Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lovingly referred to as Madiba, was on a rush visit to Nairobi on a cold July morning in 1990. It was rumored that he was gravely ill from pneumonia and was visiting one of our elite private hospitals for personal medical care .. 27 years on a prison island can take a physical toll on any human body.
We were marched off from class in pairs of 2, holding hands to wave at the great man as he passed by our school. It was traditional that foreign dignitaries in presidential motorcades be greeted by eager flag waving kids wherever they went – it rejuvenated our President and bolstered his ego.
I was given a Kenyan flag to hold and given a spot right by the roadside. As minutes turned to hours my initial excitement turned into restless anxiety and then boredom. The teachers insisted we practice waving flags so as to keep us occupied. Just as the teachers were losing hope – a policeman zoomed by on his BMW motorcycle. The kids arose in anticipation, then another motorcycle, then five more – the policemen were immaculately dressed with their shiny bikes and their white kidskin gloves. Mandela was on his way.
The presidential motorcade sped by us like lighting as we peered back eagerly trying to capture a glimpse. Then it happened. A frail old man with a feeble smile and piercing eyes raised his hand and looked out of the black Mercedes limousine. It was him. Mandela had smiled at us – for an 11 year old it was the closest I had come to history and although I didn’t realize it then something powerful had just taken place.
Mandela has come to signify the African spirit. Even at his frailest he had the presence of mind to acknowledge the kids who stood 2 hours for sight of him – Mandela cared. His steady gaze diminished all doubts that his love for life was waning and that he would return stronger.
This was my first glimpse of Nelson Mandela.
FIFA has just announced that Reinhard Fabisch, a former Dortmund soccer player but known mostly to Kenyans as national coach for Harambee Stars in 1987, 1997 and 2001-02, is dead at 57 of an undisclosed illness. His last assignment was as coach of the Benin national soccer team.
Fabisch was perhaps one of the best known foreign coaches in Africa. His passion for the life and the sport could hardly be discounted. Those who knew him say he was as mild mannered off the soccer pitch, as he was aggressive during a game – pacing from end to end and constantly barking instructions at the players.
Under his watch, Kenyan soccer reached its highest peak. He lead the Kenyan National team, the Harambee Stars through many battles that seemed unfairly matched – In 1987 the Kenyans defeated a much favored Malawian team before battling it out with the Pharoah’s in the 4th All Africa Games at Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. Although they won the game – the Stars lost the Final. Fabisch resurfaced in 1996, to draw against the Super Eagles; and again in 2002 to lead the Stars against Tanzania for a 5-1 victory.
May the man who gave life to Kenyan soccer, rest in peace.
Sometimes the most elegant solutions are also the simplest ones. I was reading about a fantastic radio program in the Indian State of Bihar that aims to provide basic English language to primary school students in a bid to improve the literacy levels from the current 47% to the national average of nearly 65%. The program called “English is fun’ is broadcast in half-hour segments, four days a week, and reaches seven million students attending 65,000 primary schools in all the 38 districts of the state.
According to the BBC, the state government is encouraged by the positive response from the kids and teachers, and has decided to take the program a step further and set up independent community radio stations at some schools for broadcasting lessons.
What is so encouraging about the project is that it looks for the lowest common denominator to solve a large scale problem. Always, make it a point support local Public Radio. My my local station KQED.org . You can read more about National Public Radio (NPR) and its history in America here
Read more about the Bihar Education Project here
The Bihar Education Project is a collaboration with a US-based organisation, the Education Development Center, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to boost primary education in the country.