Africa needs our help

With the perpetually growing Uganda Project and events such as Displace Me, Ames High students may have more exposure to the problems of Africa than most teenagers. However, there is still extensive ignorance regarding the continent’s development. This ignorance (tragically, some of it is simply indifference) mirrors the collective attitude of America toward a continent that has been historically exploited for its resources and its inhabitants’ labor. However, The WEB realizes that Ames High (as well as the greater community of Ames) has the compassion and resources to become a leading force in the campaign to raise awareness about Africa. Ames High students are likely most familiar with Sudan, which has received some (albeit inadequate) media attention due to the horrific events occurring in its Western Darfur region. At least 400,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million civilians have been displaced, most of them forced to live in makeshift refugee camps on the border of Sudan and Chad. The crisis is the terrible spawning of a conflict between the rebel Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, and government forces, including the government-backed Janjaweed militia. The Janjaweed have targeted civilians in their effort to quiet rebellion, which has deteriorated into genocide. U.N. Envoy Khaled Hosseini visited the refugee camps, and his reports from survivors bring the conflict to tragic, sickening life: “Three children were running in a line. The five-year-old fell down and was shot dead. One of the boys stopped and told the attacker, ‘you killed this child, please let me go.’ The attackers said, ‘If I let you go you will grow up. I will not let you go.’ Then he shot the boy. A woman had a four-year old baby and it was pulled from her and shot dead in front of her.” As human beings, and as citizens, The WEB reminds Ames High students to never become desensitized to such events, and to not let disgust be the extent of your reaction. The role of young people is vital, largely because of Federal inaction towards the Sudan, and Africa as a whole. According to the U.S State Department, our government provides roughly “1.3 billion to fund humanitarian, reconstruction, and peacekeeping needs in both Darfur and other regions in Sudan” per year. This is part of the annual $13 billion spent on humanitarian foreign aid. While one could argue that this is better than nothing, it becomes offensive when compared to the annual Pentagon budget: $463 billion, not including the upwards of $100 billion being spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is over 43 times more than is spent by the government on aid. It’s also crucial for students to have a basic understanding of how events like the genocide in Sudan are allowed to take place. The simplest answer is government instability, which has its roots in the epidemic of late 19th and early 20th century imperialism. The effects of this instability are, however, disturbingly far-reaching. The Ames-Uganda project illustrates a unique opportunity that Ames students have had to mend one of these effects: educational disparity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 13% of women are able to read and write. The Tororo Parent’s Girl’s School, built from 2004-2006, currently educates 100-plus girls. Some of them are orphans who reside there and would have no home without the school. Given that women’s education was long a taboo in conservative Ugandan society, the school’s growth has been astounding. As beneficial as such projects are, Ames High has a long way to go before we can become truly progressive in our action for justice in Africa. However, there are numerous places to start. At and one can find local groups, donate money, and write letters to representatives about those who are truly in need. Perhaps most important is our obligation to care, and the realization that we, as a school, must constructively use our compassion.