I went dancing last night. At the club, three hit songs by R. Kelly came on, I sat down through them all. At one point my friends danced and laughed gleefully at `stepping in the name of love’, but I insisted on sitting down through it and implored then to sit out the song with me.
Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly in the entertainment world is recognized and celebrated as a music (R and B) icon with major hit songs, platinum records and music awards, but his interaction with younger-aged women has trailed his success. R. Kelly is presently accused of child sexual abuse. According to BlackDoctor.org Kelly is accused of; `holding underage girls hostage in a sex ring. He’s been accused of doing a lot of things with underage girls. And no matter how you feel about R. Kelly, he seems to surround himself with young women. Why is that?’
Kelly has pled not guilty. But I have chosen to wait until the findings are concluded. I have chosen to ere on the side of caution on this one. The issue of child sexual abuse is not a dancing matter. There is nothing to `step in the name of love’ about when it comes to child sexual assault, molestation, abuse and rape. I know because I was sexually molested from the age of 7 to 9 by neighbors and friends of the family in Nigeria. I was molested in three cities that my father was transferred to as a government ministry of finance employee.
The frequency in which this happened to me, including the diverse location with different perpetrators leaves me with the strong belief that child sexual abuse and pedophilia is rampant, under reported and consequently unaddressed in Nigeria. Almost all children sexually assaulted do not disclose this experience even when they become adults. There is a stigma attached to grown women or men speaking up about child sexual abuse in Nigeria, talk less of child victims of sexual abuse and misconduct. Child sexual abuse, assault and molestation is not more prevalent in Nigeria, but in Nigeria like most of the rest of Africa the rate of disclosure is very low. The silence shrouding child molestation across Africa perpetuates it. Many of the child victims are not clear if and how to let adults know that it is happening. The perpetrators usually threatening or motivate the kids not to yell. Parents must be proactive in raising awareness in children around their sexual boundaries. In being reactive, the damage might already be done.
It took me 20 years after my abuse to start working on healing myself. Many in Nigeria including close friends in Nigeria always told me it was wallowing in self sabotage to believe that child sexual molestation, rape and abuse could have an impact on us in adulthood. Many who protested strongly when I brought up issues around the prevalence in Nigeria and the under reporting of this issue were so uncomfortable and quick to dismiss it leaving me to believe many were victims of child sexual abuse. The encouragement I got to pursue recovery came from my friends from the West.
Many Nigerians I have spoken to dismiss the possible impact on their adult life. There were no resources in Nigeria that empowered young parents to seek help for their children if sexually abused. There was no space to talk about this experience.
In one incidence of my sexual abuse, my father almost killed the perpetrator; he was mad, and the neighbors were all mad with the perpetrator, he was almost lynched. I was 7 years and taken to the hospital where I was tested to ensure my virginity was intact and once it was confirmed my hymen was in place, I was ignored.
To my family, friends and committee my case was not as bad as I still hard my hymen (virginity) intact. To them, I was not a `damaged’ good. In my heavily traditional world, I was still of high value to future suitors as my virginity was intact. I lived with and managed this traumatizing experience for two decades and sought help myself for me. I emerged out of this abuse a winner because I sought help. I sought help when I moved to Canada. It was my friends from the West that helped me understand that I cannot internalize the impact of this abuse in shame and stigma as it was not my fault. My Nigerian friends believe you hide it, don’t talk about it and move on.
I sought help because I understood it was not my fault: I moved from victim to survivor to winner, I am committed to helping other victims emerge winners and whole from child sexual abuse.
In the series of sexual molestation, I suffered from age 6 to 9, I did not speak out because I did not know if it was right or wrong. Nobody told me it was wrong: when I became parent two decades later, I told my son it was wrong. From the age of three, I started explaining to him that his ‘P’ as we called it was his and he must not allow any man or woman to touch it, use it etc. I told him too, that he must not do likewise to any man, woman, boy or girl: any one. I have reiterated this all through the years. Now in his teenage years, I continue to update him on sexual boundaries, the lines between consensual sex amongst adults and sexual abuse, and the legal age and ways of consensual sex should be interpreted.
I don’t know if R Kelly is guilty or not, but until it is confirmed either way, I am sitting out his songs. Child sexual abuse is not a dancing and/or singing matter.
Two years ago, I accompanied a team of potential donors and international humanitarian actors to a region in the Horn of Africa affected by recurring drought. The donors were also interested in getting firsthand experience of the alarming severe acute malnutrition (SAM) that is reported to be affecting over 200,000 under-5 children.
At the one main city in the region we were taken to meet drought affected people where at least a thousand men, women and children were crowded together under the sun awaiting our arrival. After walking amongst the crowd, we were taken to the therapeutic feeding center for children affected by SAM and met three mothers and three under-5 children.
At the debriefing with the regional authorities at the end of the one-day mission, the head of the regional authorities assured us that humanitarian funding to the region was an investment that would yield positive results as the community and region at large was very peaceful. The regional head went further to provide a history of two decades of humanitarian assistance to the region that has been well implemented. Basically, the regional head made a pitch for humanitarian assistance in a context that would equally benefit and was more relevant for economic and development investment. He referred to existence of peace in the region as one of his selling point.
Pitching itself for livelihood diversification and drought prevention support would make more sense but the region had become more used to organizing missions where it promotes itself for humanitarian assistance. This region had been packaging its lack of recovery from many years of drought, its under-development and poverty as a protracted humanitarian crisis.
Reviews on the effectiveness of aid and how best to strengthen it always come from the West. Such reviews center on why and how the West should fund international humanitarian aid and assistance. Accountability for the use of these funds focus on Western-based tax payers and donors who give. Much reflection has not been done on why countries receive. Unfortunately, recipients of humanitarian aid are not the thought leaders and influencers of the sector.
In terms of volume, international humanitarian funding account for less than 3 percent of international resources flowing to largest recipients of humanitarian assistance, but the source of generating this estimated 3 per cent is the most visible including deafening and subsuming other narratives; economic potentials and achievement and development needs. This is done through Western-based and led charity fundraising drives, appeals and activities.
From 1999 to 2004, 41 countries were the subject of consolidated humanitarian appeals; 26 of these were from Africa, and 11 of these countries are still appealing for international humanitarian aid each year. Which countries are these?
But all is not sad news, 15 countries of these 26 countries have successfully emerged from annual humanitarian appeals today. Which are these countries? Within the same period: 1999 to 2006, Rwanda and Somalia had been appealing for consolidated funding eight times. Somali remains on the list while Rwanda has emerged from it. Why? What has made it possible for some of these countries to emerge from consolidated appeals while others have remained for decades?
Somalia has stayed the longest on joint UN international appeals; the country has been appealing for international humanitarian assistance every year since 1991. DRC and Sudan every year since 1992. Between 1999 – 2006 Uganda, Sudan, DRC, Angola, were part of the annual consolidated humanitarian appeals seven times (countries like Uganda host to huge refugee population continue to require international assistance for refugee assistance}. Uganda and Angola have since emerged from the list while Sudan and DRC have remained. Why?
Normally, Governments should be the primary responders to crises using national resources and revenues. International humanitarian aid and assistance kicks in the short term when a crisis overwhelms national capacity to respond; international humanitarian assistance is intended for life saving. To mobilize and co-ordinate international assistance for complex emergencies and natural disasters, the United Nations runs a joint `Consolidated’ appeal process to raise funds for international humanitarian assistance. UN-coordinated appeals are central to data gathering and analysis on international humanitarian aid and assistance, including monitoring trends and new practices.
Many of the countries for whom UN joint appeals have been issued are the subject of protracted emergencies and repeated appeals. From 1995 to 2018 Sudan appealed for international humanitarian assistance 25 times, with at least $US12 billion in funding for humanitarian assistance. Within the same period; 1995 to 2018, Somalia appealed for international humanitarian assistance 24 times. Somalia has been appealing for humanitarian aid since 1991 when the consolidated appeal process was established and is currently the longest running country from Africa on the list.
DRC and Sudan are the second on the list appealing for international humanitarian assistance every year since 1992. Between 1999 – 2006 Uganda, Sudan, DRC, Angola, were part of the annual consolidated humanitarian appeal seven times. Uganda and Angola have since then emerged from the list while Sudan and DRC have remained. Why?
When humanitarian assistance is ineffectively applied, it can foster dependency, robbing the ‘wrongly’ assisted of self-empowerment and fostering a mindset of dependency on external sources. This argument has been raised in numerous research and discussions on the effectiveness of aid.
But what is often not mentioned is the fact that the long-term donor -recipient relationship that underscores international humanitarian assistance undermines healthy and equal relationship between many countries in Africa and the West. Communities that have had long term humanitarian presence in addressing slow onset disasters interact with the international community by positioning themselves favorably and attractively for aid.
Long term international humanitarian footprints that create pseudo community-based economies distort the livelihood of communities where and if it is applied too long in the context of slow onset disasters. Using food aid to address the humanitarian impact of drought for too long distorts the economies of affected communities. Using humanitarian assistance for the provision of long-term basic service undermines the strengthening of national systems.
The three African countries that have been subjects of international humanitarian appeals for decades are Somalia, Sudan and DRC. We will commence with our focus on these countries Tuesdays through the coming month of March and select the next top three for the month of April.
Governments and civil society groups in recipient countries with protracted humanitarian presence should engage in robust reflections and reviews on the impact of international humanitarian appeals and funding on the economies of their countries. This should include the interaction between the narratives of international humanitarian appeals and recipient countries’ development trajectory and economic aspirations, these are interconnected.
Like millions in North America, I have been watching the Jussie Smollet saga, and frankly baffled by the media reference to the role of the two men allegedly paid by Smollett to stage the racism and homophobic ‘attack’. I cannot for the life of me understand why the media continues to refer to the alleged paid attackers as “the Nigerian brother”.
Oh yes! Maybe I know why; perhaps the reference to “the Nigerian brothers” is intended
to distance the United States from the alleged staged attack and/or scam; to shift the blame and shame a little out to Nigeria?. If there is a scam, linking in the word Nigeria perhaps is a convenient reference to sensationalize the saga even more: and they are two Nigerians “the Nigerian brothers.” There are two Nigerians; not one.
Frankly, the Jussie Smollett saga is confusing enough. The continued reference to “the Nigeria brothers”, is an unnecessary stretch and reference that is comical. Please leave Nigeria out of this.
The Government of Ethiopia has expressed strong commitment to return and resettle the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) from inter-communal conflict. So far, the government has successfully taken stands to address the root causes of conflict in the country through setting up a Ministry of Peace and Border Commission to address border related conflicts; this is commendable.
As a step to facilitating returns, the government is discouraging assistance to IDPs in camps and instead facilitation assistance in places of return. Some international humanitarian actors are not happy with this and believe IDPs should only return when they feel like it.
National authorities/governments in Africa and international humanitarian actors are constantly at loggerheads regarding the solutions to the growing IDP crisis in the continent. Governments want to resettle and return IDPs as soon as they are displaced, but international humanitarian actors often challenge this. The conditions of response are never good enough.
We must stop standing in the way of African Governments finding lasting solutions to the continents humanitarian issues. When people are displaced, any Government would want to have then resettled as soon as possible. Humanitarian partners are increasingly challenging Governments’ and national authorities’ efforts to resettle and facilitate the return of displaced people in Africa. Many national authorities working towards returns or resettlement are accused of forced returns.
Humanitarian partners believe that IDPs should be asked if they want to return or stay in IDP camps and on this basis the governments must act. Forced return is being carried out in Europe without international humanitarian actors crying out. Can you imagine that Italy, France, the US, and the UK will ask the migrants shipped off to Libya camps if they would rather stay in Italy France, the US, and the UK or sold as slaves in Libya? Camps are pull factors and can often be used by `IDPs’ to address poverty challenges. Often what these IDPs need are livelihoods, homes, recovery and development support. Not endless stay in temporary deplorable shelters.
Actions taken by African Governments for lasting solutions to humanitarian challenges in the continent, should be supported. We are here as international humanitarian actors to end humanitarian crises and dependencies and not perpetuate it. There is poverty across Africa that will be eventually addressed by economic growth and development, not by packaging rural communities and economic needs/poverty as lifesaving humanitarian needs.
Clarion Call to Africans Working in Inter-Governmental and International Organizations in Africa: A Radical Shift Needed for International Assistance to Work in Africa
In 2017 I hosted a team of Nigerians who were former colleagues while I was serving as the Head of the Humanitarian Team in Nigeria. As we sat down for dinner, I bemoaned the suffering of the tens of thousands of Nigerians who were still displaced in camps in the northeast. This issue remains close to my heart as I was part of advocating for increased humanitarian assistance in the wake of the displacement four years prior. One of the former colleague, in an arrogant and dismissive manner, announced to the dinner table that he was glad that the humanitarian crisis has persisted as this has given him a source of income. The conversation was heated from that point on and not very pleasant.
International action and development assistance effectively shifted many countries in Asia and Eastern Europe to self-determination and economic solvency. Derek Fee in How to Manage an Aid Exit Strategy noted that the Marshall Plan (officially known as the European Recovery Programme was devised in the 1940s to restore the economic and political fabric of post-war Europe.
According to Fee, the plan had many attractions compared to development and humanitarian assistance today. The plan was time-limited to last for four years, and the `administration was light and the staffing was minimal’. `The marshal plan ended in 1951 and its effectiveness can be assessed by the fact that the fastest period of growth in European history was recorded between 1948 and 1952’ Industrial production increased by 35 per cen. Agricultural production substantially surpassed pre-war levels. The poverty and starvation of immediate postwar period disappeared, and Western Europe embarked on two decades of unprecedented growth.’
But this is not and has not been the story for Africa. `The European development fund was launched in 1958 to assist the African, Caribbean and Pacific former colonies, USAID and the UK Department of Technical Assistance was founded in 1961 and Canada’s International Development agency was in 1968. Fee observes that the `enormous expansion in aid flows was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in economic growth as was the case with post-war Europe,’ says Fee.
According to the New African magazine `In many African countries, real per capita GDP has fallen, and welfare gains achieved since independence in areas like food consumption, health and education have been reversed. The statistics are disturbing. In sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, per capita incomes dropped by 21% in real terms between 1981 and 1989. Development, it seems, has failed. This has been the context in which there has been an explosive growth in the presence of Western as well as local NGOs in Africa.’
International Organizations, the UN and western NGOs have been central to the narratives and priorities regarding development assistance in Africa; for many African counties international action by the UN and NGOs has been the only game in town. Hundreds of thousands of Africans are employed in Africa within these organizations and are leading the implementing of programmes and actions that have not worked for decades.
It cannot just be about who is doing what to Africa but what we are willing to take. Half a century of international assistance not making a difference in Africa should ignite some form of radical and fundamental shift in thinking and operations. We must be bold enough to consider an overhaul if needed. It would be a shame to continue implementing the same systems and programmes knowing they have not worked for the previous 30 years.
Often when I bring this up in front of my colleagues who are Africans, I am told that there is a limit to what intergovernmental and international organizations can do. I disagree.
Today, `West Africa has the highest concentration of United Nations actors of any region of the world, including four peacekeeping operations (in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and until recently Sierra Leone), a peacebuilding office in Guinea-Bissau, a regional operation addressing the Ebola outbreak (United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER)), a Special Representative for West Africa and a Special Envoy for the Sahel, and a wide range of United Nations regional and country offices. The region also hosts the United Nations Department of Political Affairs-led regional office, the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the first of its kind, to harmonize and enhance efforts towards conflict prevention and peace consolidation within West Africa.’
In `The role of NGOs in Africa: are they a force for good?’ Published in the conversation April 25, 2017 highlights that `Non-governmental organizations have become key actors in responding to poverty and related suffering. In Africa, NGOs play a leading role in providing health care and education. In Kenya the number of NGOs grew by over 400% between 1997 and 2006. And for most observers, they seem to be well-intentioned actors who do a lot of good on the continent.’
Today, NGOs form a prominent part of the “development machine”, a vast institutional and disciplinary nexus of official agencies, practitioners, consultants, scholars, and other miscellaneous experts producing and consuming knowledge about the “developing world”. According to estimates, there are as many as 3,000 NGOs in OECD countries. In Britain alone, there are well over 100 voluntary groups claiming some specialism in the field. The articles in the Conversation concluded that the `evolution of the role of NGOs in Africa means that their role in “development” represents a continuity of the work of their precursors, the missionaries and voluntary organizations that cooperated in Europe’s colonization and control of Africa.’
Many of these development and humanitarian organizations that have not worked for Africa for decades are increasingly staffed by Africans, including many Africans holding very senior positions in these international organizations. Their ineffectiveness can no longer be blamed on the West, it is now what we accept and what we blindly implement.
Very often, I am asked to mentor young Africans interested in working in the international humanitarian or development field in Africa, I do so gladly and start by expressing why I and my generation have not done too well for Africa working in international humanitarian and development for decades with needs expanding rather than reducing.
I follow by explaining how we Africans have been gatekeepers of systems that has not worked and then I empower them with the need to be radical. We don’t need bureaucrats in these systems, Africans must apply a sense of stewardship to their roles and functions. Accolades should stop being conferred based on being African and holding senior positions within international organizations working in humanitarian and development in, on or for Africa. Accolades should be based in visible impacts.
Much more is required from us Africans. This cannot be about career advancement. We must start feeling uncomfortable with raising our families, earning big salaries on high job titles on the unresolved and unending humanitarian crises, protracted poverty and lack of development afflicting our fellow Africans.
The last Valentine Day dinner I attended was in 2009. The restaurant in Nairobi had Valentine day packages for couples and I booked a table a week before Valentine’s day. I arrived on that day with my partner: my 8-year-old son. We were seated, and you could see the confusion on the waiters faces, but with appreciation. There were couples all around us giving my son and I appreciative smiles. I think it took the pressure away from the couples who came for the Valentine Day dinner.
February 14 is increasingly becoming a day of pressure all round: pressure for couples and pressure for the uncoupled. The happiest people are the chocolate and flower sellers. But I love Valentine’s day. It is a day I appreciate family, friends, and lovers. I dictate what and how I celebrate my Valentine Day. The central theme for me is love: love for life and love of life, love for the opportunities life has given me, sometimes, there is a man in the picture and sometimes none. For me Valentine Day is not restricted to romantic love, it is more than that. For me Valentine Day is about my love of, and for life.
On February 14, wherever you are, romantically coupled or uncoupled, happy Valentine Day.
In 2014 as the increase in the number of people fleeing insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria gained international attention, a top Government official convened a meeting of head of UN agencies, donors, NGOs and Government-line Ministries leading the response.
The international actors at the meeting expressed concerns that the low figure of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) was due to over 90 percent of the displaced living with families and host communities. The international actors called for `well organized IDPs camps’ to ‘pull’ these IDPs hosted by families and communities into camps for humanitarian assistance.
The Nigerian Minister was livid at what she saw as a derogatory representation of the African extended family system: these were her words “Yes we know you are here and must package the issues in ways you understand but note that this is not a question of humanitarian and humanitarian principles, but our culture. You focus only on the single family but for us family extends as widely as possible, this has been our traditional means for disaster mitigation, resilience and recovery. We don’t want to lose it.” For her the displaced living with family and hosted by communities was not a default, `but a solution to be commended.’
Until 2013, before the northeast insurgency crisis escalated, Nigeria did not have a protracted IDP situation. People were displaced by intercommunal conflict and recurring floods, but they were sheltered short term in hostel-like camps. In 2012, a year before this meeting took place, Nigeria faced a major flood crisis that left 2.2 million people displaced. The response was led by the National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation chaired by Nigeria’s Billionaire Aliko Dangote.
The private sector led committee raised over 200 million USD to respond to the flood including facilitating the resettlement of the 2.2 million flood displaced people within three months. Members of the committee took on visits to affected states and communities to ensure affected and displaced peoples were resettled. To this day, the committee continues to lead the response for flood displaced people through the construction of `IDP’ hostels to temporarily shelter people displaced by flood, and the provision of cash to support the return and resettlement of the displaced.
As the insurgency attacks gained international attention leading to the increased presence of international actors, the call for ‘well managed” IDP camps in the northeast of Nigeria grew. The concern raised by international actors at the 2013 meeting for an increase in camps to curb displaced people living with families or community members was quite uncomfortable for Nigerians present at the meeting.
In the wake of major sudden onset disasters, displaced people cannot be absorbed within communities and families. Camps are required for sudden onset disasters with mass displacement for the short term. Perhaps the over reliance on camp sites to address IDP situations outside innovatively exploring other options is fostering an IDP crisis in many countries in Africa way after the cause of displacement has subsided.
The 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) on May 16 last year noted that internal displacement associated with conflict rose sharply in 2017. I am projecting that the figure will increase for 2018. The African extended family system is a coping mechanism and development strategy that we must not undermine and erode in our process of providing humanitarian assistance.
Alexandra Bilak of IDMC says that the persistently high number of internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide shows that `the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection is not, and never will be, enough to significantly reduce the phenomenon in the long-term.’ Bilak rightfully argues that to `truly address internal displacement, the countries most affected must be in the driving seat. The rhetoric on displacement must shift to acknowledge the full spectrum of issues it creates for individuals and for states. IDPs' rights must continue to be at the centre of our thinking, but we should also recognize that displacement is more than a humanitarian issue, and that incorporating it into national budget, poverty reduction and disaster risk planning has significant benefits.” Absolutely right.
In the provision of humanitarian assistance, we must discern the appropriate cultural practices of the affected people we can leverage to mitigate their long-term presence in temporary camps. The African extended family system is a coping mechanism and development strategy that we must not undermine and erode in our process of providing humanitarian assistance. Sometimes it is more dignified for the displaced to live with a relative than to be in IDP camps. If an IDP camp is the last resort, so be it, but it cannot be an option that eclipse and overwhelms Africa’s extended family system and communities’ care for its own.
The goal for African countries using protracted humanitarian response to address IDP situations should be to eventually get to the stage where, like Europe and North America, destitute families can go on welfare (cash response). But IDP camps cannot be a long-term solution. Having well-coordinated sites and camps for sudden onset disasters and for people fleeing conflict is a critical life-saving assistance but keeping them there without equal investment in facilitating their returns is not a humanitarian assistance.
Twenty plus years serving as a humanitarian and human rights actor and activist across Africa, North America, the UK and the Philippines, and I continue to and remain inspired by being amidst the communities that I have served and serve. I hear pain and challenges, wrapped up in hope and strength. I draw from these as I traverse my own personal journeys and challenges.
What I have learnt from spending time with communities I have served and serve through advocacy for human rights or appropriate rights-based humanitarian action is that people affected by disaster, human rights violation and conflict/insecurity, have an inner resolve to solve their problems, they alone ultimately can, what we do is to expand the action for resolution and change. Spending time with these communities have shown me again and again, that the best human beings, the optimum in our capacity as human beings, are found in places of struggles and pain. We learn the strength of the human character in these places.
Whether dancing in Isiolo Kenya or calling out to friends I’ve never met in front of my tenth in South Omo of Ethiopia where I have spent time with pastoralists or participating in Pow Wows or Smudge ceremonies in First Nations reserves in Canada, I have been fed, strengthened and inspired by the communities I have served. Thanks for the gift.
'Last week I withdrew my son from his international school. He had been complaining that all his teachers were Caucasian, and he could not understand why he would be in an international school in Africa and all his teachers would be Caucasian and the few African teachers are assistants serving the majority Caucasian educators.
My son had set up an Instagram account he activated for one hour to sensitive the school to this issue. In his words, ‘the blacks who stand for this are selling out’. The challenge here is that the few affluent Africans feel proud to have their kids in these schools and are comfortable to pay the 36,000 USD fees because such schools are predominantly staffed by Whites.
My son was calling for change, but instead the Caucasian and non-African teachers were livid. He was described as angry and needing counselling to address his anger issues. I informed the school that when they can assure me that there were more African teachers, my son will be back. Well I said this amongst other stuff I cannot print here. My son is home taking online schooling. I will protect my son from being educated within a racist system at all cost, having an international school in Africa staffed mainly by Caucasian in this day and age is an insult upon injury given Africa’s colonial history. It sends a terrible message to the African, and other non-Caucasian children in these systems.
A 2017 article in the International Educator highlights this negative trend in the continent. In the article More “American” Than America: Race in International School Leadership” writer Henry S. Adams notes that browsing through the leadership profile webpage of any overseas American school reveals an `ethnicity composite that is disproportionately Caucasian.’ This contrast he writes is especially accentuated when the school is located in an economically developing host country like what we find across Africa where the majority of the population is not Caucasian. There is no ‘research substantiating the notion that Caucasians are predisposed to make better school administrators. Yet, there seems to be a widespread perception that a predominately white leadership is somehow needed to promote and preserve a school image that is more “American” than America actually is in reality’, says Adams.
The lack of ethnic diversity in leadership raises the fundamental question of what it means for a school to be international or American. Adam believes, and I agree, that it goes beyond implementing an IB curriculum or delivering English-medium instruction. ‘Internationalism has more to do with an awareness of and respect for diversity that is deeply embedded within the culture of the school. Many schools claim to embrace core values such as global responsibility, fairness, and respect in the language of their mission statements and strategic plans.' But, ‘in addition to inspiring rhetoric, we have a moral obligation and professional responsibility to teach by example, and this includes adopting hiring practices that are aligned with the values we try to instill in our students.’
Adams nailed it for me when he concludes that it would be a misnomer for international schools to call themselves ““21st-century schools”—as many claim to be—so long as 'we are bound by antiquated belief systems and discriminatory practices from the European colonial era. Considering how much progress we have made in the 20th century in terms of empowering women with more equal rights and treatment, it is deplorable that educators of color at international and overseas American schools continue to face glass ceilings that women have already transcended in the new millennium.'
My son has attended seven international schools across four African countries in the last 11 years. All have the same pattern and issue regarding the senior educators and leadership being mainly Caucasian.
It would be a shame if Africa becomes an enclave for the rehabilitation of racism and racial segregation through international organizations and presence.
Given its colonial history, and the racial dynamics inherent in it, the critical issue must be to reflect a diverse senior leadership of educators in international schools in Africa to include nationals of the countries where these schools are. This sends a positive and empowering message to not only the African students in these schools, but the non-African students as well.
In 2009, I led a mission to assess the food insecurity situation of pastoralist in Isiolo (northeast Kenya). One of the elders refused to meet with me and asked the community members not to talk to me. He later explained that his community has been visited and assessed on the average of six times a year in the last decade, but nothing has changed. ‘We are not for show’ the translator told me he said. I have his picture here and I told him I will tell his story to reduce the form of exploitation of his community. He agreed.
I was reminded of the 2008 incident recently while participating on a mission to Ethiopia’s Somali region. As the international mission team geared to start taking pictures, decked out in their designer’s sunglasses and kakis, a woman called out covering her face in embarrassment. ‘This is not how I planned my life, but this is where I am now. I am so embarrassed to be like this. Mama (I called her mama because she reminded me of my grandmother) told me through a translator that she had lost her possessions and has been displaced for close to two and half years from the 2016-2017 El Niño drought.
She also told me that she and her displaced community members have been assessed continuously for close to three years, but her situation has not changed. I know she is right because I have participated in quite a good number of those missions with different international actors. I also asked for her permission to share her story of assessment fatigue, and she also agreed.
When disasters strike it is critical to assess the level of damage and what would be required to address the humanitarian needs, but how many of such missions are too much, and for what purpose? Over assessing the humanitarian needs of disaster or conflict affected people without response is dehumanizing, this is not a humanitarian action.
The image of the humanitarian actor in the midst of disaster and conflict affected people has become the standard way of branding potential humanitarian action and assistance. Contrary to what we Humanitarian actors think, disaster affected people in deplorable conditions are people with pride and dignity just like us. We must guide against humanitarian tourism, it is a disrespectful and undignified way to treat people already affected by disasters. Unending assessments in disaster affected communities without a response leads to assessment fatigue.