News Around the Globe

A special thank you to our partner, GPI, for providing the following news stories to us.

Ugandan inmates pursuing educational opportunities behind bars anticipate pursuing productive careers upon release.
Apophia Agiresaasi, GPJ Uganda
July 30, 2014
“We have changed the way we look at life. I am sure even if we left prison now, we would not commit crimes again. ”

KAMPALA, UGANDA – A man wearing a loose-fitting two-piece yellow uniform walks slowly into an office. He looks calm and composed as he takes a seat on a long bench in the middle of the room and cups his chin.

The man, Samson Anundo, achieved the top score among prisoners who took Primary Leaving Examinations at Luzira Maximum Security Prison, Uganda’s largest correctional institution, last November.

“I was excited,” he says, his face lighting up with a smile. “I did not expect to pass highly.”

Passing the exam qualified him to enroll in the school’s secondary level. His favorite subject is religious studies, he says.

The 42-year-old father of two enrolled in primary studies when he arrived at Luzira prison, on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, in 2011. He is awaiting the conclusion of criminal proceedings on a charge of defilement, or statutory rape.

Even if he is convicted and serves 10 to 15 years in prison, Anundo plans to continue with his education. After three years in the prison’s education services, he says he has found a new outlook and a determination to further his education.

“If I am not convicted, I will still make use of my education,” he says. “I am better than I was before I came to prison.”

Luzira prison inmates are taking advantage of free education services the institution offers to prepare for careers once they leave prison. A 2014 study conducted at the prison underscores the importance of education in helping inmates avoid repeat offenses. Many inmates enrolled in the education services complain that prison crowding hinders their ability to learn, but prison officials say the construction of additional prisons in the coming year will alleviate crowding.

Education services began in Ugandan prisons in 1997 to provide rehabilitation, says Anatoli Biryomumaisho, the headmaster of Luzira Upper Prison Inmates’ Schools, where male prisoners study.

Thousands of prisoners have benefited from the education services, he says.

Luzira prison, which has male and female sectors, had more than 3,000 prisoners as of the end of June. Some 35 percent of the prisoners are enrolled in the system’s education services, which consist of primary and secondary education, a university program, and training in trades such as tailoring and carpentry.

The more than 200 prisons in the country offer the same curriculum, which mirrors the national curriculum.

Makerere University, the largest university in Uganda, offers a university program through a center it operates at the prison. Inmates can take degree and diploma courses in business administration, social sciences, education, sciences and management.

Seventy inmates teach the prison’s primary and secondary classes and provide counseling, Biryomumaisho says. Some of them acquired teaching credentials before entering prison; others have completed six years of secondary schooling through the prison services.

The Uganda Prisons Service, the government agency responsible for administering prisons, aims to reduce the number of repeat offenders by giving prisoners an opportunity to reintegrate into society upon release.

Ninety percent of repeat offenders in Uganda have poor educational backgrounds and lack livelihood skills, according to a 2014 study conducted by Luzira prison’s education department. The findings reinforce the need to continue education services.

In June, Luzira prison partnered with the Prison Education Project, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that aims to reduce recidivism by providing inmate-students with cognitive tools to function as productive citizens. 

The project offers a comprehensive curriculum to bolster students’ education and foster rehabilitation, Biryomumaisho says. The project added subjects such as healing, forgiving, sociology and entrepreneurship to the standard curriculum.

“We transform the prisoners from criminality to civility,” Biryomumaisho says.

Many prisoners find that the education service offers them a second chance at success beyond prison life.

Amina Stella, 33, is serving a 20-year sentence for attacking her husband’s lover with acid.

A mother of two, Stella was initially reluctant to enroll in the prison’s education services because of her age, she says. She felt it was improper for her to go to school at the same time as her daughters.

Luzira prison teachers persuaded Stella to enroll. Last November, she took the Primary Leaving Examinations at the same time as her 13-year-old daughter. She passed.

“I am happy that I have some papers now,” she says with a smile, referring to her qualifications.

She plans to continue her studies and become a nurse once she completes her sentence in 2025.

Prisoners join school at the last level of schooling they completed, and everyone is accepted, says Biryomumaisho, who has headed the prison schools for nine years.

As in Ugandan schools, inmates are required to complete seven years of primary schooling before taking a leaving exam. They then begin six years of secondary schooling.

After completing the secondary curriculum, they can enroll in university programs that range from three to six years, Biryomumaisho says.

Some prisoners also study trades instead of seeking diplomas and university degrees, or as a supplementary component of their education.

James Aleku, 24, arrived at Luzira prison in January 2013. He is serving time for statutory rape. He expects to be released in 2022.

Gifted with his hands, Aleku has chosen to learn carpentry instead of enrolling in school. He believes his job prospects will be better than those of inmates who have opted to attend school.

“Many people in Uganda with degrees do not have jobs,” he says. “I don’t know any carpenter who has no job. If they don’t get jobs, they employ themselves.”

In addition to skills, counseling is a major part of the prison’s educational program.

Every day, teachers spend 15 to 20 minutes counseling prisoners, says Ronald Ssentamu, 43, an inmate and head teacher of the men’s primary school section.

Ssentamu, who arrived at Luzira prison in 2000, is serving a 20-year sentence for murder. He obtained a diploma in community psychology before going to prison.

Some prisoners find it hard to accept their circumstances, he says. Teachers provide one-on-one counseling to prisoners who are depressed or suicidal, and any others who request it.

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In the face of the alarming rate of cesarean sections in Mexico, some doctors are becoming midwives, a role traditionally fulfilled by indigenous women.
Marissa Revilla, GPJ Mexico
July 23, 2014
“Midwifery, that is what is being defended.”

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, MEXICO – In the face of the alarming rate of cesarean sections in Mexico, some doctors are becoming midwives, a role traditionally fulfilled by indigenous women. One such caregiver, Dr. Cristina de la Cruz Sada, operates a house in southern Mexico to serve women who want to have a greater say in their deliveries. In a culture in which childbirth is commonly facilitated with surgical intervention, de la Cruz Sada promotes an undisturbed childbirth that attends to the natural rhythms of delivery and celebrates the arrival of a life. 

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Although their team lost the final World Cup match, Argentines celebrate their strong showing in the competition and remain grateful for the monthlong distraction from the country’s dire economic problems.
Argentine football fans travel to Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital, to view the 2014 World Cup championship match between Argentina and Germany and join the festive street parties taking place throughout the city.
July 14, 2014
“The World Cup was very beautiful, because we came with bad things at the economic level, and this lifted our spirits a bit.”

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – Although Argentines grieved when Germany scored the game-winning goal in the 113th minute of the World Cup final match Sunday, they remain grateful for the monthlong distraction from the country’s dire economic woes.

From mid-June to mid-July, Argentines watched the games on giant screens, in bars and through store windows. The image of Germany’s winning goal entering the net Sunday provoked tears and angry shouts but did not shut down the Argentine World Cup party, which continued late into the night in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital.

“Even if you win, even if you lose, I do not give a shit, I carry you within my heart,” the people shouted to the rhythm of drummers at the Obelisco, a historic monument in the city’s downtown area, after Germany scored the winning goal.

Beginning midday Sunday, thousands of people flooded the area, traveling on overcrowded buses and subways. Subway cars trembled when fans jumped. Football aficionados waved the nation’s light blue and white flag from bus windows.

When the World Cup began a month ago, the city government erected two giant screens downtown so citizens could watch the games in the streets. But the crowds were so large during the final match that people gathered around any television screens they could find. Hundreds of people thronged in front of bar windows and appliance stores.

“Look, look!” exclaimed Oscar Cecilio Gómez, 60, who has been homeless in Buenos Aires for 23 years, pointing at the crowds. “The World Cup is a beautiful party for me. When the World Cup finishes, my life will be the same as before.”

For Enrique Benítez, the World Cup was a screen that rose between Argentines and the country’s problems, particularly its runaway inflation rate.

“The World Cup is an excuse to get together and celebrate,” he says. “But you must not forget the serious problems that were left covered during these days.”

The World Cup distracted Argentines from their routines and preoccupation with the country’s staggering inflation. The celebrations that followed the country’s defeat Sunday suggested that Argentines were not eager to end that distraction. They preferred to continue the party.

Inflation is gravely reducing Argentines’ buying power. The national government has forecast a 2014 inflation rate of just over 20 percent. However, critics say the government consistently lowballs the inflation rate. PriceStats, an independent provider of inflation rates, estimates the country’s annual inflation rate at nearly 42 percent.

During the World Cup, Argentines discussed football more than politics or the economy, says Leandro Mansilla, a student in Buenos Aires. He took part in Sunday’s festivities, jumping and singing with a group of friends, all with flags in hand, near the Obelisco.

Life came to a halt each time the national team played, he says. Argentines threw parties in offices, retail businesses and schools. They filled their social networks with songs, prayers, jokes, predictions and analyses.

“The World Cup for us is the greatest thing there is,” Mansilla says. “The English created football. We play for the love of football. The only thing that I did in these days was to think about Argentina, all day. That is why even though we have lost, we are going to continue celebrating, and we are going to look for the players at the airport.”

José Roberto Arroyo, 57, says he became so emotionally caught up in the World Cup that he chose not to watch the final games. He couldn’t stand the nervous tension.

“My life changes when the World Cup begins,” he says. “I am not a nervous man, but I become very nervous with each game. My heart comes out of my chest. That is why I decided to not watch the last two – the final included.”

Arroyo, who traveled to downtown Buenos Aires to join the festive atmosphere, fondly recalls seeing Argentina win the World Cup in 1978 and 1986.

“It is always like this,” he says. “It is always a party. In ’86, you could not walk around the streets from so many people who were celebrating.”

Argentines need to celebrate to forget about the country’s economic crisis for a bit, Arroyo says.

“The salary is not enough,” he says. “If they give you a raise, it is still not enough. You go to buy a pair of shoes, and you cannot buy it. You always have to go searching for the best prices.”

Viviana Chaparro, 35, agrees that salaries are insufficient in the face of the inflation crisis. The country’s World Cup success was a welcome distraction, she says.

“I am sad,” says Chaparro, a hospital maid. “The World Cup was very beautiful, because we came with bad things at the economic level, and this lifted our spirits a bit.”

Unlike most Argentines, Chaparro chose to go home as soon as the final game ended. With a flag tied around her neck and flowing down her back, she was among the first to leave the celebration.

Many more stayed to celebrate. Among them was Blanca Gómez, 75, who toted a huge national flag.

“I celebrate because I am happy, despite the result,” she says. “If we lost, we lost. What are you going to do? With this, we had forgotten about the problems. But at the same time, you have to continue. You have to move foward, not backwards.”

No sources in this article are related.

GPJ translated this article from Spanish. 

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Ghulam Muhammad Zaz is the last man in a long line of traditional musical instrument-makers in Jammu and Kashmir state who still makes the Kashmiri santoor. His family has been crafting the instrument for eight generations. Having no one to whom he can pass along his intricate skills, Zaz says the art soon will die.
Aliya Bashir, GPJ Indian-administered Kashmir
July 9, 2014
“My ancestral art is likely to die with me. There is no one left in our family who knows this work other than me.”

SRINAGAR, INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR – Fading black-and-white photographs of Kashmir’s legendary musicians cover the rough mud walls of a small workshop. Old musical instruments line shelves, and new ones fill display cases. Iron tools, wood shavings and dust cover the floor.

This is the workshop of Ghulam Muhammad Zaz, 70, a traditional Kashmiri instrument-makerin Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir. Zaz is renowned for making the Kashmiri santoor, a trapezoidal instrument with 100 steel strings stretched across a body made of walnut wood.

Seated on the floor of his workshop, Zaz adjusts the tuning knobs of a recently made santoor to attain a perfect note. The instrument first emits a high-pitched noise, but the tone becomes smooth and melodic as Zaz adjusts the knobs.

“I am the only santoor-maker left in my family as well as in Kashmir,” Zaz says, looking down at his hands as he adjusts the strings.

Zaz belongs to the eighth generation of instrument-makers in his family, the only family that has ever made the Kashmiri santoor. The Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, a Srinagar-based government organization that promotes art and culture and coordinates related activities throughout the state, confirms his assertion.

No one in the Zaz family knows how or why it began making the Kashmiri santoor, but by the time Zaz’s grandfather was making it, Zaz knew it was a family tradition.

Zaz mourns the fact that he has no one to whom he can pass on the tradition.

“My ancestral art is likely to die with me,” he says, with tears in his eyes. “There is no one left in our family who knows this work other than me.” 

Persian invaders introduced the santoor to the Kashmir Valley, one of the three divisions of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir state, in the 14th century, says Fida Hassnain, a Kashmiri historian and author who focuses on the people of the Kashmir Valley.

The Kashmiri santoor is distinctive. There are two other types – the Persian, which has 72 strings, and the Indian, which has 87 to 100 strings.

The Kashmiri santoor is essential to traditional Kashmiri folk music and Sufi music – the devotional music of Sufism, a mystical way of life in the Islamic tradition. Both kinds of music are integral to contemporary celebrations and rituals, Hassnain says.

Zaz says his ancestors began making the Kashmiri santoor about 200 years ago.

Zaz never intended to follow the family tradition, he says. But when he was 16, he contracted typhoid and missed school for six months. After his health improved, he worked with his father in the instrument workshop instead of returning to his studies.

Zaz’s father taught him to create instruments relying solely on memory and experience.

“We have learned the craft by heart,” Zaz says. “Even a minute change in measurement when making a santoor would spoil its musical tones and the ability to produce exact Kashmiri music.”

Kashmiri masters of Indian classical music have used santoors created by the Zaz family.

“Maestros like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Bhajan Sopori bought their santoors from us,” Zaz says. “They have produced music that has showcased our rich heritage and culture throughout the world.”

The Zaz family creates instruments of exceptional quality, says Muhammad Yusuf Bieg, a Srinagar santoor player who performs throughout Jammu and Kashmir and in India.

“Their instruments survive for years as they make quality instruments which produce soothing music,” Bieg says. 

Zaz says the Kashmiri santoors made by his family last for more than 100 years. Bieg has three Kashmiri santoors made by the Zaz family. The oldest is 40 years old.

Gulzar Ahmed Shah, owner of Shah Trades and Travels Showroom, has been selling instruments made by the Zaz family for more than 15 years. Shah, who owns three stores in India, sells Kashmiri santoors made by Zaz because he considers their quality unmatched.

But Zaz says back pain and weakening eyesight have forced him to cut back his hours and limit the number of orders he accepts.

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Committed to preserving Buenos Aires’ architectural heritage, the city government operates a free school that teaches restoration trades in the historic center of the city. After 14 years in operation, the school will graduate its first class this year, having just offered a technical assistant degree course last year. School authorities aim to broadcast the work of the academy so the entire community can benefit from its training.
Bettina D'Alessandro, GPJ Argentina
July 2, 2014
“This is part of what we are as a city. Every sign of a building, every corner, is talking to us about a story. That is to say, it is the physical part of a story that can be told again. Therefore, it is heritage.”

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – The morning light floods through the windows of an old building in the original core of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital. Instructors in the spacious learning center teach students skills to preserve the city’s architectural heritage. In one of the classrooms, students model clay figures of various shapes and sizes.

One of the students, Jorge Vázquez, 47, is studying ornamentation, the art of decorating statues in plazas and gardens. His specialty is one of several available to students at the Escuela Taller del Casco Histórico, a free city government school that teaches architecture and remodeling in the Casco Histórico, the city’s historic center.

Using a fine-tipped wire modeling tool, he puts the finishing touches on a series of interlaced petals and leaves he is making for his class. Bending over his work, he seems oblivious to his classmates’ comments and movements.

Vázquez is learning to model ceramic copies of figures that decorate gardens and outdoor spaces so he can restore original figures in need of repair. In learning the art of restoration, he strives to get into the skin of a project’s original creator. 

“It is not easy,” Vázquez says. “You have to get into the eyes of the person who made the original piece, adapt yourself to that, and not allow yourself to get carried away by the personal desire to create.”

Although Vázquez has made ceramic figures for more than two decades, this is the first time he has undertaken such training. A doorman at a primary school, Vázquez appreciates the free opportunity to refine the skills he uses in his avocation.

A public school with the capacity to enroll 195 students, the Escuela Taller del Casco Histórico teaches techniques for conserving and restoring the cultural heritage, which includes buildings, outdoor structures and sculptures, in Buenos Aires’ historic center. Last year, the school first offered a two-year training program through which students will graduate with the title of technical assistant at the end of 2014.

It is the only free school in the city that specializes in this type of training. It accepts anyone 18 or older who is interested in the subject.

Located in San Telmo, the city’s oldest neighborhood, the school has operated for 14 years. The Escuela Taller is under Buenos Aires’ General Directorate of the Historic Center, a Ministry of Culture office tasked with protecting and maintaining the area’s cultural identity and architectural heritage.

The Casco Histórico comprises the 222 blocks of the city’s original urban nucleus, says Vivian Fernández, an architect and coordinator of the General Directorate of the Historic Center.

During the 19th century, Argentine architects designed many finely ornamented and elegantly decorated Italian- and French-style buildings in the Casco Histórico, Fernández says. The city’s authorities, many of them European immigrants, sought to transform Buenos Aires into one of the world’s great metropolises.

The center features emblems of Argentine culture, including the Casa Rosada, the seat of the national government; the Catedral Primada de Buenos Aires, the country’s principal Catholic church; and notable palaces, cafes and bars.

“This is part of what we are as a city,” Fernández says. “Every sign of a building, every corner, is talking to us about a story. That is to say, it is the physical part of a story that can be told again. Therefore, it is heritage.”

The school formed in the midst of a construction boom in 2002, a year marked by a depression where a loss of confidence in the banking system prompted heavy investment in real estate development. That year, private developers began demolishing old buildings to make room for new ones.

That trend alarmed preservationists, says Aquilino González Podestá, an architect who specializes in the conservation and restoration of architectural heritage.

The school has functioned for more than a decade as a workshop where students could come and go, says the school’s coordinator, Marino Santa María, who specializes in plastic art.

With the new two-year training, students can graduate with a specialty in woodworking, ornamentation or sgraffito, a style of decoration where parts of a surface layer are cut away to expose a different-colored ground. They can also train to become luthiers – makers of stringed instruments. All students receive theoretical training to learn to value patrimonial assets.

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