1 M.D., Ph.D.
O well, that happened "once upon a time..." and is now only a memory. A distant memory. But that performance can be replicated. Yes, and surpassed! With your support.
African Education Fund (AEF) is a 501(c)3 organization founded to promote and support education in sub-Saharan Africa independent of the effort – or lack thereof – of African governments. All too often, in this region, corrupt and inept leaders neglect education and thereby imperil the future of their people. African Education Fund seeks to compensate for and counteract the effect of this failure of leadership by attempting, to the extent possible, to fill the void left by acts of omission or commission in the sphere of education wherever such a void exists.
How do you go from this?
“Show me your schools
And I will show you your future”
-Dr. Obi Nwasokwa, Chairman, Board of Directors, AEF
At AEF we are salvaging the future of Sub-Saharan Africa one school at a time – hewing stones of hope out of mountains of despair.
“Umuntu ngumuntu Ngabantu”
“A person is a person because of other people “ (Zulu proverb)
“It takes a village to raise a child.” The gobal village
“We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”
– The Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Education is like magic; it works wonders.
“..if we give someone a seat in an educational setting, the theoretical potential for what could happen is unlimited. Maybe … just maybe… in the back of one of those classrooms, right now struggling to see his teacher, is Africa’s next Nelson Mandela or a future Bill Gates or a future Nobel Prize winning scientist. ….. that classroom miracle can happen that transforms an unreachable student into a great student and that great student could go on to do great things – for Malawi, for Africa, for the world. For all of us. Maybe. Just maybe.”
–Lawrence O’Donnell, the founder of the KIND fund and host of the MSNBC program, The Last Word. (KIND = kids in need of desks)
The restoration of the Main Classroom Building(MCB)
The Spirit of “Ubuntu”: “an inescapable web of mutuality” and an African frame of mind
The Zulus and Xhosas of South Africa call it “ubuntu”. “Ubuntu” is a frame of mind – the spirit of community that says that the individual’s welfare is bound up in the the welfare of the community. No one is an island unto himself or herself. Every one’s welfare is my business. “Ubuntu” is enlightened self interest that recognizes that one succeeds if one’s community – be it a village, a region, a country or even humanity and the world – succeeds.
According to one famous exponent of this principle, the Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “ubuntu” is “the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity” He has also expounded this concept further by saying: “Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate.
If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God’s dream.” The spirit of “ubuntu” is subsumed in another saying:
“Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu” which means “A person is a person through other people.”
US President Theodore Roosevelt was an advocate of this principle even though he didn’t call it “ubuntu”. In a 1903 address he said: “It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class’s selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country”
Perhaps the most famous statement of this frame of mind is the poem “No man is an island” by John Donne:
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; …any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it this way: “We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. That is the way the world is made.”
A story of “ubuntu”
In the late 1950’s, a visionary young Kenyan leader, still in his late 20’s, by the name of Tom Mboya, came by the idea of grooming bright young Kenyan high school graduates into a cadre of competent leaders, administrators and bureaucrats who would run the new Kenya that would emerge following independence. The plan he proposed was an airlift of promising young Kenyans for advanced studies overseas. The British colonial rulers of Kenya were very uncooperative. So he turned to America for help. Mboya came to the US to raise money from private sources. He sought the help of many individuals including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
According to the book “The Bridge” by David Remnick, “Along with his new American friends, Mboya helped found the African-American Students Foundation to increase fund-raising. And in the fall of 1959, with the support of the A.A.S.F. and dozens of American universities, the airlift began. Among the 8000 donors were black celebrities such as Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier, Mrs. Ralph Bunche and Harry Belafonte and white liberals like Cora Weiss and William X. Scheinman.”
In July 1960, to support a second airlift, Mboya sought help from a young, visionary senator from Massachusetts. His name? John Fitzgerald Kennedy. At the time he happened to be the Chairman of a US Senate subcommittee on Africa and was also running for president of the United States.
According to Remnick’s book: “Mboya approached Kennedy at the family compound in Hyannisport [Massachusetts]…….He [John Kennedy] listened to Mboya’s proposal and then gave him a hundred thousand dollars from a family foundation named for his brother Joseph who was killed in the Second World War.”
When Kennedy became president in 1961, he expanded the airlift idea to include more anglophone African countries including Nigeria. This became the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU). Many bright young Africans were able to avail themselves of this opportunity.
Back to the first airlift of 1959. According to Remnick’s book: “The airlift was a signal event in the history of Kenya as it approached independence. According to a report conducted by the University of Nairobi, seventy percent of the upper-echelon posts in the post colonial government were staffed by graduates of the airlift. Among them was the environmentalist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Another was a Luo from a village near Lake Victoria, an aspiring economist with a rich musical voice and a confident manner. His name was Barack Hussein Obama.” We now know to put the suffix “Sr.” after his name because his son and namesake is the current President of the United States.
Tom Mboya, John Kennedy, MLK and all the philanthropists mentioned here who supported the A.A.S.F were involved in humanity. They could not have imagined what would happen as a result of their involvement.
The Zulus have another saying: “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu.” which means “A person is a person because of other people.” In the Tswana language of Botswana, the same sentiment translates into: “Motho ke motho ka batho”. How true!
The Transformative role of education
“The role of a good education as an agent of positive change often exceeds what can be expected, imagined or foreseen”
— Dr. Obi Nwasokwa, Chairman, Board of Directors, AEF