News Report December 2014
News Report December 2014: Girl power in Ghana’s schools – Swiss children used as slave labour – Mushrooms are the business for Burmese migrant – Minecraft player builds virtual city
Girl power in Ghana’s schools – Swiss children used as slave labour – Mushrooms are the business for Burmese migrant – Minecraft player builds virtual city
For young people in Ghana, in West Africa, it’s not easy to learn the necessary skills for work and life. The school system has many problems: the quality of teaching is variable, and sometimes teachers don’t come to work at all.
It’s particularly difficult for Ghanaian girls to get a good education. Normally, they’re expected to leave school when they are young, and get married.
A new education project, called Making Ghanaian Girls Great, is trying to improve girls’ education, by offering extra lessons in English and maths.
The project provides lessons on television, from a studio in Accra. Teachers in the studio can talk to pupils in their classrooms, and the project also offers after-school lessons – called Wonder Women lessons – designed to increase girls’ confidence. In these lessons, girls can ask questions about health, education or careers – _and they can also talk to role models.
The project was launched by Nana Ogyedon Tsetsewah, a local leader in central Ghana. Nana says that young people in Ghana are frustrated, and they don’t want to work as farmers any more.
Head teacher Vanderwell Augustt Gordor welcomes the extra lessons. It’s a much more active style of learning, he says, and the pupils like joining in.
Ghana has invested in education, in order to increase national income. “Education is the key to development,” said Anthony Klopka, a local politician. But until now, he says, girls’ education has not received enough attention.
Because of projects like Making Ghanaian Girls Great, perhaps this situation is starting to change.
Swiss children used as slave labour
Starting in the 1850s, hundreds of thousands of Swiss children were taken from their parents and sent to farms to work. Now, thousands of people in Switzerland, who were forced into child labour, are demanding compensation for their stolen childhoods.
When children became orphans, when parents were unmarried, or when families were very poor, sometimes the children were taken from their families and placed in foster families. The children were often sent to farms, as agriculture in Switzerland was not mechanized, and so child labour was needed. They were called ‘contract children’.
“They wanted to take these children out of the poor family and put them somewhere else where they could learn how to work,” says historian Loretta Seglias. If the children’s parents objected, they could be sent to prison too.
The use of contract children declined in the 1960s and 70s.
Last year an official apology was made to contract children – and now, campaigner Guido Fluri is trying to get them compensation.
He hopes for about 500 million Swiss Francs (£327m) for the 10,000 contract children estimated to be alive today. However, there could still be many more years of discussion in the Swiss parliament before this becomes a reality.
But Fluri says it is important to remember these “people who suffered for decades.”
Mushrooms are the business for Burmese migrant
Every day, Than Wai Aung sprays water on hundreds of plastic bags, which are filled with wood. Mushrooms grow on the damp wood, and every two or three days Than collects several kilos of mushrooms to sell.
Than is from Yangon (also called Rangoon), in Myanmar, but he has lived in Thailand for nearly 20 years. He is 45 years old now, and has three children.
“There was nothing for me in Myanmar, no opportunities,” he says.
First he came to live near Ratchaburi, a town in western Thailand. He worked on building sites, and then he had the idea for his business.
“We used to buy mushrooms to use in our cooking,” he remembers, “and I thought, ‘Why not grow them?’”
Learning to grow the mushrooms was difficult. And when he sold his mushrooms in his local area, the price was very low. But he did not give up. Instead, he decided to move to Bangkok.
Thailand’s economy started to grow rapidly in the 1980s. Since then, millions of people have come to Thailand from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and other countries, to find jobs. Life is difficult for these migrant workers, and success stories are very rare. But Than is doing well in Bangkok. He grows his mushrooms in sheds, he delivers them to his customers on his motorbike, and he earns between $16 and $32 per day.
And he is still ambitious. “I want to be rich,” he says. “Rich enough to buy a car!”
Minecraft player builds virtual city
A 19-year-old student from Delaware, called Duncan Parcells, has just spent two years building a virtual city in the online game Minecraft. He has named it Titan City.
Minecraft is set in a virtual world made of cubes of different materials. Players must use the cubes to build shelters, and also to make weapons to fight the game’s many monsters.
Titan City is made of 4.5 million cubes, and it contains 96 buildings. Mr Parcells says it has taken him two years to build, working up to five hours a week on the project.
Titan City includes a virtual version of the World Trade Center, in New York, which took 18 months to complete.
Mr Parcells plans to add an airport and a sports stadium.
“A lot of people drop by and want to walk around and explore or help,” he says. “A lot of them help with roads.”
While Titan City has received a warm welcome online, Mr Parcells has not told many people about it yet – except his parents, of course.
“My parents think it’s cool,” he said. “I think they’re just glad I don’t play it too much.”