On 16 March the conference ‘Social challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa’ will take place, organised by the Association of Students of African Heritage (ASAH), UNICEF Student Team Rotterdam and Think East. The event is about the challenges the African continent faces and students will be able to ask experts questions on these issues. Speakers include members from the Center for African Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a Policy Officer of Migration and Refugees. You can find tickets here. All ticket funds will go towards UNICEF project ‘Safe at home, far from home’ that aids refugee children in Uganda with psychosocial support in the form of sports and education.
Steady but slow
The Dutch-Malawian Talita Dielemans (20) grew up in Malawi and has lived in neighbouring Rwanda and Zambia. She is the chairwoman of the Association for Students of African Heritage and studies Management of International Social Challenges.
“Progress in our country is steady, but slow. I think our capital is doing much better than before. Construction of new roads and buildings is possible due to financing from China. But for the rest of the country the infrastructure hasn’t changed much, nor have the social issues. Most people live in villages spread throughout the country, which hinders access to education and healthcare. Children, like my cousins, have to attend boarding school. Most families can’t afford that.
“It’s a nightmare for my grandfather to travel from the countryside to us so we can bring him to a good hospital. During Covid, we didn’t even have ventilators for seriously ill patients. Meanwhile, Rwanda was one of the first countries to implement robots in the fight against Covid. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, but we find encouragement in our neighbouring Rwanda and other countries across Africa.”
For Auguste Ouedraogo (22, Management of International Social Challenges), Burkina Faso is home. Growing up, he was surrounded by poverty without realising its magnitude. Having had the opportunity to live abroad and study, he feels it is his destiny to give back to his country.
“Sports and education are important gateways for tackling our social and economic issues. We have a young population that doesn’t have the resources to impact their future. We need to figure out how to get them educated, because this holds the key to progress.
“On the issue of gender equality for example, we’ve started regressing. I often refer to the revolutionary leader of the 80s, Thomas Sankara. He was one of the first heads of state in the world to promote gender equality and he challenged the Burkinabé to question their conservative views. Nowadays, my friends laugh at me whenever I say things like ‘it’s not a woman’s job to cook for men’.
“Luckily, there’s improvement on other issues. It used to be your standard of living that would determine whether you’d receive medical treatment, but there are efforts to change that. The last time I visited home, a new hospital and cancer treatment centre the size of Woudestein campus was being built, mostly with Chinese funding.”
When Radi Damianov (21) was two years old, he and his parents moved from Bulgaria to South Africa. Studying International Business and Economics, he hopes to find a way to give better opportunities for education to children.
“I think it’s important for individuals to see how poverty is different in other countries. In the Netherlands, poverty means that you live in an apartment in an area that’s still quite safe. In South Africa it means living in a house made of metal plates and wood, without a proper bathroom or bedroom.
“I did community work in orphanages in some of the poorest parts of Johannesburg and that really opened my eyes. The orphanages have so little funds, which means that there often isn’t enough food, the milk is watered down and many of these children don’t have the opportunity to go to school.
“That’s why an event like this is so important. We need students to understand how important issues such as poverty, education and corruption are. And we need to find a way to overcome these challenges, to start afresh and create new opportunities.”