Africa United

 

A tale from the Grandfathers

 

One day the animals of the savannah decided to have a meeting, a ceasefire was declared, no lion will eat a gazelle, no hyena will eat a warthog, and so they sat together. They wanted to unite in order to preserve their homeland, to unite against the hunters, the poachers, and the encroachers. It seemed a good idea, the herd animals all agreed, there is safety in numbers, but the leopard said she was always solitary and seeing as she didn’t eat grass this union was of no use to her. The elephant said she was too big to join with the gazelles, impalas, and zebras, she would make her own deal with the poachers and she was convinced by her size she would get a better deal. “You stand 4 meters tall, you can’t hide, they will kill you first and take your tusks, but at least we can hide.” The lion sat aloof, unbothered by the bickering, his strength would win the day, he said he would devour the poachers, but they have guns and will shoot you from far away.” The mongoose laughed, he would outsmart the poachers, sneak past them and hide in the bush. The problem was the bushfires, where can you run to? The monkey laughed, he would just climb up a tree, but they are chopping down the trees. The birds said they’ll just fly away from these problems. Where to? Eventually you have to land back to earth and you’ll find the same problem.

 

This was a story told to me by my granddad decades ago, the original question was “Why is Africa so messed up?” he explained it to me in terms my little mind could understand. We are in a dire situation, not because of the white man only, but we ourselves have not capable of agreeing a way forward to solve our problems in Africa. The day we decide to change our circumstances we will begin to effect change on our continent. Africa decided on March 21st to change its circumstances, to change its outlook and the way it is perceived by the Rest of the world. 44 nations signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, the rest mostly agreed to consult with their parliaments to ratify it. The Rome Agreement of 1957 establishing the EEC had little coverage that day compared to Elvis topping the charts, but the effects were monumental, it took years to get the full treaties working rightly, but it all stems from that day. The EU had many geopolitical factors pushing it, America had over 1m NATO troops in Europe to protect it from USSR invasion. The US wanted all the European nations in a group that they could deal with collectively, it made international relations easier. Likewise it is in the interest of the West to have a strong AU, it might be against the interests of their companies, but the world benefits from a strong united Africa. We Africans can deal with the wars, droughts, famines, that always require Western help. As we saw recently Rwanda donated money to help another African country fight desertification, we go to beg for $20m here, $100m there, to fight this and that, but we can collect money among ourselves to fight ebola, or any such problem. The West gave $150m to fight Ebola and took all the credit, we Africans could have given $3m per country and fixed it, because it would eventually spread to all of us.

 

The Elephant stand alone

 

Two glaring omissions stood out on the map, ironically it was the two nations who have most to gain from an African Continental Free Trade Zone, Nigeria and South Africa would get the biggest share and yet they are too insular now to see it. Another irony is South Africans are scared of Nigerians coming over and vice versa, but the SA and NGR banks would swallow the African Banking system if there was free competition, their manufacturing sectors would take over the African market, and they would effectively have a veto by virtue of their sizes but they are still thinking they can get a better deal alone than with us. 27 African nations signed the Free Movement Agreement, waiving visa requirement for Africans, some were understandably reluctant, such as South Africa with a Xenophobia crisis, TZ scared of super-sharp worldly Kenyans coming and outsmarting them in everything, the SADC nations blindly following SA. The problem we will see is “vested interests” yes we are poor, but this poverty makes someone very rich. People who make money importing goods from the West or East will never want local manufacturing, nor to import from other African nations. In Nigeria there are no functioning Oil refineries because petrol importers were subsidized by government and made a fortune importing fuel. This is replicated in every sector in Africa, our poverty enriches others in the same system. Each nation will have to fight these vested interests or at least coopt them into this African Free Trade Zone, or they will just sabotage it. We need to overcome ourselves, our own greed and selfishness, the hardest opponent is always the one in the mirror.

 

The benefit of kindness

 

Rwanda has had an open door policy towards its neighbors and even faraway foreigners, we have benefitted from Kenyan investment, Ugandan skills and business, Somali businessmen, Eritrean supermarkets, we even have Senegalese and Malians dating back decades. None of this investment has ever stopped Rwandans from starting their own businesses or being successful, it has brought a large inflow of investment, most have settled here and reinvested the profits employing thousands of locals and paying tax. Outsiders are always better at spotting gaps in the market, locals become entrenched in their thinking and ignore solutions, and we can fill the gaps in our markets by cooperating, seeing Africa as one economy and not our petty little economies. We must think “Buy Local” first from your local country then if not then another African country. We must stop lusting after Western goods just because they are from the West, goods perform a function first, you can buy them anywhere especially local. We have to harmonize our laws on business, we cannot have more cross-border investment if our codes are different. That way we can collectively bargain with the West and East with the same criteria, we can avoid tax loopholes that cost us up to $200bn. It is only by fighting collectively that we will get our share of the global economy, they say that the Economy of Africa is smaller than Spain, but we don’t owe twice our GDP’s in debt. After WWII America sat down with the Europeans and decided that in order to prevent future war nations would be given a share of the global economy. The Marshall plan helped German by, injecting capital, infrastructure, and also promising to buy the goods from these countries to make them sustainable. African countries were not present at Breton Woods, we could not advocate for our share, this 2.5% of global GDP was assigned to us, we are 15% of the world population, we will be 30% of global population by 2050 with 2.8bn people. Africa is not the future, Africa is now, most of the global growth is coming from Africa, but headlines don’t reflect that. We can change Africa overnight if only we spoke with one voice together.

“I freed over 1,200 slaves in my lifetime, but I would have freed even more if they knew they were slaves.”  Harriet Tubman

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The Silo Effect – when Govt is not talking to Govt

 

Wrong kind of silos

 

One take-away from the 2018 Umwiherero was the problem of the Silo effect, when one arm of government or management doesn’t talk to or share information with other parts of government or an organization. We can often blame the individuals in office but we never look at the structural issues. Information Silos in computers or people are caused by the same factors; size of organization, number of internal units within organization, quality of the workforce, degree of specialization and the incentive mechanisms. So when we look at a problem like child nutrition, where; Ministry of Agriculture, Education, Family and Gender, Health, Local Govt, and a myriad of other arms of government all have data and projects dealing with child nutrition separately but they never truly pool resources to solve the problem together. In IT Silos occur when the data is incompatible with other platforms, same problem with government, they are not producing reports that can be read and understood by other departments, it just becomes jibberish. One ministry has its way of doing thing and another has a different way, not compatible. We also need to integrate our reports into a single database that all can access. The silo effect is also countered by flattening the management system, this pyramid system of government we use create Silos, each department jealous of another, levels of management clashing. There is a reason Google, Facebook and all modern global innovators have horizontal management, not vertical, it allows information to flow better. Anyone can talk to the boss, you don’t have to go through all the layers of bureaucracy, this way, no secrets are kept, problems are dealt with early, and this solution is shared to all.

 

Turf warfare

The main reason for turf warfare in government is the management structure, the pyramid system that is designed for information to flow down, and not up. The system is designed for orders to emanate from the top, but feedback from below is limited and filtered through many membranes of management. Information is power, controlling and stopping the flow of information is seen as power, but in this age it is the facilitation of information flows that gives you power, the info will come out, the executive has eyes and ears everywhere and they will find out. A Rwandan Head of Department is deeply protective of any information coming out, even if it is positive, this hinders accountability, information should be shared on principle not when they are forced. Institutional memory is deep in Rwanda, an official will tell you “we do it like that because that is how we have always done it.” Bringing in a younger generation would help counter this dated thinking. We have seen a balkanization of government into smaller more efficient units, each tasked with a particular problem, but these units are not integrated. They do not see themselves more as a collective than a unit within a collective. Then you have a tough Imihigo target culture, if one district asked for help from another, that is like a student asking for answers during an exam. Imihigo can be used to make people cooperate and not just compete, there are many great things about it, but there is a deeply competitive component that does not encourage cooperation.

 

Disjointed government

 

After the recent concern about child nutrition, the solution was seen to be a special child nutrition program, the child does not live in a vacuum, you cannot solve child nutrition while the rest of the family starves. We go through daily moral panics about this, that and the other. Today it is Malnutrition, tomorrow – teenage pregnancy, the day after – alcoholism, drugs the next, all depending on headlines or level of outrage. These problems should be solved regardless of moral outrages in the middle-classes, these problems affect each and every one of us. We no longer need the 5-tier system to deliver services, we can assess the needs of Rwandans in real time with a database. We can have a Social Service to deal with these periodic problems systematically, not on an adhoc basis. We are wasting valuable resources in countless projects, each targeting a tiny aspect of a problem but never the whole problem, add to that the aid and NGO sector doing their own thing with no coordination. We need a Social Service of social workers at Mudugudu level to deal with families in their context. That Child Malnutrition will be connected to other problems; the Father’s ability to find work, the number of children, the seasonal aspect, the marital balance within the family. It is impossible to only deal with child nutrition in a whirlwind of problems that are all interlinked. If the family is the smallest unit of government than we have to deal with it as such, as a whole, not little projects for every little problem. This is mainly a legacy of aid dependency, with certain pet projects given preferential funding we had to structure our services accordingly. Donors give money to causes, not countries, so TB, Autism, Child Mortality, Women empowerment all get different levels of funding and accountability systems, this is mirrored in our structures according to funding source requirements.

 

 

Welfare state

 

The notion of social security is a pipe dream for most. You tell a starving person that you are cutting part of their money to put in a pension that they will collect in 40 years’ time? It is and will be of no benefit to Rwandans in the long run if immediate needs are not met. Food security is national security, our ancient leaders knew this, a General in Kinyarwanda translates as Umugaba – Distributor, you job was to distribute food according to need. One could even confiscate food for storage for another season. Mayors are really powerless to handle child malnutrition on their own, without powers to redistribute food to the needy. Our worthy aspirations are doomed to fail if we do not tackle food security, and not just tackle supply issues but solve hunger. Do this calculation. If an average Rwandan spends all day just to find what to eat, then how can we even begin to achieve our economic dreams? We need a national Foodbank, we lose 30% of produce through bad storage and pests, we need Silos in every Murenge or cell to store food, let people bank their food and we use the surplus to feed the needy. Our social security system has to move towards helping basic survival not theoretical pensions. We can have food banks with IT backup where one can see the amount of food stored, be given a code which opens the food bank like a cash point ATM. We need to deal with people directly not through 5 layers of potential waste, mismanagement, and apathy. Let Mayors deal with roads, schools, clinics, planning permission, accountability and so on, food security is national security, it has to be dealt with nationally. If 30 districts are reporting the same problem, then it is no longer a local issue and must be dealt with nationally. For our social and cultural problems, we need a social answer. Social workers will deal with vulnerable families, the same families with malnutrition are likely to also have alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, criminality, and all the ills that go with poverty. Moral outrage will come and go, once a problem is out of sight we forget, until the next time, more moral outrage, wringing of hands, more meetings, then we forget, until the next time. The main purpose of social workers will be to help make people functioning tax-payers in a stable home. This would be real social security.

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Black Panther and Fear of the Black Market

FEAR OF A BLACK MARKET: WAKANDA

“We got a negro problem”

In the series “Mad Men” about advertisers on Madison Ave in the 60’s, a customer comes in with a big problem. The TV company called Admiral was suffering growth, sales were through the roof and growing. The Mad Men look perplexed, surely that’s a good thing, the disgusted executives of Admiral TV begged to disagree. They had a nigger problem, too many black people were buying their TV’s and this risked losing them the White Racist market, so they wanted it both ways, blacks to stop buying and whites buy more. That is the economic model of racist capitalism, to economically suppress a portion of the population and not fulfill their economic potential, their own narrative of ‘Black Wretchedness’ blinds them to the economic potential of Blacks as a market. Look at the businesses prevalent in Black neighborhoods; liquor stores, fried chicken joints, strip clubs, pawn shops, payday loans, all designed to destroy both mentality and physically. If you want Bistros, Electronics shops, designer clothes, insurance, banking, you have to go to a white neighborhood. As if blacks don’t use any of these positive services. The same applies to movies, they never see blacks as a potential market. Hollywood movies are written and designed for 13-25 year old men or boys. They provide 80% of current revenue, they watch the blockbusters, then buy the video game, then merchandise, then waits for the sequel to do it again. Hollywood used to be way more diverse especially in the 80’s and 90’s, when video and DVD sales brought us unusual diversity. Beverley Hills Cop would never be made today, no CGI budget, no marketing budget, it would sell itself, Hollywood feeds off failure they get paid even when it flops. Most adult audiences moved to series and Netflix-type shows where you can explore the full moral complexity in 13hrs and not 90 minutes. So Hollywood pandered to this White male 13-25 group, and it became whiter, more racist, contrary to its so-called Liberal values.

 

Is it that far-fetched really?

Of all the things this movie professes, one thing is really irking to some; the idea that a black African country could be the most technologically advanced nation in the world. This has angered some Conservatives like Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson, and Ann Coulter, who scoff at the idea of blacks being technologically advanced. They claim Black Panther is Racist because it excludes White people. Did they say the same for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? In recent Hollywood movies we’ve seen Tom Cruise as The Last Samarai and Matt Damon built the Great Wall of China. A whole generation of young white kids will grow up thinking White people built the Great Wall of China. White Supremacy is under attack, young white kids are seeing great things achieved by other races, you explain by saying those brown people were being commanded by white people behind the scenes. The idea that Blacks were the most advanced race technologically is not absurd, we just chose the wrong technologies. The Bronze Busts of Benin are still the best and most detailed metal sculptures ever made, the goldsmiths of Mali were the best in the world, the Luba had the best copper works in the world. Slavery was the biggest transfer of knowledge and skills in history, we look at slaves as meat, but they were valuable for skills. White slavers knew certain tribes were expert in certain things; Senegalese slaves were sent to Carolina to farm rice, Yoruba slaves with metallurgy skills were sent to be Ironsmiths, Benin’s masons were sent to build Northern cities. The slaves who built congress must have just thought it was a giant Mosque with a dome on top.

 

The world of Wakanda

 

First of all, this format does not do the idea justice, 2 hours is not enough, I just hope they do a Game Of Thrones type of series to fully explore the infinite possibilities. This movie was just a brief peep into a world of the possible, a world that we want and we decide ourselves. The aesthetics are drawn from all of Africa, it can be jarring to see Malian imagery mixed with Xhosa and Igbo, but to an American it is all African. The strong female characters that complement the strong male characters without clashing, a society that has resolved the gender balance issue, with technology overcoming brute strength “Guns, So primitive!” 60% of the audience has been women. The wonderful villain Killmonger, a real pan-Africanist who wanted to use their technology to free Black people all over the world, and the Hero – T’challa who wants to stop that. In this there is a moral dilemma for Blacks, a Disney production cannot advocate racial liberation, but just the idea of it is subversive enough. It leaves you wondering who the hero really is? In the end T’challa has to fulfill the destiny of the antagonist, to see he was wrong and fought for the wrong cause. It is the essence of warrior culture to honour your enemy, in so doing you honour yourself. You realize you wanted the same thing, just with different methods. Black Panther is a different hero to what we are used to, shows vulnerability, is reliant on others, and doesn’t have all the answers. This movie shows the importance of shifting the narrative, perhaps the mistake of the Civil Rights movement was to try and get a Capitalist system see them as human, they should have been seen as Markets. Now Hollywood can point to solid data that Black Movies work on a big scale, a Black man starred in the biggest Star Wars movie, so White audiences are not scared of diversity, only the no-risk bean counters in Hollywood are. Hollywood is losing its power, production is moving to other cities, Atlanta has a more diverse $8bn movie and TV industry, 40% of Hollywood peak earnings.

 

Afro-futurism in molding a pan-African vision

 

Mythology will never die, it just adapts with technology, who would have thought that in 2018 we’d be spending $100bn a year on Mythology. Books, Films, Video games, apps, TV, series, all this is just mythology. Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Star Wars, James Bond, all these are age old stories that have existed throughout history. Noah Yuval Hariri wrote in his book “Sapiens” that the most important thing helped advance humankind was stories. Stories are the glue that bind us, stories entertain, impart wisdom, teach ethics, preserve knowledge, affirm values, and they are the only true inter-generational link between us. When you hear negative lies/news about Africa and you shrug “It’s just stories” stories are the most dangerous thing in the world. That story affects how you are viewed, it affects the interest rates your nation is charged, it affects how much you pay for basic medicines, your ability to get a visa and any aspect of life. When we say we need to tell our stories it is not just for entertainment but an important driver of development. We lost our stories, we lost ourselves, and this is a chance to revive them. We have better stories than Black Panther that are centuries old, much richer in detail and relevant values, but Black Panther is a good start because it is based on many of those myths. I imagine a Rwandan Blockbuster featuring our own heroes and gods, Gihanga vs Ryangombe in an epic battle for the ages, like Thor and Odin. It would have universal values for all to learn from, but it would uplift Rwandan children the most. Start with a Comic book of Rwandan myths and history, but transposed today. Can we ever imagine a Rwanda that was never colonized? What kind of Rwanda would it be? We can start on that today, in reimagining our past, we would be designing a perfect future by learning from past mistakes.

 

Challenge issued

 

Young Rwandans, write a 1,000 word story on Rwanda uncolonised, a futuristic utopia but still faced with challenges both internal and external

 

Wakanda Forever

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Man Up or Man Down?

Fragile Masculinity and Pseudo-feminism in this Digital Vortex

 

A date with a Vampire

 

I recently contemplated going on a date with a feminist, not a regular feminist, a “real” one who has studied Gender studies and has all these new words she wants to impress people with. I just imagined how it would have gone, a beautiful car crash no doubt, my big mouth would have landed me in trouble. Even though I would be trying my best not to offend her, my very existence would be an offence. I liked the old feminism that blamed Old Racist Sexist White Men, but today I am the enemy and it is hard to understand. You cannot avoid offending, offence is currency, it is a valuable commodity to have your feelings hurt, you search for offence in every word people say in order to advance your argument.

She would think along the lines of

“The nauseous stink of patriarchy dripped from his body like a cheap perfume, he kept denying me agency by talking too much. He kept mansplaining his misogyny oscillating between his narcissistic patriarchal male gaze and virtue signaling. Displaying deep transphobic, homophobic, woman-hating and victim-blaming. A typical Cishet, repressed manbaby with fake woke bropriating of Feminism.”

I could write a short play about it, it would be a comedy, just the ridiculousness of it would be hilarious. Like watching a new doctor fresh out of medical school diagnoses people passing by “Excuse me!! You have endometriosis!” The old feminism was about changing institutions and structures, this 3rd wave is the Mind Police, trying to change how you think, calling you out on things you wouldn’t expect.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/03/16/feminism-glossary-lexicon-language/99120600/

Brittle and not fragile

As ridiculous as 3rd Wave Twitter feminism is, we also have to admit our failures as Males, they say we are emotionally fragile but I think it is more like Brittle. Fragile breaks easily, brittle is hard to a point but when it shatters it is complete. I said males not men, for it is a wider problem in nature. Think about it, everywhere in nature, males draw lines and hide behind them, the stake out territory, defend it with their lives and they think this is safety. There is a male rat somewhere warning other rats not to cross the line, I see cockroaches fighting in my store-room so they must be male and all over the animal kingdom is the same. Even though we are civilized and supposedly socially evolved, we males still have that mindset, we treat our beliefs with the same way we treat territorial disputes, thou shalt not cross. We think we are protecting our ground but we are really limiting ourselves from a beautiful life existence. In trying to protect our egos, myths and dogmas, we are breaking from within. You see this everyday with men hiding behind a wall in your mind, but the wall is imprisoning you. We see the mass-shootings, terrorism, suicides, drug-addiction like opiates, there are statistics to prove this in most countries. The changing gender roles have left men not knowing where they stand, so we cling to past norms to have a sense of place, people need to know where they stand for good or bad but the answer is not clear. We are trying to create this gender-neutral world where we try to limit masculinity to create fairness. A man has a genetic need to provide, we can’t give birth, we can’t breastfeed, we can’t nurture as well as a woman, so we compensate by “Providing” putting food on the table. When I was 13 I got a small job and came back home flush “What’s for dinner, Beans? No I want meat.” Dropped a 5k and the room almost fainted. “So you’re a Man now?” I nodded. I had never felt so good till then.

 

An example of steel

All through history we tried to perfect iron smelting, trying to purify it down to the purest form, to remove all imperfections. We tried smelting it at higher temperatures, but even when we got to 100% iron it still broke. The answer was counterintuitive, to add a weaker metal, zinc, and add impurities, carbon, and we had steel. Thus the industrial revolution was born, we could finally span steel bridges across vast expanses, the railways, the industry, all came from that. Likewise, when we look at masculinity, we have tried to distil it to its essence, to make it more pure thinking it be stronger. This only increases the breaking threshold but it doesn’t stop it from breaking. We fear being judged for being less masculine so we project a brittle form of ourselves. When women break, they deal with it themselves, when men break they do irreparable damage. It is not because of hate, or misogyny, or patriarchy, it is because we have not equipped them emotionally to cope with the world. Instead of fixing our emotions, we desire power to compensate for our lack of emotional depth. Being soft will make us strong, madness, but it’s true, to inject some softer metals will make us harder metals. It will make us harder but flexible, and flexible enough to understand the other point of view and to put ourselves in their shoes.

 

I imagined what it was like to be a woman and I asked my friends as we sat by a lake “Imagine what it’s like to be a woman. What kind of woman would you be?” Funny answers “I’d be a slut.” And “I’d be a lesbian” and “I’d get me a rich man and chill” but then we went deeper. I said “Imagine you’re a woman who had to sleep with her boss to keep her job just to feed her kids and keep them in school or sh’d be sacked.” Whispers of empathy but shrugging of “that’s the way it is.” Then I switched it. “Picture your boss was a 50-something woman, not your type at all, different generation, but she told you to sleep with her or lose your job? Would you do it?” Blood drained from their faces just thinking about it. You see the daily calculations women have to make for their physical and economic survival, from the choice of clothes you wear, the time and what areas you frequent, the friends who can rape you if left alone but are “nice guys.” That empathy is lacking in us.

 

 

Slay Queen Feminism

 

Nothing has done more to alter human relations in such a small time as Social media, it has distorted reality beyond recognition, it has even become the Real Reality. This Radical 3rd Wave feminism has merged with social media producing a hybrid monster. Slay Queen Feminism, so Bae, where vanity meets insecurity. The 21st Century feminist twerks her ass off on Instagram, hungers for the approval of the very men who oppress her, Hashtag feminists crying about how f***boys are not faithfull, the clue is in the name. It breeds this aesthetic of a powerful glamorous woman “Slay Queen” without active power, just looking powerful and slaying. This radical queer theory meets glossy airbrushed model chic is killing feminism, pick a struggle, you cannot be shallow and deep at the same time. The idea of “Intersectionality” is also problematic, to lump a bunch of groups together makes you bigger in number but dilutes the message. The same way Socialists railed against “Capitalist Imperialist Fascist reactionary counter-revolutionaries” today we hear “Racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal hegemony” and I’m like “What?” Intersectionality works both ways, gay people can be racist, women can be racist or homophobic. Another pet peeve of mine is this POC thing, I am no longer black, I am a Person of Colour, to lump blacks with all the other non-white people. White people are a minority globally, around 10% so for me to define myself in opposition to them is giving white people even more power over me. A lot of this is just identity politics, finding ways to divide society to get more votes.

 

So should we stop being men? Should we be more feminine? Should we start painting our nails and wearing dresses? No. I loved an interview with French women about #MeToo. “We want men to still be men, just don’t harass us. You can still be men without raping. We don’t mind men being macho just don’t assume know how we feel. Read the signs, but don’t cross the line.” So many of my friends are scared to even touch a woman now, we have become like the Taleban in separating sexes to avoid offence. Overall, #MeToo has been good for starting the conversation about sexual harassment and abuse of male power. It seems every woman has a story to tell, so if 3.5bn women are saying something then we must listen. Don’t engage these angry feminist types, the ones using big words to scare you, the ones who fought against being labeled only to produce a whole dictionary of labels themselves. Those do not want dialogue, they want confrontation and anger, when people are using such verbal acrobatics to avoid real debate, they just want to get caught up in definitions so as never to deal with the matter. If someone called a chair – a sitting devise, to call it a chair is discrimination against stools, then they are just trying to be obtuse. Find a feminist who speaks English, who lives in the real world, and deals with real people.

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What is education for? To solve problems. PBL explained

Solution-based learning

 

What is education for?

We do not ask ourselves this question often enough, we take education as a given, children must be educated but we never truly think why. We will say; to get jobs, to make tomorrow a better world, to keep them out of trouble, but never truly ask why. If we answer that question, then the next question is; how we do we educate our children? We agree that we have a largely colonial education system, we deal with the remnants of colonial dogma in our text books, curricula, and methods, but we never deal with the root cause. The colonial system was not built to make you understand but to remember. What we have today is not so much an education system but a Memory Championships. We measure to see which kids can memorize the best, we select these kids and set them on a path to success, understanding is not necessary, just memorizing is enough. We do not focus as much on analytical skills, critical thinking, teamwork, motivation, and other skills needed for the market. School teaches you two things; facts and skills, facts are facts “2 + 2 = 4” but skills are more beneficial in life. Learning negotiation, compromise, teamwork, communication skills, report-writing, problem-solving, and such are the real benefits I got from school, I have since forgotten most of the facts the teachers yapped all day. Employers in Rwanda complain daily about the caliber of graduates, the qualifications are fine, but core skills are lacking. Every Job Ad says the same “Must have good communication skills, analytical skills, leadership skills, teamwork, and be highly self-motivated.” That is a model employee, technical skills are not enough, core skills differential a good from a great employee.

What is solution-based learning?

You will notice I have used “Solution-based learning” instead of the proper title “Problem-based learning” but I did it on purpose, so as not to scare away policy-makers who boycott anything with “Problems” in it. The intention is the same, it starts with a problem, and ends with a solution. We complain that our courses are not geared towards seeking solutions to our problems specifically. It is about what skills we develop while teaching. We have tried to defund certain courses we see as unnecessary but the problem is the core skills. In traditional learning a solution is decided for a problem, the person memorizes, then a problem is assigned to illustrate the solution. In Problem-based learning you come with a fresh approach, a problem is assigned, not a solution, you never assume to have the answer. Second, you decide what information is necessary to help understand the problem, only then do you assign a solution.

PBL has certain advantages.

 

  • It creates Student-centered learning, it shifts the focus away from the teacher to the student. The teacher is merely a facilitator who will help the students teach each other.
  • It create lifelong students, the skills you learn can be used for life.
  • Comprehension not memorization, if you understand something you don’t have to remember, it is at your fingertips.
  • Students deal with real life relevant situations to their contexts, students also build on prior knowledge they have.
  • Helps with self-learning, a student researches alone then goes to share with their counterparts and spreads it in the group.
  • Interpersonal skills and teamwork. We create a competitive environment in school, but the job world is a collaborative effort. Children who have been programmed to compete, to win at all costs, make bad employees in the long run. Teamwork and collaboration is needed now.
  • It improves the Teacher-student experience. Teaching become a two-way experience, the average Rwandan teenager knows more about technology than their teachers, the teachers can learn as well in this. To understand this crazy new world better.

 

The concept of modern education is very new, only 100 or so years old since it became compulsory in the West, we try to copy all their mistakes to remain relevant. However, in the thousands of years before that we still had education, children were banded in groups of 6-10 and taught in small groups, not classes. PBL tries to recreate that pre-historic method, our forefathers walked through the woods as they taught biology, naming each plant, letting you smell the scent, feel the leaves, see the insects underneath. In this method, a child can never forget because all their senses were stimulated. The PBL system can help augment traditional teaching methods, it is not there to replace traditional teaching but make it more accessible. Teachers have to change the way they teach, to include the pupil and student more. Students have to change their attitude to be more self-motivated and not look to their teacher to do everything. We must find a way to use all the technology and information at our disposal. One of the secret reasons why One Laptop Per Child works is the interactive group learning aspect, less the technology which merely facilitates learning. PBL needs the education policymakers to be on board, the teachers, as well as students have to be re-sensitized

 

  1. Prepare faculty for change
  2. Establish a new curriculum committee and working group
  3. Designing the new PBL curriculum and defining educational outcomes
  4. Seeking Advice from Experts in PBL
  5. Planning, Organizing and Managing
  6. Training PBL facilitators and defining the objectives of a facilitator
  7. Introducing Students to the PBL Program
  8. Using 3-learning to support the delivery of the PBL program
  9. Changing the assessment to suit the PBL curriculum
  10. Encouraging feedback from students and teaching staff
  11. Managing learning resources and facilities that support self-directed learning
  12. Continuing evaluation and making changes

 

 

 

Core skills, and not bad subjects?

There is no such thing as a bad subject, or wrong subject, only a wrongly taught subject. A friend of mine in UK studied Medieval Arts, he’s now a bank manager. Even though he studied a superfluous subject, he learnt core skills; good communication, analysis, report-writing, teamwork, leadership, self-motivation, and was ready to learn. Cutting funding to Arts, or Business courses and focusing on STEM will not produce any better students. The employers will say the same “they can’t think for themselves, communication is poor, no critical thinking, reports are terrible, lack of teamwork, not self-motivated, waiting to be told to do the smallest thing, and they are not curious about knowledge. If our STEM courses do not teach these critical skills, then we in the same situation and nothing will change. Facts vs skills; we want our students to remember more facts than ever before, facts that became obsolete and irrelevant years ago. We never truly focus on skills, skills which last a lifetime, skills for life and not just the job. In today’s world facts are less important to memorize, we have Google, but we don’t have the skills to analyze the facts. We should allow students to bring laptops and Google stuff, but test them on analysis and cognitive skills. Our system will just continue to produce memory champions, they won’t understand the knowledge but will remember it verbatim like a parrot. Look at the Expats we have here, what do they have that we don’t? It might be as simple as they took PBL in school and we didn’t.

 

What are the obstacles to PBL?

 

The system is not perfect, it also has so flaws, but its benefits outweigh the downside

  • The role of the teacher is crucial, some teachers are not naturally suited to PBL. It must be up to the teacher to have more freedom to choose their methods.
  • Time-consuming, it is far easier to just lecture, but less effective.
  • Changing assumptions is hard, teachers should teach and students should study, challenging social norms can lead to friction. Especially when teachers are locked in a target culture or ticking boxes
  • Cognitive load – a group discussion can lead to TMI (To Much Info) overloading the student. Teachers should set strict parameters for discussion to avoid deviation, repetition and misinformation.
  • Student feedback – it is very important that the teacher gives the student marks, but also important for the student to mark the teacher a grade as well. To help perfect PBL you need end user feedback, in this case the learner. This upsets the balance of traditional teaching.

 

Producing 21st century thinkers

 

Rwanda is trying to produce the best thinkers of the 21st century, we are doing all the prescribed things but we fall short somehow. Something is missing, critical thinking – critical thinking does not equate to being a critic or criticizing, it pertains to being about to think systematically about a problem, devise a solution, implement it, appraise it and mitigate it from happening. In Rwanda, I leave work at 9 for field trips and come back at 4 and nothing happened, no one had the initiative to think for themselves, or take responsibility, so they waited for boss to come back. This happens in every office, when the Boss is away, nothing moves, no one can take responsibility. We are producing brilliant coders who can’t think for themselves, geniuses who can’t communicate well in even one language, leaders who can’t lead, something is missing in the current upcoming generation.

 

I will give you an example of how PBL can be transformational. A Girl’s School in Zambia was next to a bar, drinkers from the local pub would urinate outside and it would stink for the girls in class. The teacher gave them an assignment, to find a solution to this problem. The Girls designed a urinal that collected this urine and they later discovered this urine could be used to make electricity. They then made a giant urine battery to light up their school, the urine of drinkers went from being a nuisance to a blessing. That is PBL at its core, practical solution made by learning on the job, turning problems into solutions. Look around us, so many problems, but also many solutions as well, we need to put our young minds to work on fixing them. We can turn a sewerage problem into fertilizers, a rubbish problem into jobs and cash, all our problems are also solutions to another problem, we just need to pair them up. We need to teach this can-do attitude to our student, to collectively solve their problems and not wait for others.

 

Solution-based learning or Problem-based learning, call it what you want. It works

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The Death Of Mowzey Is a Wake-up Call To Artists

 

 

Know the ledge

The untimely death of Moise Sekibogo AKA Mowzey Radio has hit us so hard. We celebrated his life with 6 hours of continuous music, each song better than the next. The Rapper Rakim said Knowledge is knowing the ledge, life is short and delicate, we walk a fine line on a ledge of life and death. Many fall in that pit. It makes you wonder if artists are doomed to die young, if the same forces that make them great make them fall. Uganda doesn’t have a music industry, it has a party scene, the ethos is chakalate, paka late, pakalast. Radio and Weasal were born out of this hedonistic party scene, the party started and never stopped for 11 years, issues like management, royalties, contracts, percentages and the nitty-gritty was left to another day. People will tell you it was an accident but it was clearly murder, they created a drunken brawl to cover that but it was planned from the minute he was invited. Their former manager had threatened Radio’s life several times, they were embroiled in legal cases as to where their money went. No one in Uganda expects the killers to be brought to justice, these are rich men who can pay bribes.

 

The perfect formula

Radio and Weasal perfected the formula for pop music, their music travelled well because it was always simple, melodic and anthemic. With roots in Luganda Kidandali and gospel, but fused with Ragga, Lingala, South African and rhythms in the language of the streets. It was happy, feel-good music, always upbeat and positive. It was the soundtrack to my life for the last eleven, it was everywhere, blaring from radios, cars, clubs and pubs. They arrived at a perfect time when the internet was penetrating our conscious and download speeds where fast enough to listen and watch songs. Their first show was here at an old mansion-style hotel called Royal Villas, I had no idea who they were but when I heard 3 of their songs I realized they were stars in the making. Their output was prolific, some 138 hits plus features, means you can play 7 hours nonstop. They never did albums, just hit after hit after hit. They could never stop to plan and sort out their lives. They went from tour to tour with a ceaseless energy, but when you look at their catalogue they should be millionaires, their potential was fulfilled musically but not fulfilled. They still remained in the Kampala Chakalating matrix, a little bubble onto itself, and they never broke out of it and it killed Radio. Their management was not capable of taking to the next level, they wanted them to stay small so they could eat their money. Only going to the BET awards and winning woke them up to their true international potential.

 

 

 

Management is crucial

 

Just like leadership is crucial to a nation, management is the defining factor in maintaining success. Any talented artist can break into stardom, but to stay there you have to good management. Artists choose the worst managers, people who just want to hang around stars, normally the guy who settles and counts the bar bill becomes you manager. Music management is no different from corporate management, in fact you are better off hiring a manager who worked in a normal company, like a bank or a factory. A person who is disciplined, has people skills, clerical skills for records, can negotiate contracts, can handle bookings but leave your financial management to a qualified financial manager. Do NOT pick the friend you drink all day with, don’t pick a friend who helped you along the way because you feel you owe them a favour. Don’t pick someone because they know the industry better than you, that is an agent, not a manager. Your manager manages you, your team around you, your financial manager handles money, your agent books your shows for a commission. DO NOT  and I repeat DO NOT give ALL these jobs to one person, ESPECIALLY if you are related. Don’t pick relations or best friends, and if you pick strangers maintain a professional relationship, don’t be best friends, maintain a distance. Above all, sign contracts which stipulate everything, their workload, their responsibilities, the timeframe of the contract and how much they are paid. This is very hard in the chaotic world of music, where money comes in spurts and dry spells.

 

Get a team

 

Radio should never have been killed like that, he should have had management protect him more. Good management spots problems early and cuts them out. They manage your security, entourage, spending, and keep you out of dangerous locations. Good management understand that nothing can touch the golden goose, otherwise they will all be out of a job. King James was once in a bar and called his financial advisor to ask if he could afford to drink that day, he said no, and he left. That is what happens when you have a team around you to keep you accountable, no just vultures wanting to eat your money, who keep you drunk all day and night to steal. Have a publicist, manage you image, every word you say must be on point, all actions, all pictures. Beyonce has a team of 50 people so she just has to arrive on stage and perform, that is why she looks professional because someone is behind taking care of everything. Her father, was a VP at Sun Microsystems and left to manage her group and it was $1bn venture. Do not rely on rich benefactors because they will control you forever, rely on your talent.

 

Maintain some aura of mystery, don’t be everywhere all the time, be paid to make appearances not pay to make appearances. Crucially, separate your real self from the Star you portray, don’t mix your ego and alter-ego. If you are called David Mugabe always remember, remember the real person you are before you became famous. So many stars forget who they are, become a cartoon version of themselves, no one around you will tell you you’re crazy. Keep people who keep you grounded in reality.

RIP RADIO MOWZEY

Think global, act local

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Arts and Culture can build our nation

A Case for the Arts

intore3

You would never know it, but Rwanda is going through a mini-Golden Age of Music and Culture in general. Rwandan artists are enjoying millions of hits on their streaming platforms, we have some of the best songs in ages, but the plight of the arts and the music industry remains dire. We do not pay enough attention and money towards the arts, the arts were never factored into our development plans. We have even come to see music as decadent and time wasting, without understanding the full potential of music in developing our nation. Our artists also have some fault here as they have not made enough art that reflects the values of the nation, they often expect to be supported without a two-way partnership. The previous generation of Artists played both negative and positive roles in our past, some sang songs inciting division, others sang to heal. The likes of Kamaliza, Sentore, Kayirebwa and Rugamba rose to folk hero status, embodying the aspirations and ideals of their nation. They were not concerned with passing trends but creating works that stand the test of time, songs that become prophetic with time and serve to restore a nation to its rightful path. Music and culture in general, have a major role to play helping Rwanda develop, there are rich rewards to be gained by supporting the arts.

 

Cultural Product – we judge our economic progress on the Gross National Product, but what about the Gross Cultural product? Is the total cultural product we are producing enriching us or making us poor? Rwanda has such a unique cultural product that travels easily; the clean lines and angles of our aesthetics, the haunting melodies of our music, the graceful dance of Intore, they all display a refinement perfected with time and matured with wisdom. A cultural product can enrich a nation in real terms, it imparts information, values, pride, comfort, happiness, and the full spectrum of life. Most importantly “One good thing about music, when it hit you feel no pain.” It releases the tension and frustration of society, provides an outlet for anger that could boil over. Politicians all over the world know, a dancing population is a happy population.

 

Unity and Nation-building – Music can teach, it builds teams, it plays a part in nation-building. The Blues built America, the whip-lashed slaves who kept singing through the hard times would have never made it if it wasn’t for music. Rwandan artists need to wake up to this, the Government wants to sponsor you, but what are you giving in return? Artists are not doing songs that reflect our development struggle. You don’t have to make all your songs about praising Rwanda, but on an album of 16 songs, put one for the powers that be. Do it your own way, make songs about; Birth control, women’s rights, domestic abuse, environmental, reconciliation, and all other development that government is pushing, but with a funky beat. Artist understand that if you go to MTN you have to say nice things about MTN, but if you go to Government it is the same thing, praises must be sung.

 

Soft Power – we have to understand the power of arts in global power, a small country like Jamaica has so much global cultural influence. America uses its arts to dominate the world culturally through music, Hollywood, video games, fashion, literature, comics, and these have done more to pacify us than guns and bombs. Rwanda can leverage its soft power globally, just one song can bring Rwanda to the world cheaper than anything. Just a music video of $4,000 can be playing across dozens of music stations, to millions of people, and all while showcasing the beauty of Rwanda. This boosts tourism, national branding, awareness of Rwanda in general.

 

The multiplier effect – arts bring in money, bars are open, nightclubs, restaurants, venues all thrive off good music. There is a whole industry of support staff, one artist can employ dozens; manager, agent, producer, director, videographer, hair and make-up, choreographer, dancers, lighting crew, sound technicians, sales, marketing, stylist, dietician, vocal coach, PR, social media, I can go on and on. Supporting an artist supports another 20 people behind the scenes.

 

There are a number of obstacles blocking music development, both on the artist side and on the side of Government and policy. The artists need to do a lot more to make this industry viable.

 

Professionalism – wanting it is not enough, are you willing to do what it takes? Having talent is not enough without professionalism. Arrive on time, be sober, be polite, be attentive to minor details, prepare well, and take your job seriously. Rwandan artists sometimes want to act like stars before they are stars, arrive late, drunk, sing off key, unprepared and expect to be paid. Professionalism means getting serious about your job, to dedicate yourself full-time to music. You cannot have a part-time job, you have to sing to live, only then do you learn that “Hunger is sweet” and nothing is free. Invest in your career, every move you make must be to advance your career and talent. Keep a tight hold of your money, keep receipts, contracts, accounts, and spending.

 

Unique product – Rwandans are prone to copycatting, lack of long-term exposure to varieties of music means they often jump on trends. There are some awful Rwandan Trap records just because it is a trend. This is not new, even our Kisope music was an imitation of Congolese Rhumba until we put our own flavor in it. Rwanda has a unique sound in our traditional folk music, it is on a 3/5 beat, sometimes a 2/3 or even a 6/7. We have a half-beat that is muted but drives the tempo, in trying to copy Western styles (which are actually West African in Origin) in a 2/4 and ¾ beat  we lose the essence of our music. We need a unique musical product, that fits us and can be exported. We need to constantly be in touch our past, to make our music a continuous thread, but modernize it for the times. No nation will buy imitation, we need an original product with its unique selling point.

 

Lack of cooperation – Rwandan artists need to stick together, to extend the meager resources they have, not just collaborating on songs but sharing resources and expertise. There should be a chain of artists, each artist must mentor and nurture the next, if you blow up then use that profile to raise the profile of other up and coming artists. Stop competing and cooperate, set an minimum price for a show and all stick to it, stop undercutting each other because you will all get paid less. Create a united platform to speak as one, to fight for royalties, copyrights, licensing, legal reform, and advocate to corporate and government investment in the arts.

 

On the policy and government side, a number of policies can help artists.

 

Academy of Arts – we need one immediately, a school for the arts, where artists of different backgrounds and genres can learn not just how to perfect their art but the business and technical side. Imagine in Jay Polly had emerged out of Arts School having learnt how to draft a press release, conduct an interview, balance a check book, bookkeeping, IT skills, maybe even learn guitar, how much better would he be as an artist? An academy is an opportunity to mold artist of the future in the nation’s image, we complain our artists don’t fit the ideals, but we never taught them. It is a chance to increase the quality of our arts, we have Itorero which deals with Traditional culture but it must be fused with a modern school.

 

Tax-relief – some countries like Ireland allow their artists to be tax-exempt because they represent Ireland abroad. U2 still live in Ireland despite being the biggest band in the world. It is a way to stop the flight of successful artists abroad, we already have most Rwandan artists jumping ship to the West on the first visa they get. Every time a Rwanda artist blows up, I just count down the days till they run away to be a penniless refugee in the West. Maybe the Meddy’s and Ben’s can be enticed to come back if they had tax-relief, that they could use to reinvest in equipment. Instead of government subsidies just give tax relief for a certain caliber of artist.

 

Venues – make venues available to artists, most of our best auditoriums are unused, Primature, RRA, Convention, and such should be available for emerging artists at affordable rates. We need to build more venues, there are no stages in Kigali, you have to hire one. We need people to invest good sound systems, all the sound systems in Kigali are terrible, you have to import from Nairobi or Kampala to have listenable sound. A clever investor will put Cobra out of business by investing in a good sound system and be rich. Venues have to try and give artists residency, sign contracts annually to have an exclusive star at your venue.

 

Laws – we still need to relax noise-pollution laws, permits need to be made easier to get, insurance must cover events, fire brigade, and general safety. Even if a Rwandan Artist wanted to showcase the beauty of Kigali, getting a filming permit takes weeks, we need to streamline the process. We need a minimum wage for artists, you can have a singer paid $5 a night when the bar makes $3,000. Artists should be paid a minimum price, an affordable wage they can live on so they can dedicate themselves full-time to music. Then the venue owner has to do more to promote the show or lose out. The show becomes THE show, not a side-show. We need copyright law enforced, Radios have to show how often the played and how much they paid for local music. Require stations to play 70% Rwandan music, then charge Radio stations a set tax per year which goes into developing the arts. Another reform to spur cultural tourism is to put Tourism under a Culture ministry, to develop our cultural product and raise our tourism revenue. It is our culture, not just gorillas, that is the secret key to success in tourism.

 

Sponsoring – this is always a demand of artists, to be supported no matter what, but understand it comes with conditions. Just like in the private sector, you are expected to fulfill certain criteria. Artists must understand that, but government should also provide more sponsorship but on stricter criteria. We can recognize our artists, give then Intore status and stipend for representing the country. Government can sponsor studios, stages, equipment, courses, if not money directly. Sponsoring music videos, promotional tours, buying airtime on major music channels for Rwandan Artists can also help both promote them and Rwanda in general.

 

Archiving – one thing we can do to give artists credit despite our small market is archiving. We need to document and catalogue our music history and current music. We need to create an online digital library to preserve our music, to curate what is best to preserve according to each era. We also need to give recognition to works that truly represent Rwandan excellence or capture the time. The best works should be taught at university, the works of Rugamba are worthy of study as are many others, for their literary and poetic skills.

 

In Part II we look at the artist and the industry in better depth

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