chair! Latching onto the opportunity, I sat down with immediacy and offered her my Press Corps reflective vest. By now the blood coursing through my veins was at its hottest and at its fastest. Overwhelmed and overcome by the wealth of power bestowed upon me by the chair, I was hyperventilating. Trying to hide my utter and complete excitement, I obeyed her order to smile and flashed her my widest smile possible. Longing to stay put in the alluring chair, I stalled by looking away from the camera and succeeded in eliciting more time in the seat of glory. Nevertheless, as with all good things my few minutes of fame came to an end, and soon after I was back in my reflective gear, reunited with my camera and taking pictures.

“DELEGATES, RAISE YOUR PLACARDS”

Katlego Paakanyo, Daily Nation (Kenya) correspondentdsc_3151.jpg

Etiquette. The difference between a mediocre meeting and an impactful assembly of various nations, adamant and determined to resolve issues of concern across the continent – combating infectious diseases, intra-African trade and education systems – is the level of propriety displayed by all present parties. This includes abiding by the rules and following procedure, avoiding stepping on toes at all costs.

This morning, the Executive council saw an unorthodox occurrence, with one of the delegates appearing in council without their placard, a deed which was frowned on by the dais as well as the various nations represented. When asked to speak on the matter, a fellow delegate pointed out that “it disrupted procedure since we were unable to start on time as the matter was still being addressed”, pointing out just how important it is that delegates at the ALAMAU 2017 are considerate on how their actions affect the proceedings.

A placard is to a delegate what a license is to a driver, what a ballot paper is to a voter and ultimately what a national anthem is to an independent country; these words were echoed by the Executive Council Chairperson, Aya Somai, as she noted “though it seems like a minor issue, it is in fact quite significant”, further adding that a placard is the one item which gives a delegate the legitimacy to contribute in discussions and represent their country well.

When asked to speak on the issue, the delegate for the Republic of Liberia humbled himself, “I would just like to apologize for being careless” evidently mortified and speaking with remorse. Propriety dictates that rules be followed at all times and respect be shown, by delegates to each other, staff and advisors all the like.

Exclusive with the Moderator of African Commission on Science and Technology, Abdelaziz Benmehrez.

Interview by Ekow Bentsi-Enchill, Reuters correspondent

Moderator Aziz.JPG

Me: Hello Sir.

Moderator: Hello, how are you?

Me: Fine, thank you. Can you give more insight into your role as moderator?

Moderator: As a moderator I try to control the debate to the best of my abilities so everything is in order. Before this you need to have knowledge of the parliamentary procedures and some Model United Nations experience so you can control it properly. You have to give attention to every single delegate to improve himself or herself, and have a fruitful debate.

Me: How difficult has it been to fulfill your role at this conference?

Moderator: It has been a little challenging. I needed to perfectly know every single rule and be ready to answer every possible question of the delegates.

Me: Have there been any standouts for you in these sessions? If so, why?

Moderator: Some of them stood out by their public speaking skills and the confidence with which they spoke. When they stood up and spoke with confidence, that’s quite impressive, especially when they bring to their opinions knowledge based on facts.

Me: Do you have any advice for the delegates and future generations of ALAMAU participants?

Moderator: The research process is extremely important, as it is crucial for when you speak. In fact, if you come here and speak without any research, you won’t be able to answer a point of information properly. So with a great knowledge of the topic, and a broad knowledge of the African continent and the issues discussed, you can be the best.

Me: Thank you very much!

Moderator: Thank you!

Indaba Hotel: A Culinary Nirvana

By Ekow Bentsi-Enchill, Reuters correspondent

From finger-licking bacon, to luscious omelettes, to grapes, to an assortment of meats, the Indaba Hotel brings a cornucopia of culinary delectables to the dinner table. Each meal I eat is infused with the love and flair of the African mother, and promises to be different every day.

Before I left for South Africa, I promised myself to never eat anything I could eat ordinarily in Ghana, and due to the variety that this hotel has, I have been able to fulfill my promise. As I chow down, I am treated to a plethora of food items fit for the Queen of England. I no longer have to derive pleasure and excitement from myself and my friends, because the food is so exciting.

I have eaten many cakes of different flavours, shapes and sizes; as well as a profusion of meats stemming from all creatures, both marine and terrestrial, including springbok, lamb, hakes and herrings. Economics teaches us that food is a basic requirement of life, yet at the hotel the food transcends being a necessity and becomes a pleasurable, regal entity.

I implore the entire ALAMAU community to not take for granted the pearls they receive at the dinner table for granted, and to try and eat as much as they can! To be frank, I am not sure if I will be able to dine like this again.

UNEXPECTED BONDS

By Kimanzi Rolaida, AllAfrica correspondent

When I was told that we were going for ALAMAU, I was excited but also scared because in order for me to work I have to be comfortable. I did not think that I would care for any of these press corps delegates the way I do now ;that’s because they are not only extremely weird but they are just lovable.

Kweku Appiah from Ghana, Katlego Paakanyo from Botswana, Ekow Bentsi-Enchill from Ghana, Jadini Nzomo from Kenya, Oyinkansola Kolawole from Nigeria, Abdul Abiru from Nigeria. (I still can’t say some of their names up to now). Of course there is Fred from Mozambique and Maeva from Ivory Coast. For a press corp team, we act more as a family and we accept one another which is something I foid beautiful.

I like the way we as humans don’t have control over the people that we meet because if we did I probably wouldn’t have met these kind and amazing people. I will forever be thankful to whatever force brought us together.

As ALAMAU 2017 comes to an end, I would like to thank every single person especially Fred Zucule for being a wonderful director and all the press corps for being playful yet serious.

I can never say thank you enough for this amazing experience because you have all made it worthwhile.

‘Bonus Session’

By Colenso Holder, Delegate of the Executive Council

I am sitting in my hotel room in Johannesburg. There is a constant hum of cars. I just got out of the shower so the sound of water dripping is also filling the room. Today was the first day of parliamentary sessions at the ALAMAU conference. Countries from all over the continent are here. From Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa and more.

At the beginning of the ALAMAU conference we were briefed by the chairperson that the main goal of this conference is to have impact. I am proud to say that the Maru-a-Pula delegation has achieved just that.

After supper a fellow Maru-a-Pula student from Botswana told me about his committee and how homophobic arguments had ensued during their conversations. I told this delegate that if I were to be in that council I would leave because of the delegates’ ignorance and also because their comments would hit too close to home since I am a gay male.

After dinner, this same student told me that some representatives who are against gay rights had gathered in one of the conference rooms. He then asked the rest of the Maru-a-Pula delegation if they were up for joining him for a debate on LGBT rights. Our entire team was very enthusiastic about this, arriving at the debate venue to find the said delegates still having their dinner.

At first the debate was very informal since it was not actually part of the conference, but occurred spontaneously. We were privileged to have Mr. Jantsankhorol Damdinsuren, advisor for the Maru-a-Pula School delegation, as chairperson for the debate, even going on to label it as a ‘bonus session’. A moderated caucus of 5 minutes and 30 seconds was voted for.

During the few speeches given, there were passionate expressions of opinions on the topic: homosexuality goes against Christianity, homophobia also goes against Christianity, homosexuality is seen as unnatural by some African citizens. Homosexuality is natural since there are more than 2000 species that are known for sometimes having same sex partners, and lastly, the fact that being homosexual is not a choice but one is born that way. These arguments were not presented in a serious manner since this was not part of the actual conference.

After the first motion was exhausted, there was a motion to extend it by six minutes with a speaking time of one minute. I was the first to speak. I did not  know what I was going to say to the people that were sitting in front of me. All I saw was ignorance. So I started talking about myself and the experiences that I have encountered as a gay male.

During the previous caucus I was totally unemotional but as soon as I started talking about myself I started to shake and emotions started to take over. I addressed my fellow delegates from Uganda telling them about how I would have committed suicide if I did not not have an accepting family. I also spoke on the fact that it is people like them who cause innocent people like myself to commit suicide. When I was up there I started to cry, not out of the fact that I was offended but because of their lack of understanding and all the pain that they could potentially cause because of their lack of tolerance.

After I gave my speech, there was an obvious shift in the atmosphere as the hostile tone which had overcome the room just a few moments before transformed to a more welcoming one. The delegate of Uganda went on to apologize to me on realization that I had taken offense. She then started to cry as well. When she approached the delegates again I could see that there was a major change in her attitude towards the seriousness of the discrimination at hand. My fellow delegates from Uganda and another country then stated that they also believe that people should be seen as equals.

Some of the statements that followed included the fact that it is us, the youth’s responsibility to create a world that accepts all and leaves no minority group behind. Some of these points were supported by the fact that black people were called animals in some European schools and this was not the truth. Therefore vibrant young people should be open-minded towards any situation regardless of our upbringing and our parents’ beliefs. We should have the ability to create our own rational judgment towards situations, given any circumstance.

With Love from Peru

By Katlego Paakanyo, Daily Nation Kenya correspondent

Causing heads to turn with her elegant walk, adorning a pink aPeru.PNGnd white gown and swaying gracefully through cultural night in her traditional Peru attire, Samantha Dineo Moon is the embodiment of an ‘African at heart’. Born and raised in South-Africa’s neighboring
Botswana, Samantha is half-American and half-Peruvian, holding passports from both countries. Her Setswana name, ‘Dineo’ translates to ‘gift’ and she describes herself as her mother’s gift from Botswana, as she was born just a few months after her parents relocated to the diamond-laden country from the United States.

When asked about her stylish dress, she explained that it is called the ‘Marinera Dress’, traditional Peruvian attire worn during the ‘Marinera Nortena’ ceremony where partners flirt with each other as they move, noting that the dress was deliberately designed to be flowy and colorful, mimicking the graceful poise of a peacock.

To her, Africa will always be home, and despite not holding a passport from any country in the continent, she identifies as a Motswana, further commenting that the African Leadership Academy Model African Union has taught her so much more about the continent, “some conversations for me were unexpected and we were able to challenge our fellow delegates’ mindsets”, she added. In her interview, Dineo could not hide her delight in the fact that through this conference stereotypes were broken and boarders were crossed to a more united, progressive Africa.

 

Undercover Agent

By Jadini Nzomo, BBC correspondent

 

 

Miss Salma Khai, AKA to the Press corps team as the ‘undercover agent’ or the ‘ghost worker.’ We refer to her as this because of the tireless effort that she puts in order for our experience here at the ALAMAU 2017 conference to be as smooth and memorable as possible.

I took some time to interview her to see her point of view towards the conference and what is expected of her. She begins by telling us that her main job is just to “overview the work of the research teams and the logistics teams”  and it is her sole responsibilitySalma.PNG to be available at any point ”both mentally and physically and to set the mood of the entire team.” Her job can be frustrating seeing as she takes “responsibility for anything that happens, both good and bad.“

She continues to tell us that some of the expectations she must meet are “to always make MAU a priority, to always be there for her colleagues, to hold everyone accountable for their actions,” and some of the challenges being that she must balance school with this event as that can be difficult at times.

Her colleagues describe her as “easy to work with due to how committed she is” and refer to her as a kind person with a “glowing personality”. Overall Salma is committed to her responsibilities which makes her extremely suitable for the role that she has in MAU.

Sessions Can Make or Break You

By Ekow Bentsi-Enchill, Reuters correspondent

From what I have seen today, sessions are intense and unnerving for everybody. Even if you have spent months preparing for this moment, the chair, fellow delegates or even the flick of a shutter can erode your wall of confidence. The delegate of Mauritius, bombarded with question after question (coyly cloaked as points of information), soon began to falter in speech. But one delegate, the delegate of Rwanda, impressed me beyond measure, exhibiting the ability to keep cool as he locked horns with many delegates and emerged victorious.

He first pointed that a country’s main focus in the education sector should be primary education, as this caters to the largest pool of children. Immediately, he faced contention from the delegates of Kenya, Congo, Mauritius and Ivory Coast, yet he addressed each point of information and follow-up with relative ease. The delegate of Kenya felt that directing policies towards the primary education sector was farcical, but the delegate of Rwanda reduced his accusations to drivel with hard fact: using well-researched projections into Rwanda’s future. He used the same systematic method to undermine and debunk the assertions of the other delegates.

I want to encourage every delegate to express similar levels of self-confidence during session, no matter their level of preparation, as it garners the admiration of the general public and could lead to picking up awards. Let us try to remember that “action breeds confidence and courage” (Dale Carnegie), and thus in order to exhibit confidence we must take action.

Learning to keep a cool head in trying times is an essential skill to have in committee sessions, which tend to be tumultuous and daunting, and also for life.