I’m all for Making Poverty History. I think it’d be a marvellous thing if every able person had a job, every child the opportunity of education, every mother antenatal care, every elderly person state aid. I think it’s the least they deserve. I believe that education is the first step towards Africa battling forth out of the mire that holds her back economically and politically.
Gordon Brown thinks so too. In a speech delivered yesterday he said:
Also we have just to build in Africa, so just as we stood side by side with Nelson Mandela to defeat apartheid, I now join Nelson Mandela in asking you to be part of the Education for All Campaign so that the day will dawn soon when 80 million children who do not go to school today because there are no schools for them to go to, will have the basic human right of education. Like people here, I have been in Africa. I have met children who, if given the chance, could be the next Mandela, or the doctor who saves lives, or a teacher who inspires children or a public service worker who cares for people in need. Let us by raising international development aid and by mobilising the world’s resources work together not only to eradicate illiteracy in the coming decade but use the medical knowledge and science that we have to eradicate the killer diseases.
Good for you, Mr Brown; Here Here!
The thing is when you – or Bono – come to Africa you only get shown the bits that the Suits who are driving you around in shiny new Toyota Landcruisers want you to see.
I doubt you’ve ever been to places like this – where I live, the Outpost – which is so far off the beaten track that for some months of the year it’s inaccessible by road because there is no allowance in the national budget (much of which has been spent on a splendid new office block in the middle of nowhere) to maintain the 60 miles of dirt that take you to it (the Suits certainly aren’t going to subject their gleaming calvacade to the dust and potholes, or themselves to such a tedious trek). And the Outpost is one of dozens like it in Africa. Dark corners you never see for they are not deemed important on any political agenda.
Yet they are still home to thousands.
Thousands of children who want to go to school if only their parents could afford it. Thousands of children whose parents dare not complain when all their children seem to be doing at school is cultivating the headmaster’s fields ahead of the Rains. Thousands of children who’ve never heard of you or your aspirations to Make Poverty History.
Yesterday, in the market, I saw a man eating a papaya like an animal. Greedily scooping out the flesh with hungry gulps, the soft orange pulp was smeared all over his face. The crowds ignored him, giving a politely wide berth as they passed.
Hat noticed him though.
Look at that man, Mum, he must be so hungry to eat his pawpaw like that. And why is he wearing a dress?
Because he’s mad, my darling. Because he’s mad and there’s nobody to care for him and feed him and remind him that because he’s a man he may get laughed at less if he went out in a pair of shorts and not a brown mini dress.
That, Mr Brown, is the Africa you need to see. Because it counts as much as the rest of the continent.
Even if its a long way off the beaten track. Because it might drive home the reality and the enormity of Africa’s problems. Many of which are hidden from the World for they are simply too ugly to behold.