Posted tagged ‘literary’

A ‘WRETCHED OF THE EARTH’ SURMOUNTS HUNGER & POVERTY

November 25, 2011

A ‘WRETCHED OF THE EARTH’ SURMOUNTS HUNGER & POVERTY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The narratives from poor communities in developing countries about folks thriving on a mere once-a-day meal is classic story of the ‘wretched of the earth’. Getting to know them closely through participant observation could make one feel what a living hovel is which, in esse, far outweighs the subjects of Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth.

In UN development parlance, such folks are concrete cases of those families earning below US $2 per day. The UN’s member countries were thus challenged to accelerate their poverty alleviation agenda so as to half the quantities of warm bodies falling within the ‘wretched’ criterion.

Below is an example of a human interest narrative coming from Asia that fits into the MDG success story.

[Philippines, 19 November 2011]

Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/ourwork/povertyreduction/successstories/onemealadaytothree.html
From one meal a day to three
Asea Begum inside her home grocery store in Mymensingh district, northern Bangladesh. (Photo: UNDP)
Inside Asea Begum’s home, shelves teem with jars containing pulses, grains, spices and dried biscuits. A little girl runs in with a small plastic bottle that Begum fills with cooking oil in exchange for a few coins.
Asea Begum runs a small grocery store out of her one-room house in the Mymensingh district of northern Bangladesh. The store is a primary source of income for Begum, and allows her to provide for her family.
Highlights
• UNDP’s UPPR initiative has improved living standards for more than 2.3 million people in Bangladesh.
• UPPR has provided Slums in Bangladesh with 12,370 latrines, 2,122 tube wells, 46 kilometers of drains and 128 kilometers of footpaths.
• More than 90 per cent of all posts in the UPPR initiative’s community-led committees are held by women.
Not long ago, however, Begum and her family ate just one meal a day, consisting of plain rice and a few pieces of chili. Her children were always hungry and her husband, who pulls a rickshaw all day, was continually exhausted.
All this changed when Begum received a loan of 6,000 Bangladeshi Taka (about US$85) from her local community development committee. The loan allowed her to start a small grocery business and thereby signicantly increase her income.
After repaying the loan, she also borrowed cash to buy goats, which she raises and sells in front of her house. Her monthly income is now about US$15, after expenses, and she has become a member of her local community development committee.
These committees, made up of women like Begum, are the core of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) US$120m Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR) initiative.
UPPR, which began in 2008 and will run until 2015, is implemented by various governmental and non-governmental partners and UN agencies. It currently has 100 government staff and 400 mostly national UNDP staff.
The project is the largest of its kind in Bangladesh and one of the largest in the world. Its goal is to reduce urban poverty in the country and improve the livelihoods and living conditions of Bangladesh’s three million urban poor and extremely poor people, especially women and girls.
“Poverty reduction initiatives have the best effects when they target women,” explains programme manager Richard Geier, “because [women] are the most affected, under-employed, and they are the ones caring for children.”
UPPR’s committees provide the necessary support for members to embark on income-generating activities and obtain eco-friendly job skills training. They also assess the community’s needs in order to develop action plans for providing needed services, such as health facilities and legal assistance.
“We are mobilising community members, integrating them into community organisations, and this helps them become empowered to address their needs,” says Geier. “They used to be isolated, but now they know they can seek help.”
By the end of 2009, Bangladesh had more than 1,200 committees, consisting of 1.7 million people from 23 towns and cities.
The committees, which also encourage members to form savings and credit groups, are highly effective in promoting the kind of development local people want and need.
As a result of the committees’ work, the slums covered by the UPPR initiative now have 12,370 more latrines, 2,122 more tube wells, 46 more kilometres of drains and 128 more kilometres of footpaths.
The UPPR initiative’s strategy also includes policy advocacy, which helps to develop policies that support the poor and implement them at national and local government levels.
It’s a strategy that seems to be working so far.
By selling groceries and rearing goats, Begum has been able to replace her house’s flimsy bamboo walls with sturdier material and her family now eats three meals a day including vegetables and fish. Best of all, through her local community development committee she has a cadre of other women on whom she can rely for support.
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UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES IS NO. 34 IN WORLD’S BEST UNIVERSITIES IN ENGLISH

July 12, 2011

UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES IS NO. 34 IN WORLD’S BEST UNIVERSITIES IN ENGLISH

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from the Pearl of the Orient!

The University of the Philippines or UP, my country’s national university and among the esteemed world universities in ASEAN, recently landed at No. 34 rank among the world’s top universities in terms of English instruction, besting many world universities in the West and Asia. This is a gladdening news not only for my country and ASEAN, the news likewise glows my heart to euphoria as I am a sanguine alumnus of the noble UP.

Please note that UP’s English instruction goes further than instruction, as many of its professors and alumni dominate the prestigious literary and scientific writing awards in the country, such as the Palanca award. The UP is also home to professors who are holders of the very prestigious National Artist, National Scientist, and Ramon Magsaysay Awards.

UP’s professors, in other words, are active creators of ideas and ‘best practices’, a legacy that they have passed on to their students. Since the late 1990s, 1/7 of all the country’s patents and copyrights in any given year are those registered by professors, researchers and experts of the University of the Philippines.

Such a high level of instruction, creation, and practices by UP’s professors, who stand out in articulation and philosophic discourse, is a legacy of the American professors of colonial-era history. UP’s first professors were largely Ivy League alumni, seconded by alumni of top state universities in the USA. They were among the first professional volunteers to render immense service of enabling Filipino minds to meet the challenges of the modern world.

UP was envisioned, since the time of the Filipino revolutionary government of Aguinaldo yet, as the premier university that will train tomorrow’s leaders for the country. The American educators took off from that vision, as they were the ones mandated to chart the destiny of the university and provide it with the foundational professors.

The same professors brought along with them AngloSaxon philosophy, culture, and language. The AngloSaxon tradition had stayed with UP ever since, which begins with the perfection of English articulation (oral & writ), mastery of AngloSaxon philosophy (empiricism, positivism, pragmatism, analytic philosophy), critical thinking, debating method & style, and conversational savvy for high culture (legacy of Victorian culture).

UP’s language articulation belongs to the ‘school of Elegance’. The same American professors ensured that discursive elegance will endure, and they succeeded in their noble tasks. Till these days, amid the greater stress for social responsibility in UP, a trend that began in the ‘60s yet with the rise of campus radicalism, which could have shifted articulation to the ‘schoof of Simplicity’, elegance had persisted.

Having been in UP for a long time as student (bachelor’s to graduate school) and faculty (social sciences), I can share endless testimonials to the discursive rigor that one has to pass through in my alma mater. One has to learn elegance first of all and employ the same elegance in practice, with preponderance for your profession’s argot while in the company of professional peers.

Simplicity in articulation comes as you face a broader audience among social clientele, such as the marginal sectors and layman. Sure, learn to talk and write with simplicity as you’d face broader audiences and readers after leaving the UP’s august halls. But first of all, learn to be elegant.

And don’t forget, discourse with depth, be as recondite as the philosophical thinkers that shaped your mental bank and professors that mentored you. Perfect your English, be elegant, be philosophically recondite, and you’ll end up being well cultured and highly-bred.

Passing through UP’s language training is akin to entering an eye of a needle. It is truly tough, yet very psychically rewarding. At least the former dictator Marcos, whose English and philosophical sophistication are as polished as Berkeley’s or Hume’s, won’t scoff at your simpleton-sounding language if you happen to be an activist who wished imperialism and tyranny away, thus earning you astronomical insults from UP’s alumni stalwarts.

By the way, the Ateneo De Manila University, another world university and the country’s best private university, landed at No. 35. De La Salle University, an international-class institution, landed at No. 51. UP, Ateneo and De La Salle form a consortium, and they comprise a triune of universities whose alumni are a class in their own, class sui generis.

Big kudos to the UP, Ateneo, and La Salle for the triumph in the AngloSaxon language!

[Philippines, 12 July 2011]
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