Monday, September 28, 2015

"Count on Me, We're Going to Make Everyone Happy"

With three weeks to go until the presidential election, it's my understanding the political heat in Tanzania is ON!  I've just been perusing the headlines from the Tanzania Daily News, and found the article below mildly interesting, especially as it regards my specific little niche in the Tee-Zed.

With all the things that the candidates have been promising lately, I have to say I was refreshed (and mildly surprised) to see any attention shown to the disabled community.  Usually, it's all the big-ticket issues that get the banners and us little people and our probs are left in the dust.

It may be naively optimistic of me to think that this dude, Japhary Michael, will put his money where his mouth is, but you know what they say....  Hope floats!

Moshi Urban Cha Dema parliamentary candidate, Mr. Japhary Michael, has pledged to work for the cause of people with special needs, from those in nursery schools to adults in homes and public places.

Addressing a campaign meeting here in Moshi, Mr. Michael said he will see to it that all schools from the lower levels up are equipped with friendly infrastructure for children with disabilities.  "For quite long, vulnerable groups who need special attention have not been attended to properly.

It is my promise to them that I'll concentrate on this matter as a priority.  Count on me, we're going to make everyone happy because God created us all in his own image.  We should support each other," he said.

He said there are some pupils who have difficulties in following lessons because of their physical limitations, and that Cha Dema will ensure they are either enrolled in special schools, or regular schools are provided with extra kits for special needs students.

The outgoing Moshi Municipal mayor said he would ensure the needed infrastructure is fitted in public buildings and that "from now on, all new buildings should be built with the idea of the disabled using them."

Mr. Michael noted that, if elected, his office would strengthen and work with the disabled societies to raise awareness of their rights in society, and use education as a major weapon against injustice and discrimination.  He would coordinate the activities of various non-governmental organizations dealing with the disabled to mobilize resources.

Mr. Michael is contesting the Moshi Urban parliamentary seat for the first time after the retirement of Mr. Philemon Ndesamburo, also of the same party.  He faces stiff competition from Mr. Davis Mosha of the ruling of Chama cha Mapinduzi and ACT-Wazalendo's Mr. Buni Ramole, who defected from CCM after losing preferential polls.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

International Association of Special Education 2015

Greetings all.  Please check out the post below penned by my Toa Nafasi colleague, Angi Stone-MacDonald.

Angi was recently in Wroclaw, Poland to attend the biennial conference of the IASE and rep the Project in the process.  Here are her thoughts....


Attending the International Association of Special Education (IASE) Conference in Poland was so much fun.  The University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw was a fabulous host and my whole experience in Poland was excellent.  I highly recommend visiting Poland, if you have not.  It is a beautiful and very interesting country in its history.

The sessions at the conference were interesting and offered a lot of variety and the opportunity to learn about new ideas and meet wonderful people.  I also enjoyed reconnecting with friends from other organizations I participate in, in addition to friends from IASE.

I participated in two sessions related to the work of The Toa Nafasi Project.  The first was a research presentation that I delivered about the Project and its results.  It was attended by about 10-12 people with a very interested crowd that offered good feedback on the presentation and the results.

The second session was volunteer service program information session about the various programs in Tanzania with volunteer opportunities.  That session was standing room only and people were very interested in Toa Nafasi, as well as some of the other locations.  I think that it will yield at least a few volunteers sometime in the future.

The conference is a great opportunity to connect researchers, faculty, and practitioners from around the world.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

There Are 29 Other Days in September.... why is the ninth month of the year still so tragically marked by one?

I think, for me, it's because - in addition to being a witness to a national disaster and the worst act of terrorism to be committed on American soil all those years ago - I have developed an acute sense of mortality as I've gotten older.  

My own mortality, to be sure - I turned 40 six months ago, my poor eyesight is poorer, my left hip is achy and my right ankle weak, I'm starting to feel bad about my neck (thank you, Nora Ephron!) - but that of the people in the world around me as well.  Friends, family, pets, even places seem well-worn and a bit long in the tooth these days.

And the month of September underscores that faded, tired feeling.  Summer is over and it's time to get back to the daily grind.  Leaves once green and lush now litter the sidewalks, crunching under feet in socked footwear.  There's a certain small pang or twinge with the shifting seasons.

I suppose academics, optimists, and Jews look at September as a time of a particular kind of rebirth - a new school semester, a revival in trade, the "head of the year."  But I always feel a certain sadness as the weather changes and the light and air take on a new resonance.  Fall is one of my favorite times of year and New York is my favorite place to be in Fall, but I wonder if I take some small delight in my annual pangs and twinges.  Another Fall, another year gone by....

September 11th, 2001 was a gorgeous Tuesday, with a cloudless sky and the air still summery warm.  I was running late to work and it was in the shower that I first heard a low-flying airplane.

Dressed and still planning to head to the office, I saw the first tower collapse as I looked downtown to my right.  To the left, the Empire State Building glistened blithely in the sun.

September 11, 2015 was another beautiful day, a Friday.  I had wanted to be in New York (I like to hear the names of the lost read on TV), but I ended up staying the weekend in Washington, dragging out the late Labor Day holiday the whole week long, staving off "September" for as long as I could!

I was meant to see a dear friend of mine, Nia-Malika Henderson, Senior Political Reporter for CNN that afternoon.  Friends since we met at the Radcliffe Publishing Course in 1999, Nee and I had a lot to catch up on as she had recently left the Washington Post for her big new gig on TV.  And I was back from Tanzania for my stateside Fall....

We had planned to meet at DC's Union Station, conveniently located near a number of news outlets like CNN and NPR as well as the Capitol.  I was excited to see my good friend after a long time apart and arrived early.

But, we never got the chance to meet.

Stepping off the Metro at Union Station, I started to enter the terminal when a swarm of people began running out of the building towards the underground trains.  It was a stampede.  My first thought was that these people, in their rush to catch the Metro, were going to hurt someone!  But then it became clear that they were not running TO something but rather FROM something.

In the end, the incident turned out to be personal and deliberate, but during the minutes that passed when I didn't know what was going on, people all around me were running and screaming senselessly, and reports of a "live shooter" in the Station, I was terrified.  Was this the fear that people felt when the first plane hit?  When no one knew if it was an accident, an act of terror, some sick joke?  When no one knew what would happen next??

A domestic dispute gone wrong had prompted a plain-clothes security guard to shoot, and I suppose the loud noise ricocheted off the cavernous halls of Union Station causing lunching, shopping, commuting, touring crowds to freak out en masse and nearly trample each other in their hurry to find safety.

"Get on a train, any train," I was told by a woman whose husband worked inside the Station.  No need to say it twice.

Rattled but safe, I called Nia from a Metro stop away.  She had not yet left CNN.  We talked for a while as I relayed what had happened and she checked her news feed.  I was starting to calm down.

I guess my initial fear was of the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook episodes where a disgruntled shooter takes at aim at whoever's in his line of sight, without a care in the world.  That I didn't know when the stream of people running would end and the person or people chasing them would begin was, and still is, a source of real fear.  We just didn't know what would happen next.

Now back in New York a few days later, the anniversary of the real September 11th behind us for the year 2015, I am still pondering the Union Station incident, why it has had such an impact on me.

I suppose the answer is this: that what was once implicit in nature became radically explicit in a split second.  I am not a victim nor did I see anyone victimized, but I did get a taste of that acute fear, more than a pang or a twinge, rather a stab or a blow, right to my my core.  Not a suggestion of mortality, but an unambiguous confirmation of it.

Death has been a meme this year with the loss of Vumi and the illnesses of various other people around me.  

But hurdling challenges has been another meme.  I had a pivotal birthday.  Climbed a pivotal mountain.  Am embarking on a pivotal expansion of The Toa Nafasi Project at year's end.  Without Vumi but in her treasured memory.

So, while I am definitely conscious of the absolute transience of everything that is going on around me, I am also mildly hopeful that among these swirling winds of change, the eye of the storm is a long way off.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Opposing Forces

Okay, so last week's post was about the majority party's bid for continued political dominance in Tanzania.  It's most likely a done deal that CCM will win the election by hook or by *crook,* but I gotta give the opposition a lil' face time as well, so here goes.

In past years, there were a bunch a little, loosey-goosey opposition parties, none of which were particularly strong except for Cha Dema, which is short for Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (the Party for Democracy and Development).

The big feature of Cha Dema is its strong anti-corruption platform.  It's often been characterized as a party of younger voters, students, and people who are fed up with the alleged dishonesty that has been associated with CCM's recent candidates.

The HILARIOUS thing about Cha Dema's current candidate, Edward Lowassa, is that until very recently, he was a bigwig for CCM!  That is, until he was outed as a veritable criminal and forced to defect from his party!!

Now, his political allegiance (read: ambition) lies with the opposition party, and people think he has a good chance as Magufuli's main competition for the presidency.

Because all those little parties have been so scattered in years past with various political platforms and a lot of geographical alliances, someone amongst them had the good sense to knot them all together and form UKAWA, which surely stands for something or other in Swahili and which means Coalition for the People's Constitution (huh?) in English.

So, Lowassa appears to be repping Cha Dema under the umbrella of UKAWA....  Or something like that....


Tanzania Opposition Cha Dema to Launch Campaign Saturday 

Tanzania's main opposition political party, Cha Dema, will officially launch its campaign for the October 25 general election Saturday in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

Tumaini Makene, Cha Dema party spokesman, says his group aims to present a united front with other opposition parties known as UKAWA, to challenge and break the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party's dominance.

Senior officials of the party and other prominent opposition leaders plan to participate in the campaign launch, according to Makene.  He says the party, which campaigns on the platform of change, represents the hopes and aspirations of many Tanzanians, who he says are fed up with the country's poor and ineffective leadership from the ruling CCM.

"People are coming from all parts of the country to witness what is going to be happening.  It will be broadcast live on television and radio," said Makene.

Lowassa Emerges

Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa who recently defected to the opposition party from CCM is expected to lead Cha Dema in the presidential election.  A few opposition leaders have since resigned their positions in Cha Dema, citing Lowassa's defection as the reason.

But Makene says Lowassa defected with a big cross-section of supporters from CCM, and that the defection serves as a significant boost to the opposition before the poll.

Professor Xavery Lwaitama of the Josiah Kibira University College says the defection of the former prime minister has caused a seismic political shift in both the ruling party and the opposition alliance.

Lwaitama also says Lowassa's influence in the ruling party slices the chances of the CCM in the general election, which tilts the balance in favor of the opposition alliance in the vote.

"That is one of the political earthquakes that is expected when a big shot like the former prime minister leaves a ruling party like the CCM," said Lwaitama.

Registration Continues 

An estimated 24 million prospective voters have been registered, after the electoral body compiled a voters list to be used for the election.

Makene says the ruling party has lost legitimacy, which could undermine the party's efforts to maintain its dominance.  He also expressed confidence that with support from other opposition parties known as UKAWA, Cha Dema is likely to defeat CCM in the upcoming vote.

"As time goes on, the opposition is gaining strength, and CCM is losing its influence and becoming weaker.  Meanwhile, Cha Dema has been able to gain political legitimacy from the Tanzanian people," said Makene.

But supporters of the CCM say the party knows how to win elections, adding that this time would not be different.  They dismissed Lowassa's defection as good riddance, after accusing the former prime minister of being tainted with corruption.  Lowassa denies the allegation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You Stay Classy, Tanzania

It's an election year in Tanzania and the big decision will take place in just a couple months.

Typically, TZ can be said to be a "one-party democracy" with Chama cha Mapinduzi (the Party of the Revolution) dominating the political landscape.

Back in the early days post-Independence, CCM was the party of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, TZ's first president and the father of the nation.  During Nyerere's time, CCM was a champion of African socialism and a proponent of Ujamaa, the idea of collectivized agriculture.

Modern-day CCM is a lil' less hippy-dippy.  The idea of communalism has been fairly replaced by free market economism, and I'm not gonna throw shade at any one politico, but corruption is not *unheard of.*

Anyhoo, check out this piece from the Tanzania Daily News about the current CCM campaign.  This guy, Magufuli, is certainly not shy about promising the sun and the stars - we shall see if he can make good as surely, he will be the next Tanzanian prez.

Nevertheless, I'll try to find something similar for the main opposition party, Cha Dema, for next week's post.



Tanzania: CCM Starts Campaign in Style

Launching the 2015 CCM Union presidential campaign in Dar es Salaam on Sunday, the party's candidate, Dr. John Magufuli, and his running mate, Ms. Samia Suluhu Hassan, pledged stronger commitment to industrial economy and improved social services.

Addressing thousands of party supporters at the Jangwani Grounds in the city, Dr. Magufuli said that once given mandate as president, he will ensure sustainability of the Union, and will not entertain tribalism.

Moreover, he will have zero tolerance for corruption and public mismanagement, adhering to practices of good governance and human rights advocacy to quench Tanzanians' thirst for development.

He said more efforts will be made in the industrial sector as he believes in creating a country that will be an industrial economic state by incorporating investors.

"We will work very closely with the investors to put up industries.  This task will not be undertaken by the state alone.  Bureaucratic public servants should find a way out as I will not entertain those who will fail to deliver on time," the presidential candidate vowed.

"I will transform this country into an industrial economy.  I will put more effort on the development of the industrial sector by putting up more new industries and increasing employment opportunities by 40 percent," said Dr Magufuli.

In the education sector, he said since the party's election manifesto promises free education from primary to secondary school level, he will come up with a new system that will make it work without any hitches.

"As for students pursuing higher education, their loans will be given before the beginning of the semester, unlike now when they have to stage boycotts to receive the loans," he stressed.

Improvements to the health sector will come in the form of new dispensaries in all villages to reduce the cost of sending patients for treatment abroad.  By upgrading the existing referral hospitals, Dr. Magufuli believes citizens will soon think of Tanzania as an alternative when it comes for quality medical services.

Dr. Magufuli's biggest hopes are for the agricultural sector, which is currently being looked at as politically deserted.  By ensuring the availability of agricultural inputs, land ownership and an assured market for agricultural produce, he thinks that he can turn this state of affairs around.

Turning to livestock, a cabinet portfolio for which Dr. Magufuli once held, he says he will look into new ventures, and will especially try to resolve pastoralist-farmer conflicts as well as put up industries that will add value to the products to boost revenue generation.

"The rivalry that has been there between the business community and the government will be dealt with accordingly so that at the end of the day they create a beneficial environment for both groups for increased revenue collection," said the presidential candidate.

Dr. Magufuli further noted that he will transform the city of Dar es Salaam by putting up a railway line and flyovers to solve the problem of traffic jams in addition to putting up more physical infrastructures countrywide.

He also pointed out that the police force should get the best and most sophisticated equipment that will help them deliver services to the fullest as well as providing them better incentives.

Neither will Dr. Magufuli ignore constructive issues floated by the opposition parties as he believes in working together for national economic development and people's improved welfare.

He singled out journalists in the country for special praise, pledging to improve their welfare and safe-being as he underscored the need for them to use their pens wisely and guard against misreporting.  As the nation is heading towards the general elections, he hopes at the end of the day, the journalists will keep the Tanzanian people as one.

Earlier, his running mate, Ms. Suluhu Hassan, affirmed that she will empower women by giving each village 50m/- for economic projects while as a mother herself, she will work to ensure improved services in water and health services countrywide, which will particularly benefit women and mothers.

She promised to bring clean and safe water services near the communities whereas dormitories will be constructed so that school-age girls can study in a better environment.

Together with Dr. Magufuli, Ms. Suluhu Hassan said come 2020, the people in rural areas will be enjoying clean and water services by 85 percent while people in urban areas will enjoy such services by 95 percent.