Dump maths? Sounds like a race to the bottom

10X Investments called on South Africa’s Department of Basic Education this week to reconsider the “potentially catastrophic proposal” to remove mathematics as a pass requirement in the education system.

“Just when you thought we needed to raise our game in terms of maths literacy, the national education department starts a consultation on lowering the standards,” the asset manager said in a statement.

The education department confirmed earlier in the week that it had started a consultation on proposed amendments to pass requirements for pupils in grades 1 to 9, which would see mathematics removed as a compulsory pass requirement.

10X – which is disrupting the asset management sector by offering simple, low cost, index tracking products as alternatives to the confusing and expensive array of choices available in what has been described as “the most profitable sector ever” – warned this proposal risked exacerbating a number of simmering crises in the country.

“South Africa already has an unemployment crisis, a pensions crisis, a growing crisis of confidence in the education system,” it said.

“Basic mathematics is an essential building block in many of the sectors that are driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. To fulfil the promise of this revolution, which is to use new technology to leapfrog many in the developed world, young people need to be given the tools essential to mastery of the technology. Without maths it is hard to imagine how this is possible,” the 10X statement continued.

“The world economy is becoming increasingly science-orientated, with less complex pursuits at risk of automation. Those countries that fall behind in maths will fall behind in global growth and global competitiveness. Those who lack maths skills immediately close the door on many future career choices.

“Besides, maths is not simply about mastering numeric skills. A maths pass is a certificate in problem solving, in logical thinking, in systematic thinking, in applied thinking, in deductive reasoning, in discipline, in application.

“These skills are not only essential for success in many careers, they are key to making good life choices. From balancing the household budget to choosing a pension provider who does not take the lion’s share of your savings, basic skills of reasoning are important.

“The future already looks bleak for thousands of graduates who are unable to find work.
“It looks bleak for the working population too. According to National Treasury only 6% of the population will have accumulated enough money to retire comfortably.

“Who will create jobs and opportunities for these young people? Who will support these old people? It is hard to imagine how having more graduates with lower competencies will help anyone.

“By improving results by merely dropping standards the Department of Education will be equipping a generation of South Africans with nothing but false hope.”
10X called on the Department of Basic Education to reconsider the proposal.

“Let’s avoid a race to the bottom,” the statement added.

Lest we forget …

Cheers to Sarajevo, which is showing at the Alexander Bar until Saturday July 8, is one of those universal stories about people who are not supposed to fall in love. This story about a love affair between a Serbian man and a Bosnian woman during the captured and corrupt times of the Yugoslavian war feels very relevant and personal.
The show about the fine and fragile line between love and hate has us on the edge of our seats. We wince as we see what unfolds when politics goes wrong. We smart as young men and women are set against each other and sent to die in a war created by “old people sitting in coffee shops”.


Aimee Mica Goldsmith as Mirela and Lamar Bonhomme as Slobo

This hard-hitting drama, written by Aimée Goldsmith and Lidija Marelic, feels very far away and immediately close at the same time. It is perhaps a timely reminder of the hell we in South Africa have managed to escape before … just as we seem to be mucking about on the edge of it again.
Directed by Ashleigh Harvey (Funny Girl), assisted by Sven-Eric Muller (Funny Girl, West Side story, Cabaret). Cheers to Sarajevo stars Stephen Christopher Jubber (West Side Story, Annie), as Peter; Aimee Mica Goldsmith (Warner Bros’ Blended, Othello, Equus) as Mirela; Alistair Moulton Black (King Lear, Sexual Perversity in Chicago) as Aleks; and Lamar Bonhomme (The Crown, High Rollers) as Slobo.
At Alexander Bar daily at 7pm. Tickets cost R80 if booked online or R120 at the door

The normalisation of madness

A number of insights during a debate at the University of Cape Town – Betrayal of the Promise: Understanding South Africa’s Political Crisis – came from the youngest panel member Sikhulekile Duma, a researcher at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University. One, in particular, resonated with me when he talked about how we have normalised madness in South Africa … and not only because “we accept that Khayelitsha exists”.

Picture the scene: We are sitting in a lecture hall at a great South African university. We are listening to respected leaders from the academic, legal and business worlds calmly discuss the silent coup that we all believe has taken place in our country.

GuptasThe stories of multi-million rand bribes, hundreds of leaked emails and free holidays in Dubai all lead to a foreign (possibly naturalised) family, which is widely accepted to have bought the state.

They are not puppeteers, we are told, they are brokers of corruption and favours for the elite. They are the fixers and the can-do guys at the top of the pile in a neat system where the patron need not shop around, or take too many risks.

Normalising madness indeed!



New classics infused with ancient African tradition

Warm up: young musicians from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay got the audience started

A Nigerian Kora player, a South African composer, a Kenyan master of ceremonies and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille were among musicians, VIPs and invited guests gathered at Iziko Museum in Cape Town to listen to “new classics” in celebration of the 54th anniversary of Africa Day on Thursday.

After being warmed up by a few jazzy numbers played by young musicians from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay, which features youngsters from the community of Imizamo Yethu informal settlement and Hangberg, the audience was moved to seats under a collection of whale casts and skeletons in Iziko’s “whale well”, for the main show.

In the whale well: Could have been creepy …

A few jokes were made about this Jonah-esque setting before the audience was treated to a varied and moving selection of music, both ancient and brand new. Soon no one even noticed the enormous skeletons suspended above.

The programme included world premieres of new compositions by African classical music composers Tunde Jegede, from Nigeria, and South Africa’s Bongani Ndodana-Breen. The new, challenging scores were performed enthusiastically and elegantly by the Africa Arts Ensemble Noir, a chamber orchestra of 15 players from Cape Town with soprano soloist Amanda Osorio.

The showcase of classical music infused with ancient African tradition was the culmination of a series of concerts and public dialogues presented by Africa Arts. The series, titled Africa Connections, was aimed at fostering a new understanding of Africa and breaking down cultural paradigms about classical music.

Africa Connections has allowed audiences at a variety of venues in Cape Town to engage with Jegede and Ndodana-Breen on the subject of how their African roots and the continent’s classical traditions have impacted their work as modern composers.

Ndodana-Breen said on Friday that the Africa Day concert was also about re-imagining how we look at African creative expression.

Amanda Osorio and Bongani Ndodana-Breen

“We need to go beyond the stereotype of what African music is, locked in the ‘tourist curio’ realm of drums,” he said.

Soprano Osorio, who is also co-executive director of Africa Arts, said she was thrilled about the response to the organisation’s collaboration with the office of the premier of the Western Cape Government and Iziko Museums.

She said: “Africa Arts was very honoured that we could enable two African premieres and commission two world premieres with talented African classical music composers, and that the audience gave such a favourable reception.”

She said the event showed that there was a hunger in Africa for classical music experiences that showcased the talent on the continent and celebrated inclusivity in the arts scene.

Ndodana-Breen added: “Africa has ancient traditions, as we saw in Tunde Jegede playing the Kora but also it has modern artistic expression just like Europe or Asia.

“Yesterday’s concert could have been a concert of new music in London or New York. It had a modern cosmopolitan but African feel to it.”


On May 22:

Classical music infused with ancient African tradition

In honour of Africa Month, Capetonians will this week get the rare opportunity to engage with two internationally-renowned classical composers and hear how their African roots and the continent’s classical traditions have impacted their work as modern composers.

Africa Connections, a series of concerts and public dialogues, will showcase the classical music journey from ancient African kingdoms, such as Mali in the 12th century, to today. Presented by Africa Arts, the series is aimed at fostering a new understanding of Africa and breaking down cultural paradigms about classical music.

Africa Arts Group is a registered non-profit organisation that produces “innovative opera and classical music projects that celebrate the rich and diverse creative talent of South African artists”.

The concerts feature music by Nigerian kora master and composer Tunde Jegede, pictured left, and South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, internationally renowned African musicians who have infused Western music with African traditions. The composers have received international acclaim for works ranging from opera and chamber to symphonic music that are influenced by classical African cultures.

As a composer, Jegede has worked with major orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and the London Mozart Players. Over the years, he has kept his creative diversity intact by working closely with singers, vocalists and spoken-word artists from a wide range of traditions, including opera, pop, R ‘n B, reggae, hip hop and jazz.

His own jazz ensemble, The Jazz Griots, was created to explore the connections between African and African diasporic forms of music and, in 1995, the BBC produced a television documentary, Africa: Remember, about his music.

South African composer Ndodana-Breen’s music is a blend of African and classical styles and reflects on various scenes from his native Xhosa culture.

He has received commissions from across the globe. According to The New York Times, his “delicately made music – airy, spacious, terribly complex but never convoluted – has a lot to teach the Western wizards of metric modulation and layered rhythms about grace and balance”.

On Tuesday, May 23, the Institute for the Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town will present a rare opportunity to hear Jegede perform the kora, the West African harp-lute. The event will include a discussion and Q and A session with Jegede and Ndodana-Breen, who will be exploring African classical traditions and how they have impacted their compositions as modern composers.

On Wednesday, Jegede will perform his original African-infused music with some of Cape Town’s leading jazz musicians at Harringtons Cocktail Lounge on Harrington Street in the East City.

The series culminates with a gala event on Thursday, featuring world premieres of two new works by Jegede and Ndodana-Breen played by Africa Arts Ensemble Noir, a chamber orchestra of 15 players from Cape Town with the soprano soloist Amanda Osorio.

The event, commemorating Africa Day, will also showcase young talent from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay, featuring young musicians from the community of Imizamo Yethu informal settlement and Hangberg. The young musicians will entertain invited guests with lighter, popular African music.

The event will be streamed live at at 7pm on the day and recorded for a later radio broadcast.

Africa Connections is an Africa Month initiative curated by Africa Arts and presented in collaboration with the Western Cape Government, Iziko Museums of South Africa and the Institute for Creative Arts at UCT.

In addition to the live events, Africa Arts, in partnership with the Western Cape Government, will launch Africa Connections, a commemorative publication. The publication, to be launched at Iziko on Africa Day, May 25, is described as “highlighting the bonds between the Cape and the rest of the continent”.

More info


Musical feast at Durban’s beachfront festival

Durbanites look set to get a lot more than “what is needed” this weekend, May 26-28, when a star-studded line-up from around the world plays on two stages at the third annual Zakifo Music Festival at Blue Lagoon Beach.

Ray Phiri

“Sakifo means what is needed in Creole,” says Jerome Galabert, one of the event’s co founders.

Galabert, who owns Sakifo Musik Festival in Reunion Island as well as Reunion Electronic Groove, Francofolies and Ioma, added: “With Zakifo Durban our intention is the same.”

The organisers of the Durban festival describe the line-up of 22 acts from as far afield as the UK, Jamaica, Niger, Congo and Lesotho as “one of the most multi-genre global music line-ups ever gathered together in one festival programme”.

Damian ‘JR Gong’ Marley

Including a wide galaxy of stars from Damian “JR Gong” Marley, the son of the original Marley, to a number of South African favourites such as Thandiswa Mazwai, Ray Phiri and The Soil and Congolese-Belgian act Baloji, to Tuareg musician-activist Bombino and Ghana’s Jojo Abot, this festival promises a multi-cultural multi-genre feast.

The festival, from May 26-28, will take place on Durban’s promenade, with two stages, a cultural area, food carts and stalls, craft beer bars, local traders and interactive installations and art exhibits. The backdrop will be provided by crashing waves.

Zakifo, which was was started by Galabert, Sipho Sithole and Andy Davis, is part of a music festival circuit in Southern Africa that takes place over three weeks. Other events on the circuit are Sakifo festival in Reunion, Maputo’s Azgo festival, the Bassline Africa Day concert in Johannesburg and Swaziland’s Bushfire festival.

Award-winning South African a capella group The Soil

Sithole, festival co-founder and owner of Native Rhythms, said: “Zakifo is a destination festival, a people-to-people encounter … We guarantee you that over the years this festival will become part of travellers’ annual calendar coming from all over the world.”

Zakifo is hosted with support from the Department of Arts and Culture, East Coast Radio, Air Austral, eThekwini Municipality and Durban Tourism.

Tickets are available at Computicket.

Artists given licence to disrupt (as if they needed it)

2017 looks like the year disruption will come full circle at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival, from June 29 to July 9. Last year’s call for proposals urged, challenged, prodded and provoked the original disruptors – artists – to shake things up a bit. We have just a few weeks to wait to see how they responded.

Urging dare devils and disruptors to enter their work for the 2017 festival, incoming executive producer Ashraf Johaardien said last year: “We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories.”

‘Do more than think outside of the box … throw away the box…’

Johaardien said he hoped artists would “do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport and Netflix has changed the way we digest television. I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Sounds like a challenge that the bad boys and girls of the arts world would have found irresistible. Roll on June 29!

But before I have a look at this year’s schedule let me take a look back at some of my (kinda disruptive) favourites from the National Arts Festival of 2016:

An ever-speeding descent into madness. Sound familiar?

AnimalFarmAn interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in the modern South African context left audiences at the 2016 National Arts Festival struggling for air as they laughed and winced their way through an orgy of greed and corruption.

The show pulls no punches as it documents an ever-speeding descent into madness when the liberated become the oppressors. Hints that this ruling class at war with itself references recent goings on in Parliament in Cape Town builds more and more obviously until we have no doubt about whose “fire pool” we are splashing about in.

One can’t help thinking that some people really do set themselves up to be made fun of. This show capitalises cleverly on South Africa’s surplus of excellent material for satire.

This adaptation was originally created to help South African high school children better understand Animal Farm, a school set work, which should explain why it might, in the words of director Neil Coppen, “sometimes feel a bit 101 to people who are more political”.

Animal_Farm_-_1st_editionLeaving little room for misinterpretation didn’t come across as dumbing down at all, though. Stating what might be obvious to some is brave in a world where things are intentionally kept a bit vague so as to keep all options open.

The cast of five black women morph in and out of masculine and feminine roles and gender often seems to disappear. There are, however, moments when the audience is reminded of the overwhelming masculinity of most of our real-life power players.

The tempo and suspense builds to a crescendo, with all of us hanging to know what happens next…

The story behind the story: also deliciously demented

In her new play, In Bocca Al Lupo, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Jemma Khan takes a slight detour from the delicious and demented make-believe world we know her for and tells us a little about her life, and it turns out to be quite delicious and demented too.

Kahn is best known for her two previous shows, the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher and last year’s sellout success, We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants.

She plays all characters in In Bocca Al Lupo herself, employing various cunning tricks and technologies that make it feel like we are watching her interact with others.

JemmaKahnAfter finishing her degree, Kahn tells us, she decided not to follow the well-trodden path of a drama graduate (along the lines of get degree, get agent, develop eating disorder, become estate agent). She has the audience in stitches as she paints a very funny and somewhat scandalous picture of a few horrible, if interesting, years travelling the world and trying to work out what she was going to do with her life.

Bocca Al Lupo translates to Into the mouth of the wolf, which she tells us Italians use as a good luck phrase much the same way as English speakers say Break a leg. Into the mouth of the wolf sounds about right as a description of her time in Japan and Ireland.

If her life is not, in fact, filled with lovable and loving people, she does a very good job of making it look like it is. With the exception of the Speed-guzzling, posh-hating Irish boyfriend, who sounds like he could have done with a good telling off and probably a scrub, her characters are all damn near adorable. Who wouldn’t like a granma called Fufu who helps fund your dreams.

The play has its sad moments (whose life doesn’t?), but mostly this beautifully illustrated tale has us laughing our way around the world. Her use of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre where a sequence of images are displayed in a frame to help tell stories, is as slick as it is visually pleasing.

A great storyteller telling a great story!





Back by popular demand: #FeesMustFall


The relevance of this show is magnified by the intimacy the performers have with the stories. Pic Paul O’Ryan

Back by popular demand! The Fall will be showing at Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from June 8 to 24.

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair of Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, wrote of The Fall: “With all the images of violence in the media, it can be easy to lose sight of what sustains the journey that began with Rhodes. The Fall takes back the narrative and invites the audience to look beyond the headlines and to see the real human stories. It is a powerfully acted play, a profoundly complex and moving portrait of students’ struggle to free themselves from the burden of the historical legacy they inherited.”

and we said …

#FeesMustFall, #FindTheMoney, October 2016:

What a pity that before assembling a team to look into the cost of higher education – a team that, incidentally, looks better suited to dealing with international espionage – President Jacob Zuma didn’t spend some time this week as a member of an audience at the Baxter Theatre marveling at our country’s young people.

In watching The Fall: All Rhodes Lead To Decolonisation he could have heard firsthand the informed and eloquent arguments of a diverse group of recent UCT graduates who were involved in last year’s seminal #RhodesMustFall protests.

Perhaps we can still hope that one or more of his newly assembled “funding for fees” team – which oddly includes the minister of state security and the minister of defence and military veterans, but excludes the minister of finance – will see the show. It is on until October 29 and seems quite likely to move somewhere else after that.

The relevance of watching this production while universities around the country are exploding with anger and frustration is magnified by the obvious intimacy the performers have with the stories.

The frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre was devised by the cast, with facilitation from Clare Stopford. Oarabile Ditsele, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana, Cleo Raatus, Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu draw on their own experiences, making for a richly textured depiction of the issues and ideologies present in the movement. The production is directed by Conrad and Mangcu.


The Fall: a frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by the cast. Pic: Oscar O’ Ryan

The subject matter is expanded beyond statues and fees, syllabi and social classifications. Discussions of race, class and gender, patriarchy and sexism are all expanded to what feels like the edges and beyond.

A surprising and subtly handled storyline focuses around Cleo, who identifies outside of the normative gender labels. This narrative relating a personal non-binary experience in a hetero-normative landscape also provokes a challenge to media bias.

Where are all the queer bodies, the trans bodies, Cleo asks. Why aren’t they represented in history or media coverage? After all, no one doubts that they turn up when they are needed, “manning” the barricades when there is a fight to be fought.

The absurdity of racism is laid bare in ways that frequently make the audience wince. Humour provides great (if occasional) relief.

We smile a rather grim smile as we hear about the moment when, as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is finally being removed, it dangles above the plinth for a moment “as if deciding whether to go, or to fall and crush the black bodies beneath it”.

As much as that moment of removal was invested with much meaning, a moment when, in one performer’s words, the “ancestors’ dignity was restored” it was just a moment, a moment that has passed. The play goes on to unpack how this symbolic moment extended into a series of other pivotal moments.

Moments when dignity is restored are few; much more often it is the opposite.

In one excruciating moment the audience is given some insight into the horror of proving you are poor enough to be given a loan to help with fees. Here, all of the family’s shame must be laid out for all to see, often over and over.

The shame of association is piled on some of us when one of the students talks about a white classmate saying that black people were better suited to working outdoors because of the pigment in their skin. White people, according to this theory, needed to remain indoors … running things, you know, governing and so on.

Those familiar with the preference for shortening “tricky” names turned scarlet when we were told to: “Learn my name!” A second lash of shame was delivered with “like I have learned the names of Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky”.

2PoliceChain 1PoliceChainAnd so the struggles – long and short, big and small – continue. #RhodesMustFall, #OutsourcingMustFall, #BladeMustFall, #FeesMustFall.

At the heart of it all lies South Africa’s stalled transformation process. We are left feeling that money must be found to fund this part of decolonisation.

Maybe there is some money in the defence budget? Extra cash in the state security system’s coffers?

Aah I see now … maybe the ministers of state security and defence and military veterans might be able to help after all.

Precious drinking water running down the toilet

As water experts gather for seminars to discuss the Cape’s crisis and pop groups record songs to help people manage the time they spend in the shower, thousands of litres of drinking water continues to run down the toilet.

Robert Ince, from Cape Town-based company Bob The Plumber, says there are many small and effective ways that each household can save water. He says his company is delivering flow restrictors to clients and being called out to install some grey water systems, but the public in general is “waking up quite slowly” to what they can do.

It will surprise many, and (please God) shock at least some into action, to hear that flushing the toilet is our second highest use of potable water. That means drinking water is running down the toilet, hundreds of thousands of litres of it.

A simple solution that every household can start implementing immediately is flushing the toilet with grey water at least some of the time. No system or installation is required, the total investment is a plastic bucket, and effort involved is minimal.

A bucket placed in the shower as the water runs to warm up and alongside the person as they shower will collect quite a lot of water even during the recommended two-minute shower. This might raise awareness of how much water is being used per shower and will definitely collect water to be used for DIY flushes.

When the toilet needs a flush some of the contents of the bucket can be poured directly into the bowl to flush it. One doesn’t even have to lift the lid of the cistern. Sometimes the water is slightly soapy but what is the harm in putting some detergent into the toilet.

Ince said flushing the toilet used between 6.5 litres for the modern cistern and 13 litres for the older model of toilet per flush. Imagine if every household in Cape Town used grey water instead of potable water for just a few flushes a day.

There was a time not so long ago when gardeners were using grey water saved like this to keep herb gardens and so on going, but Tokai mother-of-two, Anne Taylor tells us, things are so bad now that most people feel that is too decadent a luxury.

A simple attachment that reroutes water from the washing machine to the garden

Taylor, who described herself as a “water warrior from the Eastern Cape”, recommended a simple small attachment which she fitted to her washing machine outlet pipe that reroutes grey water to her garden. She warns people to get advice on the size of the pipe so as not to damage the machine in any way.

Ince added that attaching a flow restrictor to a showerhead is another very easy way to save water. The restrictors, which are designed to fit “99 percent of shower heads on the market today”, are small devices with a huge impact, he says.

Households that are able to spend a little money to save a lot of water could install a grey water recycling system with a pump, which improves household water use dramatically.

Another smaller intervention suggested by Ince is to get a plumber out to adjust the pressure regulation on the water supply. He said many homes were set to six bars, which meant that a lot of water was just running down the drain, when two bars was normally sufficient.

The City of Cape Town has recommended the implementation of stringent Level 4 water restrictions, which may come into effect from the beginning of June, which would ban all use of municipal water for outside and non-essential use.

Cape Town’s dam levels are critically low with only around 10% of usable water remaining.

– African News Agency

Education crisis ‘the civil rights struggle of the day’

#FeesMustFall protests South Africa October 2016

Respected African elder statesman Jakaya Kikwete told the World Economic Forum’s Africa meetings in Durban that the education crisis in Africa was today’s civil rights struggle, and called on leaders in the developed and developing worlds to act urgently.

Tanzania’s former president was speaking in his capacity as Special Envoy for the Education Commission, a global body convened in September 2015 to address the crisis in education in low to middle-income countries.

The commission called a briefing of journalists gathered for the WEF Africa 2017 meetings in May to announce a “breakthrough” international finance facility for education, which it called “an essential step to ensure the Sustainable Development Goal of an inclusive and quality education for all is met by 2030”.

The commission was convened by a number of concerned world leaders, from the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to the prime minister of Norway and the president of Chile and many others.

Jakaya Kikwete

Kikwete said this august body had put together a team of 27 commissioners from around the world to tackle the crisis. These experts in knowledge and education and other relevant fields include eight Africans, all of whom pack a power punch globally, including Kikwete himself, as well as Graca Machel, Zimbabwe’s Strive Masiyiwa and Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote.

The commission’s preliminary findings confirmed that the world is facing alarming education crisis that is significantly more pronounced in the lower and middle income countries. Kikwete noted that this meant all of Africa since the continent had no high income countries.

The commission found that education standards in these countries lagged high income countries by as much as 70 years.

Kikwete, who has recently completed a research tour of an initial 14 African countries, said there are 100 million youngsters out of school in Africa of a global total of 263 million. At current projections, he added, that figure would have grown to 130 million by 2030.

And, for those who did start school, he said, completion rates were low, with too many dropouts at all levels of education.

As things improved in other countries, they seemed to get worse in Africa, Kikwete said. It hardly bears thinking about what the numbers would be by 2050 “when two billion jobs will have been replaced by automation”.

He talked to the dual problem of limited resources not being used wisely. As an example of what could be done with limited funds Kikwete mentioned Tunisia and Vietnam, countries with similar GDP per capita but where learning outcomes are dramatically different. Where a learning outcome in Tunisia averaged 64 percent, in Vietnam it was 96 percent.

WEF’s Maxwell Hall, Jakaya Kikwete and Caroline Kende-Robb

The chief adviser to the commission, Caroline Kende-Robb, told the briefing that the problem was magnified by changes in the aid world. As the education crisis had become more pronounced education’s share of aid had declined.

Kikwete said the commission was calling for an “unprecedented intervention” into this “grave” situation to facilitate a catch-up with high income countries.

The commission is calling for a compact between high and low income countries where developing countries commit to a plan of action to improve education outcomes, and developed countries commit to supporting them in this.

The big news at WEF was that the commission plans to create a fund of $10 billion annually as an international financing facility for education to support the aims of this compact.

When journalists asked how this proposal would be different from other grand development plans that had failed to transform things on the ground, Kende-Robb said this was not just about handing money out but rather a partnership.

She told Call Off the Search after the briefing that funding would be linked very closely to specific outcomes that would be measured on the ground. The obvious, such as pass rates and attendance at school (by teachers as well as pupils), would be accompanied by other measures of things like willingness to innovate and adopt modern practices.

The proposed fund would be used to provide grants as well as to provide loan guarantees and to subsidise interest payments. But it is early days yet and journalists seeking detail about implementation of the proposal, which the commission will be taking to the upcoming G20 summit in Germany in July, were disappointed.

All eyes will be on Germany in July but in the meantime the commission will continue its work closer to home. The next step is a methodologies workshop Nairobi in May, where delegates from across Africa will go into detail, Kikwete said, identifying challenges as well as solutions and how to cost them.

Whatever the outcome of these meetings on the continent and abroad, Kikwete said, dealing with this crisis was everyone’s concern. If the education crisis in low and middle income countries was not tackled, he said, by 2050 there would be a “huge surge” of migrants from the affected countries.

“Everybody has an obligation to support these countries … the effects will touch all of us.”

A connection, a picture, a story is worth a million miles

Star Alliance is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a worldwide competition celebrating cultural connections made by travellers in which entrants stand a chance to win a million frequent flyer miles.

Jeffrey Goh, Star Alliance chief executive, said: “As part of our 20th anniversary, we are celebrating the strength of human and cultural connections. In order to continue building these, together with our member airlines, we are offering travellers a truly unique prize.”

All 21 Star Alliance member programmes are participating in the competition, which runs until July 31. People who are not already members of a Star Alliance programme can sign-up online and receive a membership number to participate.

To enter, travellers must upload a profile picture or selfie, as well as a picture and info about their favourite cultural experience. Information must include what made it so special and how it relates to the broader Star Alliance anniversary campaign theme of connecting people and cultures.

All entries will be screened for basic photographic quality and other general criteria. Once approved, they will be posted on a cultural experiences map on the competition homepage. Star Alliance said this map would give customers from all over the world an interactive map of insider tips and experiences from other travellers.

The statement added that the winner would perhaps like to spend their prize on a first-class round-the-world ticket for themselves and a partner, or maybe they would choose to fly 20 of their friends to Hawaii.

To inspire their members, each of the 28 Star Alliance member carriers has come up with a local piece of cultural inspiration. Founding airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai and United, have taken it one step further by challenging National Geographic’s Travel Nomad, Robert Reid, to test their recommendations personally and report back on his experiences.

Lufthansa, for example, flew Reid to the highest village in Europe, in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, to watch the hazardous, high-altitude horse race in Ushguli.

Open Streets Cape Town PHOTO Lisa Burnell, Cape Town Partnership

Other examples included tile painting in Portugal, home cooking in Shenzhen, China, and joining the locals in Bogota as they turn major roads in the city into cycle paths on Sundays, something Capetonians experience in their own city regularly with Open Streets Sundays, when the city is closed to motorised transport in an event inspired by the Colombian movement.

To watch the films of the five challenges, see

The competition is available in all nine Star Alliance website languages. Judging will be carried out independently by Star Alliance’s 20th anniversary partner, National Geographic, and winners will be announced on September 28.

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– African News Agency (ANA)