17 February 2012 More South African youngsters are completing grade 9 – from 80% in 2003 to 88% in 2010 – and more are successfully completing their grade 12, with over 24% now qualifying for university entrance, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Friday. South Africa has also doubled grade R enrolment from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 last year, with over 12-million learners now being accommodated in the country’s schooling system. “We have built a relatively stable schooling system that has extended the right to basic education … we are set to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals on expanding access to education,” Motshekga told a media briefing in Cape Town.New school buildings for the Eastern Cape She announced that contractors had been appointed for the construction of 49 schools in the Eastern Cape to replace mud structures which have been partly blamed for the high learner drop-out rate in the province. There are 126 mud schools in the Mount Frere area alone, with Motshekga saying it would take the country more than 20 years to address the backlog. This is despite policy improvements by government, including the implementation of the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, which had overseen the construction of 1 648 classrooms and the provision of sanitation and electricity to more than 700 schools countrywide. To improve universal access to education, Motshekga said the department had made inroads in ensuring that free schooling and school meals reached as many poor schools as possible. Currently, over eight-million learners in more than 80% of public schools were benefiting from the no-fee policy, the majority in the Limpopo, Free State and Eastern Cape provinces.Provision of workbooks, textbooks The department had also made progress on the provision of learning and teaching support material. Over six-million workbooks and 24-million books in all South African languages were distributed to schools this year. Motshekga raised concerns about the high number of drop-outs in the country’s schools, which she attributed to poverty and poor academic performance. Poor teaching and school and ineffective school management were also to blame for the high drop-out rate. During his State of the Nation address last Thursday, President Jacob Zuma urged teacher unions to ensure that they worked with education officials in ensuring that teachers were well-prepared, calling for a focus on the so called Triple T – teachers, textbooks and time. “Processes are being finalised to evaluate principals and deputy principals, inaugurating a new era of performance agreements, accountability, sound school management and the accruing benefits of quality teaching and proper use of time,” Motshekga said. Source: BuaNews
27 November 2013South African Zackie Achmat is the co-founder of the Treatment Action Campaign and the man who took the fight for affordable and accessible antiretroviral drugs to governments and big pharmaceuticals – and won, saving millions of lives.Achmat will be the subject of a 21 Icons documentary, which will be screened in South Africa on Sunday, 1 December, World Aids Day. The project aims to celebrate the lives of 21 “extraordinary South Africans who have captured the global imagination with their dignity, humanity, hard work and selfless struggle for a better world”.A black-and-white portrait of Achmat by Adrian Steirn, who conceptualised the project, will be published as a commemorative poster in the Sunday Times.Achmat became an activist at an early age, participating in the 1976 uprising against Bantu education as a 14-year-old.Injustice“We had unqualified teachers,” Achmat says in his 21 Icons interview. “We had a serious lack of textbooks, broken schools, bad infrastructure, corporal punishment, really horrible principals with no qualifications and a terrible attitude towards kids.”He says his capacity to take a stand against injustice probably stems from his sexual orientation. Achmat came out to his parents when he was 10.“I think it came with the fact that I was gay and having to take a stand on that with my parents, who were religious, and them not understanding. Having to take that stand made it much easier to take any other stand,” he says.Achmat was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 and believed he would die shortly after. “In 1990, people – even doctors – believed that you had six months left to live from the point of diagnosis. It was very difficult. I spent six months in bed watching all the videos I ever wanted to see and reading all the books that I wanted to read. And then one day I woke up and thought, I’ve put on weight. And I’m still here.”Taking up the fightAchmat shared his status openly. “I told my friends and comrades. I didn’t hide it,” he says.By 1996, antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) were available and the people who took them stopped dying. But in South Africa, their prohibitive cost meant they were out of reach of the people who needed them most, the poor.Achmat realised HIV had become a human rights issue and he took up the fight against exploitative drug companies and discriminatory health policies.He also took the fight to a personal level: “At that time I was also starting to get sick. I was sick all the time … I decided not to take antiretrovirals as a protest against drug companies, because I believed that they should be available to everyone.”Meeting with MandelaNot even Nelson Mandela, who visited Achmat at home in 2002 in an effort to persuade him to take his medicine, could change his mind. “I think Madiba understood when I spoke to him that it was an issue of principle,” Achmat tells the 21 Icons team.“I thought I would die, but I also knew that hundreds of South Africans were dying. At least 600 South Africans a day were dying because of HIV and because the government was neglecting the issue.”Achmat refused treatment until 2003, when a national congress of TAC activists voted to urge him to start taking antiretroviral drugs. But it was a visit by Mandela to an HIV clinic on the Cape Flats that finally changed his mind.“[Mandela] put on this HIV T-shirt when he visited Khayelitsha Site C clinic. It was a few days before the ANC national conference in 2003 in Stellenbosch. That moment I realised that I could take my pills, because what he had done then was to take a stand against a party that he had given his life to,” Achmat says, referring to the then-government’s stance on HIV.StubbornShortly after he started taking his medicine, the government announced that it would make ARVs available in the public sector. Another victory was that global pharmaceutical companies agreed to provide access to generic HIV/Aids medicines that would save – and continue to save – millions of lives each day.Even though his record speaks of tremendous conviction and courage, Achmat denies he is brave. “No, stubborn,” he says. “Stupid sometimes, and motivated by fear for what can go wrong.”Achmat continues to fight for social justice issues such as proper sanitation in South Africa’s poorest townships. He is also active in Equal Education, a movement working for quality and equality in South African education.“Nothing angers me like injustice, but I don’t stay angry, because you can’t struggle and win if you’re angry,” he says.Achmat’s portrait will be auctioned at the end of the series, with the proceeds going to the Social Justice Coalition.Source: 21 Icons South Africa
RELATED ARTICLESDesperately Seeking QualityStupid Multifamily Construction TricksMultifamily Green Building Certification Still Has IssuesPondering the Sorry State of Green BuildingWhat Were They Thinking?Why Are Houses Built This Way?Seeking the Elusive Grade 1 Batt InstallationBatt Insulation is Still Making Me BattyShould Batt Insulation Be Outlawed?Putting Value on Green EnhancementsTo Capture Green Value, We Need a Long Perspective Lack of consistency among builders, codes, and programs — When the workers show up to different jobs and are told to meet different specs, it’s hard for them to know what’s expected from one day to the next. Statewide building codes can make this is easier, but then there’s…Varying levels of code or program enforcement — If building inspectors are too busy to do much beyond a drive-by inspection, some folks take the easy way out and do less than they should. The same is true for third-party home energy raters and code compliance verifiers. Some do sloppy work. And hey, let’s just say it: Some companies cheat. If they do their own quality assurance, it’s not impossible to get away with that either.Not getting credit for energy efficiency and green features in appraisal — The Appraisal Institute has a provision for getting for those things but it hasn’t really caught on yet.Understanding the what but not the why — This one isn’t an issue of buy-in really, but it definitely can affect the final product. The photo of the fiberglass insulation below (Figure 2) shows an example the work of someone who got the what but not the why.These are the things that occurred to me as I’ve been mulling over Baczek’s article for the past few days.Opportunities for increasing buy-inOnce we have an idea of what the obstacles are, we can formulate a plan. Home building is a business and I think one of the biggest ways to achieve the kind of buy-in we’d like is to show how it can make the business more profitable. One way to do that is in the list above: Get credit in the appraisal for green building features and certifications. Use the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum from the Appraisal Institute. If the appraiser who shows up doesn’t use it or won’t use it properly, get a different appraiser who will.As the video above makes clear, building houses on-site can lead to a lot of problems. Factory-built housing has a bad name in this country because people automatically think of mobile home parks. But factory-built housing includes a lot more than trailers. There are some really good modular builders and panelized construction companies who can reduce a lot of the problems of building on-site. The Passive House community has sprouted several here in North America: BuildSmart, Prefab Passive House, and GoLogic, for example.Here’s another way that builders can be more profitable by buying into building science and green building: By reducing the amount of money they have to spend in their warranty programs. If you pay attention to the details and build good houses, you have fewer callbacks. Some builders get this. They’ve changed their practices and seen how the extra money they spend upfront to get buy-in saves them more money on the back end. When the crews that do the work, what Baczek calls the “fire teams,” buy into the what and the why on a project, the result is a project that performs as it was intended. Yes, things can still go wrong, but overall, projects with buy-in will have fewer problems, fewer callbacks, and fewer dollars spent to fix things that should have been done right from the beginning.Finally, perhaps the main ingredient is follow-through. If all you do is have a meeting to go over the details and then come back when the project is finished to see if they did what you wanted, you’re likely to be disappointed. Someone has to be in charge of making sure things get done properly all the way through the project.Baczek is one of those people who takes the follow-through part seriously. Here’s a reply he posted to my LinkedIn comment on his article:It’s funny, Allison, just yesterday I visited one of my projects under construction. The foundation sub asked, “Who are you?” I said, “The architect,” to which he replied “No shit. Why you here?” I said, “Just checking in to ensure my drawings are working out for you, and you don’t have any problems or questions.” He said, “But I’m just putting in the footings and foundation.” I said, “I know. Shouldn’t we ensure we are getting this right?” He said, “No, you’re right. Just never had the architect care about what I do.” To which I replied, “We can’t be a team if we don’t share our concerns as one.” He said, “Thank you.”Getting buy-in is a big, complex topic. I’ve touched on a few of the issues here and ignored others. Of course a code-minimum house will be different from a house going for LEED or Passive House certification. Production builders, likewise, have different aims from small custom builders. Still, there’s a lot of overlap and everyone wants to be more profitable (if they intend to stay in business, anyway).What do you see as the big obstacles to getting buy-in? What solutions have you found? Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard. Last week I read a nice little article by Steve Baczek about getting buy-in from the various stakeholders involved with building a home. He’s an architect who works closely with the people who build the homes he designs. He’s also a former U.S. Marine who understands the importance of what he calls “a ladder of leadership and responsibility.”After meeting with the crew building a new high-performance home he designed, he said they’re “efficiently working on the project with a clear understanding of where to focus their efforts and where not to.” But he benefited, too. He gained “a better grasp of how the crew dealt with my drawings.”When I talk to people who work with contractors, I often hear the other side of this issue. The big complaints are that it’s really difficult to get buy-in. I hear this from code compliance verifiers, home energy raters, and even folks involved with Passive House projects. The air sealing crew misses important details. Someone comes along later and cuts a hole that wasn’t planned. The HVAC installers don’t pull the flex duct tight. Builders say they can’t take the time to have the kind of meetings that Baczek described because they’re paying interest every day on a $400,000 lot.What’s the solution? Is there a general solution? How do we get buy-in from the majority of stakeholders, not just a few on high-end or high-profile projects?The obstacles to buy-inWhen you see how homes are built, it’s kind of amazing that they turn out as well as they do. Corbett Lunsford nailed it in this little video comparing car manufacturing to homebuilding.Here are a few things that I think make it difficult to get the kind of buy-in on a large scale that Baczek gets with his projects:A whole lot of independent companies working on each project — builder, framer, plumber, electrician, HVAC contractor, drywall installer, painter, cabinet installer, and on and on. Each company comes in with a greater or lesser degree of expertise in their own field but usually without a more general understanding of building science. And to make it worse, each company may have several crews. You might work with one of their crews and get them up to speed on one project and then get a different crew on the next project.
Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable.,Many of the more dramatic changes we have seen in India in the last 35 years came after the liberalising reforms of the early 1990s, which affected everything from the TV we watch to the shoes we buy. But the changes are far from being wholesale ones or even entirely predictable. Instead, they offer up more arenas in which to debate who we are, what we want and the kind of society we want to live in.We build malls and sometimes visit themFor a time, the Citi Centre mall was just a 15-minute walk from my flat in Mylapore, Chennai. On my way, I would pass old temples, a huge garbage dump and an open-air fish market. I would drink coconut water on the way, saving myself from an expensive carbonated drink once inside. The mall itself-an ugly, faux renaissance construction-towered above this varied landscape and sported a gigantic metal generator to one side. Most people came to the mall in cars or on motorbikes and the roads around it were always jammed. I’m one of those who don’t like malls. But I did like the air-conditioning from April to July and going from one shop to the next without being sideswiped by a motorcycle or lashed by the sun.The rise of the consumer citizenGone are the days of relatives bringing mixies, jeans and lipsticks from abroad. Everything is available here now and there are thousands of billboards to remind you of just what you should aspire to have. On one hand, there is a greater openness to the outside world and more awareness of that world by the common woman and man. On the other, the divides between the “haves” and “have-nots” look more severe and callous. We are told the good life will trickle down, yet, looking around even so-called middle class areas, while professional salaries and purchasing power have risen, the lifestyles continue to be subsidised by the low-wage labour of the service class.advertisementThe way we move aroundCheaper domestic flights have intensified social and business networks as north, south, east, and west are within a few hours of each other. On the road, we are moving faster and in bigger vehicles. But we’re doing so on the same narrow, pot-holed roads as before. So we topple over each other, get stuck in smoke-filled jams, and in our haste, crush into one another, making Indian roads the deadliest in the world. Meanwhile, on the Delhi Metro, one mid-20s commuter told me that now she takes the Metro to work instead of the bus, cutting her commute time to half. Coining a new phrase and sensibility, she called her new way of getting around, “Delhi up-down”.We are being watchedOn the same Metro platform, CCTV cameras watch commuters’ every move, or so they say. At airports, movie theatres, central markets and elsewhere, we are searched. The management of these new technologies has created new industries of surveillance and is directed by a new techno-managerial class. Individuals in this class who are corruption-free are held up as beacons of hope, yet corrupt practices are still the rule rather than the exception.We are on the world stage of literatureLate JNU English professor Meenakshi Mukherjee was ambivalent about the success and hype of Indian English fiction. With a hint of lament, she would speak of her students who all wanted to be the next Arundhati Roy. Novels have become a way to judge a nation’s cultural worth, and hence they are political and cultural emblems, which is why we debate every shortlist, prize and prize refusal, though only when an Indian author is involved.There is more English that is less EnglishLast year while teaching at IIT-Madras, two things became clear to me. One, all of my students were very smart and second, each had a different command over the English language. One of them explained it this way: In school, English was taught to them as a “subject” but never as a “language”. As English has gone from being a colonial language to a global one, more Indians speak it; lower-class and lower-caste Indians rightly demand it, but the question of how and if it will be meaningfully incorporated into the education of Indians remains unclear.We walk and talk and message and blogEnglish has enabled some Indians to gain jobs in it and at call centres, but much more significantly, cellphones and the Internet have enabled Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and many more languages to flourish in new ways and move across borders like never before. In an average day, we speak at least three languages to different people for different things, often picking words from different languages to produce a melange that says it just right. The genius of Indian life surely resides in the multilingual reality of the day-to-day.advertisementWhat we eat has changed, and so have weFor 30 years, a great-uncle of mine owned two restaurants near his house in Nainital and took great pride in the fact that he never ate at either of them. We are known for being particular about our food. Yet, many have relaxed these restrictions and mark status in other ways. We eat and drink more kinds of things more quickly in more places than ever. But are we satisfied? Now, the middle classes are succumbing to lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity, while the rural and urban poor are stuck with an extremely high rate of childhood malnutrition and stunted growth.We like to think we have replaced caste with classIt’s true that we look (and in some ways are) more alike as we sit side-by-side, from north to south, in salwar-kameez or pair of jeans, yet the vast majority of our marriage arrangements are still airtight, and who sits in an office and who in a slum still has everything to do with your father’s name. The post-Mandal Commission era didn’t bring back caste divisions; it just showed they never went away.How we say, “I love you”When it had been decided, in 1961, that my parents would marry, they went on a few outings to Connaught Place. Soon anonymous notes were slipped under the door of my father’s relative’s house, saying their behaviour was not setting a good example. Many years later, on a cool February evening, I was walking near the Delhi University campus with a female friend when three boys on a motorcycle stopped to grab at us. When we complained to a guard standing at a nearby college gate, he explained, “But madam, it is Valentine’s Day.” Earlier in the day, Hindutva activists had overturned chairs at the local Nirula’s to scare away couples and made a mess of an Archie’s card shop in Kamla Nagar market. The style of love is changing, but it still poses a problem.Rashmi Sadana is the writer’s book English Heart, Hindi Heartland: the Political Life of Literature in India is forthcoming from the University of California Press