Becoming vegan was not a gradual transition for me. I watched Earthlings, took a few moments to fully process the message and then made the decision not to harm animals simply because it was convenient to do so.
I am new to the vegan movement, and the first thing people tell me is that “it must be so difficult!” In truth I think the hardest part is making the decision to change – for me the rest was a process. Immediately removing your leather belt and shoes could create more difficulties depending on where you are – but changing the contents of your food cupboards is easier than most people think. Retailers cater to the demands of their shoppers – and twitter is a great place to request items not normally on the shelf. Increasingly there are smaller vendors specialising in vegan products, but my experience has been that these tend to be on the pricey side – of course you may get a more specialised service and there are other plusses to supporting a local provider (travel cost savings, bespoke ordering, value added services, etc).
Vegan sports people are also excellent examples in answer to the inevitable questions around weight loss, muscle gain or impact on performance. David Hayes, David Carter, Serena and Venus Williams to name a few. A favourite of mine is Tofu Guy who, together with his family, is a great encourager on all things vegan and fitness. These have inspired me in my vegan journey as a Running and Fitness Coach. Youtube is also a great source of advice and I would recommend Vegan Physique as an excellent and interesting source.
The best advice I received was to start small and “be driven by your convictions.” I don’t feel guilty when I accidentally eat something that contains eggs or awkward when invited to a meal and the friend confuses vegetarian with vegan…I believe the point is that I am aware of the implications of what I buy and eat and so, going forward, I am selective and intentional in choosing a vegan option. It goes without saying that where you may have any existing medical conditions you should always check with your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition intake.
Becoming vegan will encourage creative cooking and possibly even improve your culinary skills. There are hundreds of vegan sites and at least as many groups that can assist you as you explore changing to a lifestyle that asks you only to think before you eat.
Ramblings, realisations and my journey into law…
A serious interest in addressing poverty and inequality in the world led me to explore a MSc in Development. I knew I wanted a career that would really make a difference in society, that would meaningful contribute to improving people’s lives, so I thought finding a niche in development work would assist. The reality of ‘getting into development’ had not yet hit home. Despite achieving a distinction in my degree, the employment terrain required field experience and many jobs were dependent on funding. Sure one could head off to refugee camps or support projects in the developing world at one’s own expense, but that option did not lend itself to my circumstances, i.e. having a young family and mortgage. Alas, the dream job of working for an international aid organisation or charity would remain a dream. Something I aspired to but that would always be just outside of my reality. Facing this disappointing prospect brought me face to face with the truth about my reality.
The truth is that dream jobs do only exist in one’s dreams and that I have actually been doing much of what I have been dreaming about already. My passion for helping people and for fighting inequality has been realised since and before leaving high school. First as youth leader in my local community; promoting HIV awareness or talking to young people about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse; volunteering as a visitor to a senior citizen’s home for two weeks; and, much later, I became a fundraiser for charities working to promote education in Southern Africa specifically, running marathons and collecting children’s reading books and school stationary to send abroad. Using my basic social media skills I supported a school in London with their efforts to build a primary school in Senegal. My running efforts contributed to accelerating education for women in South Sudan and at one point I collected at least a hundred Oxford Maths Sets (protractor, ruler, pencils etc.) shipped to KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. A drop in the ocean, but a drop none the less and one that hopefully makes a difference in the future of at least a hundred school learners.
I have not stopped trying to make a difference. I continue to use what I have, working with the opportunities available to me and volunteering once a week to encourage good physical health by leading a beginners running group for UK Athletics during my lunch hour. But there is a niggle at the back of mind – a thought that occasionally reminds me that I am not satisfied with simply arriving at a destination or ticking a box. Marathons have taught me that one can always do more than one thinks one can. And so, I have discovered that every step I take has the potential to lead me in a direction that is aligned to my overall passion for helping people. And this, patient reader, is why I want to become a lawyer. As a final year LLB student I am more excited about the law than I have ever been. Working as a paralegal for the past three years has helped me to gain some insight into legal theory and how it applies in practice. There is much more to learn. On completing my degree my next step is to follow the CILEX Graduate route and to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive, inspired by my principal, a CILEX graduate and one of the most motivating lawyers I know (not dismissing Trevor Sterling who I also look up to). It has taken me a while, but the realisation has finally dawned on me. The journey and the adventure of learning, and every decision in between is what makes the difference. Every decision made in every moment contributes to overall success. And success is not a destination anyway. If anything it serves as an encourager, a motivator or even a nudge to your next step in the right direction. It is what one can do right now that matters, no matter how small a thing it may seem.
Good luck to you on your journey. Be strong. Intentionally seek out supporters and be courageous. Your story may encourage others.
More than 10 years of participation in the Education charity sector and a MSc in International Development has ironically brought me to a point where I am more convinced than ever, that economic and commercial development are the real drivers to alleviating poverty in developing countries. Why I believed that I could be part of a solution from within the sphere of Development Studies, is beyond my understanding, except to admit that my frustration with the sloth-like attitudes towards risk and entrepreneurship in education by the charity sector only became apparent once I began engaging with the organisations and observed their cautious approach to projects. Another admission: my comments form part of a broad brush approach and I know that there are some bold beings in the Education charity sector, but they are unique.
The beauty of blogging allows me the outlet to voice both concern and dismay, sadly this opportunity is a rare luxury to those poorly targeted by the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN more than 15 years ago. 2015 is upon us, and still the state of Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’s rural communities remains disappointing. South Africa, a leading African Country in many aspects of socio, economic and political development is not exempt from this categorisation. While I disagree in part with the conclusions made by Monde Ndandani, her paper on the challenges facing the education system in South Africa highlights the sad state of affairs in SA Education.
Moving on from the legacy of Apartheid will take longer than most South Africans expect, but progress in education has been energised by leaps in technology that allow literacy and numeracy skills to be gained from mobile devices. Despite this, progress in South Africa’s education remains slow (except of course in it’ prison population where this year the SA Correctional Services boasted a Grade 12 pass rate that was higher than the national average). Yes, my comments are now tainted with cynicism, but it’s not due to a lack of seeking to understand. I understand now, 20 years post Apartheid, that the State has done little to gain the competencies required of it to transform the livelihoods of the poor through improving education. I was appalled by the Minister of Basic Educations comment televised live in January this year when she stated that: “there are countries in Africa where children cannot even go to school” – so South Africans experiencing poor learning conditions should count themselves lucky? No, I place little hope in South Africa’s state appointed education leaders. They have failed to demonstrate meaningful progress where it matters most.
I look to business. And apparently so do the parents sending their children to private schools in South Africa, boasting 100% University Entrances (Grade 12+). Does this make me a neo-liberalist? I’m not sure. Are neo-liberalist corrupt by definition? the recent spate of comrades exposed for falsifying education qualifications leaves me confused about how corruption is understood in South African terms. Private schools are big business in South Africa today and it’s easy to understand why. Quality education is in demand, and the State is not supplying.
The failings of the South African Education Department to comprehensively support the integration of ICT in Education since it’s strategic outline for ICT and Education (DoE, 2004) have been counter-productive to the country’s growth objectives. Moreover, it has perpetuated inequality, helped to sustained poverty and encouraged a culture of nepotism and of tokenism. At its worst, such failure has fostered a criminal environment as the default option to young people facing high levels of unemployment in the country.
South African scholars have criticized the government for failing to support growth by maintaining “low quality education as a poverty trap” (van Der Berg et al, 2011). Despite the fact that much has been done since the dismantling of ‘Apartheid,’ progress in the education sector has struggled to keep pace with or learn from ICT implementation in commercial and industrial sectors. This has of course not been the case in South Africa’s private education sector, where ‘academies of learning’ continue to out perform their state counterparts, in some cases exponentially. The privileged few have been supported by fully engaged stakeholders, active school management committees and business partners who appreciate the long-term yields of capacity building and investing into future leaders. How is it that such vision and foresight is less forthcoming in the state sector? Can a decision about the future of education in South Africa truly be whittled down to a matter for funding models and balance sheets to decide? The consequences of a lack of ICT integration progress in state schools compound the existing social problems facing South Africa today.
The following facts are clear: poor education is a precondition to low employability; there is sufficient evidence supporting the link between low employment and the likelihood of crime; and finally, ICT has been transformative in those education systems where users are enabled and supported throughout the implementation process. The call is to South African leaders in education and to civil society from the grassroots upwards, to recall their childhood journeys through education and to re-double their efforts to ensure that today’s youth gain access to quality education using the technological resources that are increasingly free for all to access.
Department of Education (DoE). (2004) Draft white paper on e-Education. Transforming learning and teaching through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Government Gazette. No. 26734.
13 years since the South African Department of Education released its strategy for ICT in Education, the quality of education in state schools remains questionable. Private schools in the country have benefitted from ICT integration since 1998 and there is evidence that they continue to do so. Meanwhile, state run schools, particularly those in rural areas continue to under perform. Interrogating the education landscape in South Africa raises the following questions amongst many others: Does technology discriminate? Why are state schools not reaping the rewards promised by computer labs and IT lessons like their private counterparts? Who is accountable for the depressing state of rural schools in South Africa? And what are the implications of providing the technology without implementation support or quality assurances?
Important to consider are the structural challenges to ICT integration in state schools. The implementation of ICT projects in South African schools was “driven by the inclination to give education access to all” (Ndlovu and Lawrence, 2012). This inclination was previously and legally excluded from non-White South Africans under the ‘Apartheid’ government. ‘Apartheid’ education policy has left a legacy of inequality. There remains a shortage of qualified teachers in South Africa, especially in the subject areas of science and mathematics. Most rural schools remain under-resourced and over-crowded. South Africa’s legacy of ‘Apartheid’ represents an example of how inequality can become structurally embedded in societies where institutional arrangements are made to strengthen unequal relationships (Bebbington et al, 2008). The consequences of ‘Apartheid’ continue to play out in education as a testimony to how patterns of institutionalized inequality are able to survive and reproduce long after the oppressive policies have been made illegal. The foundational causes leading to poor quality education in South Africa are well known. A lack of firm commitment to address these has resulted in what Van Wyk describes as an education system “so threadbare that it cannot hold onto, incorporate, and integrate technology into the system?” (Van Wyk, 2013). ICT can only form part of the solution to education in South Africa if it is integrated with consideration to socio-economic context, supported with pedagogical knowledge and receives assured political will.
The failings of South African education provisions are counter-productive to the country’s economic growth objectives. They perpetuate inequality, which in turn sustains poverty. South African scholars, supporting this view, have criticized the government for failing to support growth by maintaining “low quality education as a poverty trap” (van Der Berg et al, 2011). Despite the fact that much has been done since the dismantling of ‘Apartheid,’ progress in the education sector has struggled to keep pace with ICT developments in commercial and industrial sectors. The consequences of this lack of progress compound the existing social problems facing South Africa today. Poor education is a precondition to low employability; low employment is linked to crime (associated with drug, alcohol abuse and violence). The call is to South African leaders in every context and to civil society from the grassroots upwards, to recall their childhood journeys through education and to re-double their efforts to ensure that today’s youth gain access to quality education.
Education is recognised as a human right by the United Nations and the African Union. It is critical to the survival of South Africa’s future that this legislative theory be put into action by those implementing education policies. As important are the measurement and accountability criteria attached to such action. There are consequences for those on the receiving end of poor quality education. It is my view that there should be consequences at both ends.
Marc Lottering’s opening performance at the Soho Theatre in London left the audience cheerfully on their feet and calling out for more…and there was more to be had as the South African celebrity eased into laughter and conversation with fans after the show.
A true Cape Townian ambassador, proudly promoting the good South Africa has to offer; while laughing off the politically dysfunctional in true artistic style… A Brilliant 5 Star Performance
Here are a 3 reasons why gagging social media is of little benefit to social cohesion and democratic process:
Nothing aids democracy more than being able to organize, meet up and socialize (on/offline)
Social Media allows you to interact with known or new people despite barriers of space or time
It’s fun! You get to stay in touch with friends and family, sharing photos and stories, remaining connected even when you’re away from home.
Social Media offers another platform and a number of tools for communication. An all relationships are enhanced by good and meaningful communication. Unless, of course, you have something to hide.
Million Lira Question: Why would Turkey gag twitter?