Tuesday, December 11, 2012

HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM STCC STUDENTS

Once we mailed out hundreds of cards to college friends and supporters; then three years ago we created a series of pictures that could be accessed on the college website.  Now in keeping up with the changes in communication, STCC presents a video featuring our English as a second language students.  Enjoy by clicking the link below or the highlighted text above.

www.stcc.edu/happyholidays

Thursday, November 29, 2012

RED TAIL HAWK ON THE STCC CAMPUS

While STCC is an urban college situated close to downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, the historic campus consists of 55 acres surrounded by a cast iron fence.  Many birds and animals live and visit the campus. Red tail hawks nest here and catch squirrels, helping to maintain a balance of nature.  Pictures of a red tail hawk captured on the central campus green today are shown below.

Red Tail Hawk on STCC campus, November 29, 2012.  Photo Carla Potts
Red Tail Hawk reading for take off.  Carla Potts photo.
Red Tail in flight over STCC campus.  Carla Potts photo.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HALLOWEEN 2012 AT STCC

photo by Joyce Skowyra
On Halloween, 2012, children from the STCC day care center visited the President's office to receive their treats and have their picture taken.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A TALE OF TWO COLLEGES


This is a story of two American Colleges; the first is my alma mater and the second where I work. 

The first has an undergraduate enrollment of 5159, the second of 7023.

The first is on an historic campus with the oldest building dating to 1754; the second is on an historic campus opened in 1793 by George Washington.

The first has a student body that is 8% African-American and 9% Latino; the second has a student body that is 18% African-American and 24% Latino.

At the first tuition is $38,650; for the second, tuition for a full-time student is $5106.

The first has an endowment of $17 Billion; the second has an endowment of $5.2 Million.

The first has an endowment of $3.2 Million per student; the second, $740 per student.

The first is located in Princeton, New Jersey; the second is in Springfield, Massachusetts.

If you make a contribution to the first college, you will get a polite thank you.  If you make a contribution to the second, you will help change someone’s life.

Dear reader, you will have to decide which institution is most worthy of support.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

COLLEGE STUDENT DEBT INCREASES AGAIN

College student debt continues to increase at a rate of 5% a year as the Project on Student Debt reported last week that the bachelor degree graduates of the class of 2011.  PSD found the 66% of all graduates leave college with debt that averages $26,600.  This debt both federal and private loans is a burden on new graduates as they seek jobs in a very difficulty economy. 

The debt per student varies greatly by state and college from a high of $32,440 for New Hampshire and a low of $17227 in Utah.  Massachusetts comes in at 14th from the top with an average student debt of $27181. 

Because of “reform” of the bankruptcy laws student loans are now not dischargeable, that is an individual who declares personal bankruptcy can have her credit card loans wiped out but not her student loans.  Because of this change in bankruptcy law, Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in his book the Price of Inquality argues that student debt is creating “partially indentured servants.”  This refers to the practice during American colonial times of individuals agreeing to servitude in the new world for a period of usually seven years in exchange for a loan to carry them to the new world.  



Monday, September 24, 2012

UGANDA: IMPRESSIONS OF AN OUTSIDER

For three months I lived and worked in Uganda as a volunteer for the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) from the United States.  I came to Uganda because I believe it is important for people in the North to act in solidarity with people in the South.  Also I was curious to learn the answers to the following questions:

·        What are the people in Uganda like?
·        What is the experience of living in Uganda? 
·        How is Uganda handling the threats to the environment – climate change, deforestation, water pollution, sanitation, mining and oil extraction?
·        How has Uganda progressed in the fifty years since independence?

Uganda will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary as a nation on October 9, 2012, sparking discussions about the country’s future.  As an outsider, perhaps I can add a different perspective to the debate about where Uganda should be heading.  My comments are based on personal observations, research and discussions with many Ugandans that I have had the opportunity to meet including school teachers, environmentalists, members of the media, shopkeepers, students, villagers employed in agriculture, and governmental officials.  Here are my observations and conclusions:
Kob in Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda. The park straddles the Nile River, the world's longest that runs through ten countries: Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Egypt.  Uganda is home to many lakes and rivers including Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake.
Uganda is a land blessed with a wonderful climate and abundant natural resources.  The bounty of nature in Uganda was a delightful eye-opener to me.   The weather is marvelous, warm sunny days, comfortable nights broken by rain showers.  In most of Uganda plentiful rain keeps the countryside green all year round, ideal weather for growing a large variety of grain, vegetables and fruit.  Native hardwood forests still survive in Uganda and the country is fortunate to have many large fresh water lakes that provide fish and water to local communities.  The world’s largest river, the Nile, begins in Uganda and the country has magnificent areas for wildlife. 

While I could praise further the natural beauty and richness of Uganda, I am concerned about the destruction of this heritage that should be used to sustain future generations.  Much of the hardwood forests have been cut down to make way for extensive agriculture including large scale sugar and oil palm plantations.  Lake Victoria and many other lakes are being damaged by pollution from human, and industrial wastes as well as pesticides and fertilizers.  Climate change poses a special risk to Uganda because the country is dependent on agriculture as a basis for its economy.  Unpredictable rain from climate change could translate into the diminishment of agricultural production.  There could be hunger where there was plenty. 

Along Entebbe Road, a worker in a metal
 fabrication shop making brackets for a bedframe.
The Ugandan citizens that I have met are hardworking, kind, entrepreneurial and ambitious.  I can’t say enough about the spirit, inventiveness and determination of the Uganda people.  As I walked each day along Entebbe Road from my home in SSeguku to the NAPE offices near the Zana circle, I saw young men fixing bicycles and boda-bodas using simple tools, workers welding doors and gates, women selling fruit and vegetables from small stands, men making chapatis and Rolexes over charcoal fires, workers handcrafting furniture.  And I witnessed young children dressed in their school uniforms accompanied by older siblings and parents going off to school.  These youngsters were polite and looked eager to learn.

For Uganda to grow and prosper, hard work must be supported by education.  This idea is echoed in the  Swahili proverb, “Wealth, if you use it, comes to an end; learning, if you use it, increases.” Uganda has expanded public education with the Universal Primary Education act of 1997 when education at public cost became available for four children per family.

My Uganda colleagues, however, voice concerns about the quality of public education and the need for more schools, and more better prepared and paid teachers. With a very young population – half of the population is 15 or younger – improving education should be, I believe, the country’s top priority to unlock economic progress.

The Gini Coefficient is the accepted
measure of income inequality. The
higher the number the greater dis-
parity of income among the
population.
Because of Uganda’s low average yearly income, when I arrived in the country I expected to see many people struggling to make ends meet.  But I was surprised to see expensive homes on the top of the Kampala’s hills and luxury cars on the streets. Figures, in fact, show that income inequality in Uganda rivals that of the United States. Uganda should not copy the US model of development that has led to an increasing gap between rich and poor. In Uganda the poorest 10% of the population receive just 2.3% of all income while the top 10% received over 36%. In the United States the figures are similar: the bottom 10% receive 2% of the income; the richest 10% take in 30%.

In the USA, income inequality has increased markedly over the past two decades with most of the new wealth concentrated in the top 1% of the population.  The United States, among the very richest countries in the world, now has many people who are homeless and many that do not receive proper medical care. Moreover, income inequality distorts the political process as the wealthy have the means to influence governmental action by funding the campaigns of political parties – both the Democrats and Republicans.  If Uganda follows the US model of economic development, it faces the danger of replicating the problems that accompany it.

Uganda at fifty is still a young country full of possibilities.  Uganda citizens should use this anniversary to reflect on the kind of future that they wish for their children.  My hope in the years to come, Uganda's natural resources will be protected, education will be supported and income inequality reduced.














Friday, September 21, 2012

ASSOCIATE DEGREES LEAD INVESTMENTS

Source: the Brookings Institute

A study by theBrookings Institute tried to answer the question: Where is the Best Place to Invest $102,000 -- In Stocks, Bonds, or a College Degree?  Well, my students don’t have that kind of money, but if you could borrow it, where would be the best place to invest?

By comparing various investment alternatives since 1950 –stocks, corporate bonds, treasury bills, gold, housing, higher education, they came up with an answer which is …..a college degree.  Yes, a college degree, over the long term, will result in greater income gain than any of the other alternatives.

So, college is a good investment for the individual and for our country.  And an associates degree leads the pack.

However, this financial analysis leaves out an important difference between, for example, buying stock and going to college.  The first requires money and patience for the stock to gain value.  The second requires effort - studying, writing, researching, putting off other activities, cutting down on outside work.  A student who goes to college invests in herself/himself by learning new skills and habits of thought.  

The decision to go to enroll in college is one of the most important in a young person's life.  And the rewards of obtaining a degree will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CLEAN WATER FOR UGANDANS

From Joint Monitoring Program of the UNICEF/World Health Organization.  Africa stands out as the continent most lacking in improved water for its people.
Safe water for drinking and cooking - vital for human life - is a critical problem in the developing world. The map above shows that fact - the lighter the color the greater the fraction of the country's population without safe water that is easily accessible. ( Easily accessible according to the World Health Organization means within 1 KM, 6/10 of a mile. One may still have to walk to get water by up to 20 minutes – each way.) Africa clearly is the continent most at risk and Uganda, close to the center of Africa, shares that fate.

Throughout Uganda, many people carry water in large plastic jugs, often for long distances.  In my neighborhood I observe each day children and women filling those jugs from a source of water that does not appear secure and safe.  And every westerner who comes to Africa is told, “don’t drink the water – unless it is first boiled or is commercially bottled water”.

The organization where I am volunteering, the National Association of Professional Environmentalists, just completed a study about the supply of clean water in Uganda.  They found that:
·       Uganda has an abundant supply of fresh water
·       over nine and a half million (9,500,000) Ugandans of a population of thirty-four million (34,000,000) do not have “improved water”, - clean and safe water that is easily accessible;
·       Uganda has made progress toward its Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of its citizens without “improved water” by 2015.  However, recent figures show a reduction in the fraction of the population with improved water from 67% to 65%.

While Uganda and other countries have, with the assistance of development partners, made significant progress over the past two decades, much more needs to be done to carry out the 2010 statement of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

 The human right to safe water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and inextricably related to the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as well as the right to life and human dignity” 

The pictures below will document the problems faced by many Ugandans to get clean, safe water to drink:

Borehole that serves Kangugo Village, Luwero, Uganda
Children getting water from the borehole.





 Children and women gather water from a water source in Nakawa-Kinawataka District, Kampala.

The same water source from another angle.



















Monday, September 10, 2012

ROAD DANGERS IN UGANDA

Traffic on Entebbe Road, - no place for pedestrians to walk.
After my own small accident (see posting of September 8), I wanted to find out more about the level of injury and death due to vehicles both in Uganda and neighboring countries.

The graphic below shows the rate of traffic deaths worldwide by country with the developing world and especially Africa with the highest rates (red on the map below).  The US rate, by the way, is 13.9 which puts in above many European countries; Great Britain, for example has a rate of 4.8.

The map above shows road traffic deaths per 100,000 people per year with the red countries having the highest rates (over 30) followed by green (over 20).  Uganda's rate is 34.7.  Source: Worldlifeexpectency.com -road traffic accidents.
In Uganda there are multiple reasons for the high rate of death and injury on the roads: "Roads in developing countries often have mixed traffic, poor illumination, and sign posting, poor maintenance, and roadside hazards." (African Health Science article)   Another study looked at trauma cases in a Kampala hospital found that road traffic injuries were the greatest cause of trauma and that " pedestrians, especially children and adolescents, the most affected group".

I leave with some pictures to get an idea of the conditions here.
Downtown Kampala.






People riding boda-bodas in Kampala.  RFI/Gloria Nakiyimba



The taxi park in downtown Kampala, a destination point for many people taking public transit.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

CROSSING ENTEBBE ROAD

From Kampala Daily Monitor, March 2, 2010.  Full article. at this link.

Each day I walk from my apartment to my place of work north along Entebbe Road, a major thoroughfare that links the airport in Entebbe to the center of Kampala.  Unfortunately, my apartment is on the east side of the highway and the office on the west requiring me to cross two lanes of traffic.

On Monday as the cars going north crawling along, bumper to bumper, I crossed the south lane during a break in the traffic, motioned with my left arm for a northbound car to let me pass, and  walked quickly between two cars toward the shoulder.  Just as I exited from between the line of cars, I was hit by a boda-boda (motorcycle) going north in the shoulder - what we would call a breakdown lane but it is hardly wide enough to be so classified.  Luckily, the front tire of the motorcycle hit me square in the left hip.  Shaken and bruised and still on my feet, two white clad women traffic cops appeared and began to lecturing the motor-cycle driver who was transporting a women passenger dressed smartly for work.  One of the officers turned to me.  “Are you hurt?”, she asked.  “No, not seriously”, I replied assessing the state of my body.  “Will you forgive this man?” the officer continued.  Although this caught me off guard, I quickly realized that if I did not answer yes, the situation would become complicated.  I also was aware of the overtones of the situation: a young African driver strikes an American pedestrian.  Gathering myself, I answered yes, twice at the insistence of the officer. 

The motorcyclist, surely relieved, drove off with his passenger and I stopped to reach into my backpack for ibu-profen and water that I carry for emergencies.  I tested my leg.  Sore but able to walk, I went off to work, more aware than before about the dangers lurking along Entebbe Road.

Of course, the situation is more hazardous for children and women,  In my next post, I'll look more generally about the safety of pedestrians in East Africa.




Thursday, September 6, 2012

SAVING LAKE KATWE


A view of Lake Katwe with salt pans in the near shore.
Lake Katwe a unique ecosystem in Busongora, Western Region, Uganda near Lake Edward and the Queen Elizabeth National Park is endangered. The Lake, 3.5 square KM, is in a volcanic region in a bowl with no drainage.  Due to the percolating water that seeps into the volcanic rocks,  its water, over millennia, has become extremely salty with an estimated salt content of 13.5%.  

Salt pans on Lake Katwe
Since the 18th century, local residents have constructed “salt pans” to evaporate the trapped water and extract black salt that is sold for human consumption, animal feeds, and industrial purposes.  This activity that has shrunk the surface of Lake Katwe from 3.5 to 2.5 square kilometers has degraded the aquatic life of the Lake as well as severely damaging the shore line.  Moreover, livestock grazing during this same period has destroyed much of the vegetation on Katwe’s steep banks resulting in erosion that deposited silt into the water further compromising the Lake’s ecosystem. 

In November, 2011, NAPE began a project to restore the Lake’s environment by working with local political leaders and community members. The plan approved by the Katwe-Kabatoro Town Council, has five elements:
1)      Involve local community members and local leaders to create a plan to restore the lake and to carry out this plan including providing the necessary labor.
2)      Plant indigenous trees and shrubs on the steep banks of the Lake.
3)      Halt erosion and restore the natural balance of the land by restoring trees and shrubs.
4)      Restrict the grazing of animals on the lake banks.
5)    Restrict the number of Salt Ponds by working with community leadership, district and town government.


The long term goal is to preserve Lake Katwe while creating a sustainable salt industry. Without these efforts, environmentalists believe the Lake will be destroyed along with salt  production.
Planting Euphorbia on the banks of Lake Katwe


While difficulties remain, the first three steps of the plan are now being implemented.  When I visited a few weeks ago, I observed 10 local residents planting indigenous trees  Euphorbia tirucalli  (finger Euphorbia)  on the western slopes of the lake.  This involved cutting small branches from existing trees, digging trenches perpendicular to the slope, placing the branches in the trenches and covering the base of the branches with dirt. The rains that will arrive in October will, it is expected, initiate growth of these plantings. 

In Uganda, a developing country, the efforts to save an environmental landmark, Lake Katwe should  be admired.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TROUBLE IN PARADISE AS OIL PALM REPLACES OLD GROWTH FORESTS


Oil Palm Plantation on Kalangala Island bordering on Lake Victoria

I recently returned from a visit to Kalangala on Bugula Island, the largest of the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria, where I witnessed  the negative social and environmental effects of oil palm production.  The oil palm is a tree that produces a cluster of fruit that can be pressed to produce oil used for cooking.  Some years ago the Ugandan government entered into an agreement with BIDCO oil refineries to develop oil palm plantations on the island as well as other locations in Uganda. After talking to individuals on the island, I have come to understand that the Ugandan government transferred large tracts it controlled to BIDCO as an economic development measure sweetening the deal by giving the company a fifteen year tax break.

In Indonesia oil palm monoculture has been criticized by environmental groups because of the destruction of the native forests threatening the endangered orangutan.  Something similar is happening in Kalangala with one third of the island now covered with oil palm plantations.  Great tracks of native forests have been destroyed threatening the traditional way of life of islanders who used the forests for wood for cooking, housing and boat building. Charges of “land grabbing” have also been made as islanders have lost land that was used for generations.  Moreover, the use of fertilizer and herbicides on the oil palm plantations results in runoff to neighboring land as well as into Lake Victoria.

Finally, while on the island, I had a chance to meet and talk with some of the workers who spray herbicides to control vegetation and trees that would overwhelm the oil palms.  These young workers, recruited from around Uganda with promises of good jobs, told me:
  • They earn 3000 shillings per day, about $1.20.
  • They are expected to work every day with no time off.
  • They work without protective clothing with only boots and paper dust masks.
  • They live crowded together in company housing sleeping on the floor without mattresses, packed together like sardines.
  • Because food provided by the company and sundries from the company store are deducted, their net pay is between zero and 40,000 shillings per month, the latter being $16.00 in US currency.
Interviewing oil palm workers who spray herbicides to control vegetation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

THE GREAT RECESSION: WHAT NOW IS THE VALUE OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION?


New data on how people with and without college degrees have fared in  the Great Recession has just been published by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.  The news for those with a high school education or less is grim while those with advanced degrees or bachelors degrees have fared better.  Let's look at the data and graphs - all from the Center's Report Weathering the Economic Storm.

The first graph shows job loss during the recession and now during the slow recovery. Net job loss  for people with bachelors degrees or better was small during the recession and the recovery has added some two million jobs in this category.  Associate degree or some college lost jobs during the recession but have gained all back in the last two years.  However, high school or less jobs were reduced by 5.6 Million without any growth in the recovery.





Next let's at change in employment over a longer period of time from Jan 1989 to February 2012.  Job growth among the most educated is strong, that of those with some college comes next and those with a high school education or less show a net loss of jobs.





So the graphs show that the benefit of a college education continued during the Great Recession and difficult recovery that we are now in. So the reason for soaring college enrollment is clear - the opportunity for a good job in this time of high unemployment.



CELL PHONES IN UGANDA


Cell phone usage is common here as one can tell on every Kampala street and country lane.  This is confirmed by the recent survey by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics mentioned in the post below and reported in the Daily Monitor.  The survey found household cell phone usage at 87% for urban Ugandans and 53% of those living in rural areas.  These numbers are eye-popping when contrasted with electricity use which is 53% among urban households, just 5% among rural ones.  And note that the great majority of people in Uganda - 80% - live in the countryside.

My cell phone that I use in Uganda purchased new for $30.00.  It is not a smart phone but it handles texts and has an alarm.  Very reliable and handy.
"Send money across all (phone) networks" this booth says.
 In this developing country, cell phones have come to play an important role and not just for making calls.  The country, I was surprised to learn, uses cell phones in novel ways.  For example, individuals area able and frequently do send money via cell phones.  Here is how it works.  The cell phone companies have small offices virtually everywhere.  At one of these offices an individual deposits the money to be transferred along with a small fee. A message is sent to the cell phone of the person who is receiving the funds who then goes to her nearest cell phone office to collect the cash.  Since Uganda operates as a cash economy without bank checks and credit cards, transferring money this way fills an important role.  Moreover, cell phones are now being used a Ugandan to pay bills for electricity, phones and other services.  So the cell phone companies are beginning to act like banks allowing individuals to transfer money and pay bills.



Sign advertising "pay your electric bill" by phone.
There is something else about the way cell phones work here that is quite different from the U.S. First, one buys a cell phone and then buys airtime.  This is done primarily through cards that cost from 1000 Uganda Shillings (25 cents) to 10,000 Shillings ($2.50) or more. One loads this airtime by entering a coded numbers on the card into the phone.  Because the cell phone companies have small entrepreneurs selling cards virtually everywhere, these cards are easy to find.

Economic development happens in an organic and mostly unplanned way.  In Uganda and other developing countries, the wired infra-structure for phones has been largely skipped as the country has moved rapidly to cell phones avoiding LAN lines.  I was surprised how Uganda has adopted telecommunications technology.  Their creativity is something to admire.


Friday, August 24, 2012

POVERTY AND WEALTH IN UGANDA



Street scene downtown Kampala.  The booth in the center allows people to send money to others using cell phones. 

A new study shows an increasing gap in poverty between rural and urban Ugandans according to the country’s leading newspaper, the Monitor

According to the report, 20% of urban Ugandans while only 2% do in rural areas; 4% of those living in the city have a car while less than 1% of those living in rural areas do;  the numbers for bicycles are reversed: 20% of households in urban areas own a bicycle, 41% of rural households.  These figures must also be considered in context as over 80% of Ugandans live in the countryside but the cities are growing quickly because of the perceived opportunity there.

Rural women near Kitchwamba, Bushenyi District, western Uganda

The report underscores the inequality of wealth in Uganda, a country with a very uneven distribution of family income.  According to the World Bank, Uganda’s GINI Index, a measure of income inequality was 44 in 2009 rivaling that of the United States.  (The higher the Gini Index, the more inequality). To get a sense of what this means, the poorest 10% of Ugandans had received just 2.3% of all income while the top 10% received over 36% of all income.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates the U.S. Gini Index to be 49 in 2009, the highest among all developed countries worldwide.  Again, a look at who gets what is instructive: in the U.S.: the top 10% of earners have an average $87,257 after taxes while those in the bottom 10% have incomes of $5,819 according to an October 21, 2008 report of the respected British magazine the Economist

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is the National Association of Professional Environmentalists – Uganda?

NAPE Offices in Kampala, Uganda.  The organization also has various grassroots projects throughout the country.
National Association of Professional Environmentalists (Uganda) where I am volunteering has the mission of “lobbying and advocating for the sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of all (Ugandans).”  The organization referred to by its initials NAPE – pronounced nahpay – has worked heroically for 15 years to improve the quality of drinking water, preserve forests, represent communities displaced by large dams, fight climate change, and protect major lakes and lands from degradation from oil exploration.

More information about some of NAPE’s current work can be found on at the NAPE BLOG or NAPE WEBSITE.

NAPE staff are smart, committed and realistic.  As they explain, “We monitor government actions, conduct research, provide educational materials, develop science-based strategies, organize affected communities, make common cause with other civil society organisations and international organisations, and engage government officials at all levels. It is an ambitious undertaking, but as lifelong Ugandans we cannot ignore what is happening to our precious homeland. While we stand ready to work with anyone committed to the public interest, we also will not allow powerful political or special interests to intimidate or silence us. We have done so since our founding in 1997.”

In future postings I’ll explore some of the specific projects that NAPE is now engaged.




CORRECTION: QUIZ ABOUT UGANDA

Ant Hill in Devon, Great Brittain. © Copyright Brian Henley and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.
Dear Readers, astute person who sent me a response noted, the picture referred to in question 13 of the posting below of July 12, TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT UGANDA, is actually a termite hill, not an ant hill.  My apologies and for those of you who answered termite hill, please add one to your score.
Sincerely,
Ira

Monday, August 6, 2012

WALKING MPANGA FOREST


Mpanga Forest (A above) aerial view.  Note loss of forest habitat (dark green) in surrounding area.

Mpanga Forest in Mpigi, about 45 KM (25 miles) southwest of Kampala, Uganda.  Mpanga Forest is an approximately 450 hectare (1100 acre) preserve that hosts many species of butterflies, birds and monkeys. But most impressive are the trees, tall, stately, creating a rain forest canopy high above the ground.
A large fig tree in Mpanga Forest with the Author for comparison.
Unfortunately, we saw few tracts of forest on our way to Mpanga, not surprising given the rate of deforestation in Africa.  According to Wikipedia, Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate, according to the United Nations Environment Programme:   Of course, Africa is not alone this is a worldwide trend and problem, one that worsens global warming by eliminating trees that soak up carbon dioxide.  Again, citing Wikipedia, “About half of the world original forests had disappeared by 2011, the majority during the last 50 years. "Since 1990 half of the rain forests have disappeared.”

Thinking about the loss of forests as we hiked through Mpanga Forest, the lyrics from Big Yellow Taxi by Joanie Mitchell came back to me:

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Then they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot













Friday, August 3, 2012

LEARNING LUGANDA

While English is the official language, Ugandans as small children first learn to speak one of more than forty native tongues that fall into four families: Bantu, Nilotic, Central Sudanic, Kuliak. Among the four, more people speak a variety of Bantu and the Luganda language is the largest within the Bantu group.  Moreover, Luganda is the dominant language in central Uganda where Kampala, the capital is located and where I am stationed as a volunteer.

Although educated people speak English, Luganda is the language one hears on the streets, in taxis, in restaurants - that the ordinary speech of people.  Here television station programs are in either English or Luganda and there is a healthy English and Luganda press.

All that I might ever want to know about Luganda, and then some.

So, upon arriving I decided to try to learn Luganda, at least enough to order dinner, ask directions and shop.  This has been a more difficult task than I thought as both the vocabulary and word structure are quite different than English and European languages.  For example, there are at least eight noun classes in Luganda, each with its own rules for forming plurals and adjectival agreement.  Furthermore, while in English we tend to add suffixes such as making the plural or regular nouns when we add s, in Luganda one adds at the front of the noun to make plurals and for other reasons.

A good example of all this is from class one nouns which designate people (although not all people are in class one).  Using the root for person, ntu, one creates the singular by adding omu getting omuntu, person; using the plural prefix, aba, one gets abantu, people.  Similarly the root for girl is wala yielding omuwala, girl, and abawala, girls.  According to my teacher, other noun classes use different prefixes, making my head spin.

There are many other complications that make learning Luganda difficult but not impossible.  But the little I have mastered has gotten a smile from some locals and respect on a bus ride recently when I was able to state where I was going and ask the bus to stop when I arrived. 


And I leave with this simple exchange: question: Obulamu? (How’s life) Answer: Bulungi (fine).