The Wallenberg cube

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Students and teachers from the Västermalm secondary school  invited me to say a few words when the Sundsvall cube was inaugurated. Students worked  with their own interpretations on the subject of the “Right of asylum in other countries”. Students and teachers from 8 different countries participating in a Erasmus network were present.

This project was initiated  by the Raoul Wallenberg foundation. The project is about human rights but also about our obligations as human beings towards others. 30 cubes have been spread out to schools all over Sweden, each one representing a human right as stipulated and agreed by the United Nations. “The right of asylum in other countries” that the Västermalm School has been assigned to work with, fits all too well, with Raoul Wallenberg’s own commitments and achievements during and after world war two. Who was Raoul Wallenberg, you may ask? Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat that saw how the Nazis persecuted Jews and others in Budapest where he was stationed. Wallenberg created false documents to help people out of the country and into safety. Later on he organized bus transports for many of the survivors of the holocaust and the surviving victims of Nazi crimes against humanity. Many of these refugees came to Sweden and started a new life here.

All this brings us to today’s situation in Sweden and in the rest of Europe. Europe is once again in trouble when it comes to coping with the refugee situation. Some countries try to pass on responsibility to other countries. We want to shut down frontiers and imagine that these people do not exist. We need each and every one of us not to feel guilty, but rather to understand the mechanisms that create the situations we are experiencing today. We have in Europe a good life and we need to share with others. If we permit that differences in society grow even more we will have more crimes and all other social problems that inequality create. Sweden is richer than ever. Every year we spend more in education and care. But many still expect more.

Here in Sundsvall we have 8 political parties at the local council. The third largest party was formed and grew based on the idea that we have too many refugees. The people that vote for this party must have a reason to do so. Racist people and people that are scared of foreigners exist in all our European countries  but now they have people that support them. We have to understand that many people are scared of globalization and feel that they are being ignored or pushed aside by technical development, new ways of communication and new competitive labor relations. These people feel unsure as whether immigrants and refugees are not presenting new threats to them.

My message to you today is only one. We all have an individual responsibility when creating the society we want to live in. We can choose to work together or we can choose to look after our own interests and let ourselves be influenced by cheap and easy propaganda or we can try to be aware citizens conscious that what we do and how we think or choose to express ourselves prepares the path for the future. A huge thanks to teachers and students that worked on this subject. The cube is yours!

Erasmus bringing people together

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Some very good things have been created by the European Union. One of these is the Erasmus programme. This programme aims at providing meetings within education, training, youth and sports. Sundsvall is currently involved in a programme that takes up “Active Citizenship and Environmental Awareness through Formal and Non-formal Education”.

This programme would most probably not be possible without the existence of the European Union. Meetings between students, teachers and school leaders give an invaluable possibility for advance and development of  questions of common and collective interest within education.

Joining Västermalm’s school in Sundsvall on this topic we find the, the International school of Ostrava, Czech Republic, the Cabrini Professional School in Taranto, Italy, the Ausros College in Taurage, Lithuania, the Lanchester school in the UK, the Liceum T. Zana in Wschowa, Poland, the Escola Casquilhos in Barreiro, Portugal and the Ienachita Vacarescu school in Targoviste, Romania .

To all visiting teachers and students I extend a most warm welcome to Sundsvall. The theme for this network is the spreading of good experiences through active citizenship on what can be done to enhance and improve our care and concern for the environment.

Truth is, that the environment belongs to all and affects all. Therefore, what we can do today is of great importance for our lives tomorrow. When heavy rains cause floods in Durham just off Lanchester it is a sign to all of us. When winters get shorter and warmer in Sundsvall we need to ask questions. Wherever we are, the need of awareness is there. Education is central in all our countries for a progressive and efficient improvement of knowledge, and practices concerning environmental issues.

When I think of this evening’s meeting and the people involved I feel optimism and I see possibilities. If we add up the numbers of citizens that live in our 8 communities we come to a number of over 700 thousand people. If all students in our schools would become active in making others aware of the environmental challenges we could reach a larger part of our population. It all adds up.

 

Makunduchi & Sundsvall 

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I am on the train from the Stockholm airport after 6 days in Zanzibar, Tanzania. These days were the kick off of a two year project, meant to bring the two communities closer to each other. Appropriate to make a short reflection over impressions so far.

Makunduchi. The leaders of Makunduchi are eager to help their villages develop. Some of these leaders work in the capital and are no longer residents. But they want to contribute and have moved to increase foreign presence. The Makundushi area has not benefitted from tourism as other areas have. The standard of living, due to lack of jobs and lower education is lower.  The levels of education have to improve so that Makunduchians can get jobs. Interest and commitment from such people as Mr.Mohammed Muombwa and Mr. Abdella Ali Kombo are important. Participation from former minister for Zanzibar Mr. Shamsi Vuai Nahodha  might show itself  valuable being someone that moves on highest circles of political power in the country. The people of Zanzibar have a long history to relate to. The will from central government to deliver solutions transforms itself into new challenges when resources are not applied. The friendly and hospitable Zanzibarians need to see to it that their schools have toilets, running water and enough competent teachers for the many learners.

Sundsvall. With this project the municipality of Sundsvall takes part on the generous cooperation budget, that the Swedish State puts aside, to have a positive voice in the world. Why it became Zanzibar is more connected to coincidence, as contacts were established by teachers and Swedish students before we could formalise the cooperation. In order to participate on this type of project Swedish authorities require that a steering committee is elected to supervise and lead. This committee is to be formed by politicians. Local parliament (Kommunfullmäktige) chose the education committee to form this group with me as chairman.

Mr. Hans Zetterkvist, Mrs. Ina Skandevall and myself went to Zanzibar as a first delegation. We did our best to represent our Community. We saw our task not as telling our friends what to do, but rather tried to find applicable  examples on how we solve political questions at home. Important in this context is history, as our people in Sweden have also been poor. This is what interchange is all about. All political parties except Sverigedemokraterna, approved our participation. Sweden Democrat’s no to this project is in itself a paradox, considering they always say that we should not allow people to come to Sweden and instead help them in their own countries. But from populist parties like this one, nothing surprises any longer. It is worse when Elin Nilsson (Moderates) herself member of the steering committee for the project, suddenly changes foot. I understand that some people think that Sundsvall politicians should not leave the municipality.When we choose to get involved in politics is beacuse we have an interest for human beings and to help get ourselves a better and fairer World. This is what first motivated me to become a member of the Social Democratic party of Sweden. And it still is.

It is my hope to engage people from the civil society of Sundsvall that aim at contributing to the same goals by helping to  solve some of the vital and basic needs in the field of education in Makunduchi,  such as putting a new roof in a school, help to build a toilet or drill for water.

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Hundreds of women


Meeting with Makunduchi teachers

We must by now have met hundreds of women in the villages of Makunduchi. The purpose of this cooperation project is to strengthen local government with focus on education. In this perspective it is extremely important to meet villagers and specially women that are those who take responsibility for school matters. We learnt that no schools have running water, they are overcrowded too. A school, for example,  has 800 students and twenty teachers. Some teachers come in as voluntary. This means they do not get a State salary. Teachers take money out of their pocket to finance these teachers. With classes having about 60 learners it is not surprising they need the extra help. Shortage of teachers is a problem. So is the quality of premises. In Kawenja they have locally built the walls for a new school but the government won’ t come and put the roof on.

We have just finished a meeting with 5 local teachers. Much of what was said at this meeting confirms what we have heard from local leaders and parents.

Sundsvall is not alone from Sweden, here in southern Zanzibar. Yesterday came a number of students from Celsius school in Uppsala. They are on an exchange program just as our own students from Sundsvall’s Gymnasiet will do later this week.

I do not know today to what extent our participation will make an impact. I am however impressed by the level of dialogue we can see, exists here. Mr. Mohamed Muombwa and Mr. Abdella Ali accompanied us yesterday which was valuable for our meetings and communication.

Right now I am expecting a call from a radio journalist back in Sundsvall eager to learn more about what we are doing here.

Freddie and I


Well, here I am in Stone Town Zanzibar. This city stands in the center of a long historical trading period with the drama of slavery  included. A certain Dr. Livingstone played an valuable part in abolishing slavery here. I was shown the appalling conditions created to keep men and women as prisoners before being auctioned out.

I am posing in front of the house where Freddie Mercury (Farough Bulsar) opened his eyes for the first time. Freddie’s  father was a British Civil servant who came to the island from India. The Bursars belonged to an ancient minority that left Persia when it became Muslim, keeping their Zoroastrian traditions and religion through centuries during their India exile. Events to overthrow the Sultan from the island in 1964 sent the Bursars to London where they first settled in the Heathrow airport area where Mr. Bursar took up employment.

Queen’s music is the favorite in my home and Freddie Mercury’s voice and creative musical genius has had a strong standing throughout my life.

My mind boggles a little extra,  when I consider that I might very well have crossed a young Freddie in any of the streets around West Kensington where we both lived in the beginning of the seventies.

I wonder if any of those eccentric looking guys standing on underground platforms would not be the upcoming world artist oblivious of a famed future and destiny.

Curiously I do reflect on the fact that the most famous Zanzibari was not a real native the same way as Portugal’s most famous personality in the sixties – soccer player Eusebio- was an African arriving in Lisbon as a teenager to play for Benfica.

Immigration is not something you can ignore. It is instead a goldmine for development of the human race, provided immigrants are given opportunity to develop their skills.

Intensive meetings

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At the aftermath of media convulsion at home, our day continued with exchange of ideas and study of  the new education act. It was difficult to forget what was going on at home. It crossed my mind that perhaps people from Sundsvall should not leave the municipality. Bearing in mind that the only newspaper in town spares no ink on critizing the newly started this SiDA financed cooperation project. Same press that kept quiet when previous mayors did not even bother to leave municipal boundaries to create good relationship at regional level. Rather stay at home, seems to be the motto. 

For our part we do our tasks for the benefit of our town and country to the best of our ability. Thanks Ina Skandevall and Hans Zetterkvist for your commitment. 

The day business was comprehensive. The leaders of Makkunduchi gathered and an introduction to the history of the island was presented by former chief minister for Zanzibar Mr. Shamsi Vuai Nahodha. The topic of development targets, was described in a context of education. Skills needed were many for the young people of Zanzibar and vocational courses were referred to. Next week’s visit of principal Mr. Trevor Fisher, heading restaurant school might lead to interesting development within tourist related professions.

Questions were asked and participants discussed what the responsibilities of local government were and ought to be, taking into account that there is no real method for local financing. After that discussions continued with the reduced number of members of the committee getting into more limited and concrete ideas for cooperation between our two local authorities. 

Mrs Christin Strömberg met a number of bee keepers. Bee keeping being a possible development area in Makunduchi.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we have a day off which we will use for a visit  at the capital of Zanzibar- Stone town.

Living like kings? 


According to right wing Sundsvall politician Elin Nilsson we are living like kings in Makunduchi.  Well, everything is, of course,  relative and I have small means to compare quality of hotels here on Zanzibar. If we compare with Sweden the standard of the hotel is not high.I have in my life stayed in luxury hotels. La Madrugada is not among them. It is also the hotel where our Swedish students and teachers stay when they come to Makunduchi. But what would Elin Nilsson know about that? By allowing herself to get elected to the steering committee by the municipal assembly one would have thought that she had some sort of a commitment to this type of work. But then again I was wrong…The reason why she chose not to travel here has obviously different versions, depending on the receiving end.

The electricity is now back after being down three times this evening.

Zanzibar is beautiful. Wherever we are  along this island’s coasts. ..But people are extremely poor. The effort needed to raise living standards bring us back many years in the Swedish perspective. Yesterday we were invited for dinner in a typical home in Makunduchi. We sat on the floor and ate together in traditional way with our hands. Our hosts are eager to improve life here. Meeting the young people today brings hope that coming generations can get improvement to their villages by getting running water and electricity in the homes. Education for all! The meeting between our students in Sundsvall and  students from here has a special importance. They are the future!

Today we are meeting the leading committee to further our discussions with themes such as history of Zanzibar, new local government act and challenges of local government. I am particularly interested to hear about the new rules and responsibilities for local governance. As it stands today municipalities have no resources and no clearly defined responsibilities.

Makunduchi- day one.

 

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Our first twenty four hours in Zanzibar south. Many meetings with leaders and villagers from Makunduchi. By the way it is pronounced Makundutchi as taught by friend and colleague Mr . Mwita Massemo. Yesterday we were met at the airport by project colleagues Mr. Hafith Ameir and Mr. Moh’med Moumbwa. A mini van took us to the La Madrugada hotel under the guiding expertise of Miss Zaina. Zaina has education in business administration but was very pleased to have this job as guide.

On our afternoon tour of Makunduchi we met women groups in the different villages. They meet under trees once a week on a money saving scheme. By the time night came we all needed a good night’s sleep. This first delegation to kick off the project is a political one. Composing it besides myself are Hans Zetterkvist and Ina Skandevall. Christine Strömberg is the Coordinator for Sundsvall.

This   morning a large numbers of youngsters came to see us at the Hotel. I asked them what were their dreams and goal with life.At the beginning everybody was rather shy but eventually each and everyone stood up presented themselves and described what they would like to do in the future. Many wanted to become teachers, others  wanted to work in construction , medicine and law, feminist philosopher, and acting were also targets for the Makunduchi youngsters. They would rather have met people in the same age which is completely justifiable. My overall impression is that these young people do not differ from our own in Sundsvall concerning their ambitions and dreams. In Sweden it should be much easier to accomplish them though.

 

 

O drama na Nunes dos Santos

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Foi logo pela manhã que demos conta que algo de extrordinário se estava a passar na Rua Nunes dos Santos. O amontoado de gente assim como carro da policia e dois agentes assim o indicavam.

Um gato estava em miados continuos fechado debaixo do capot de um automóvel estacionado na rua. Os agentes conseguiram identificar a proprietária do carro que muito a medo consentiu que se levantasse o capot do carro observando ela, o desenrolar dos acontecimentos, a alguma distancia. Eis que sai espavorido um pequenito gato de semanas que deita um olhar para o publico concentrado e deita um sonoro miado misto de irritacão e medo. Logo em seguida e depois duma corrida ao longo da linha eis que volta à rua e trepa através do pneu de novo automóvel para lugar escondido. E assim prosseguiu durante o dia só mudando de veículo.

Uma senhora encarregou-se de recuperar o pequeno animal e até arranjar já novo lar para o bichano. Fez-lhe uma armadilha numa gaiola com pedacos de atum de lata como isco.

Quando nos retirámos à noite lá estava a sehora no porta bagagens do seu próprio carro logo atrás do ocupado. Segurava uma corda que accionaria o fecho da gaiola no momento oportuno.

Pela manhã ainda conseguimos ver a senhora saindo de carro com o futuro felix caseiro bem guardado na gaiola. Bem hajam!

According to Barata…

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João Barata is a student of photojournalism at Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall. He has as part of his work interviewed me in 2013. I have with his pernission decided to post his own version of myself here and share it with you.

“The Marginal road gave a good view of the Lisbon coast. When will I ever see it again, he thought while being driven by his dad to the airport. Joao Pinheiro decided to leave Portugal and move to the country where he was born, England. A war was going on between the Portuguese regime and the colonies. Angola, Guine-Bissau and Mozambique were the destination of several young men that had to fight for a regime that many, like Joao, did not support.

 

The arrival in the UK on the 11th of September 1968 was a turning point in his life. Many times the 16-year-old felt alone and displaced from a culture he had left behind at the age of three. To adapt and to integrate in the British society was extremely difficult during that first year. It would take time to make friends and to fully understand his new being. Fortunately he had the help from his uncle, who owned a chain of Patisseries spread all over south London. Joao was delighted that Uncle Dennis was prepared to give him employment and a living wage of 6 guineas a week. During those first months, his grandfather Joseph was also an extremely important person in the integration process. He helped him finding a job in the City (London’s’ financial district), and bought him his first tie. He even taught him to make a knot with it. In addition, he sent an envelope with a pound every Friday that many times kept Joao going.

 

On a cold, sunny autumn day I meet Joao for an interview. We gather outside the local library, near the Council offices where he works as a politician. We are not in Portugal or England but in Sundsvall, Sweden. It’s a small city halfway the coastline of the country. Joao’s job with the Department of Education is to improve learning standards in schools; “Education is my passion,” he points out. The politician seems to know almost everyone that passes by and even enquires the Polish workforce, restoring the pavement outside the main building, about their lives in Sweden. Before we go inside, Joao says to me, “Immigrants have value”.

We find some available seats in the library’s café and order coffee. Joao moved to Sweden in 1973 with is first wife Mona. Her parents were loyal to the workers and cooperative movement led by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He tells me, “Mona’s father did volunteer work (…) we would not fill the car with petrol anywhere else but at the cooperative”. Everyone in the family was a member of the trade union. It was practice every day of the month, every month of the year. “It was a powerful religion”, Joao recalls. They had a great influence on him and within months of his arrival he went on to join the Party.

A few years later he volunteered to work with the GIF’s program, ‘Back to Basics’. Sundsvall’s biggest football club had the youth department underdeveloped and was missing the basic services that could help the local communities to enroll on sports activities. “I wanted to assist this communities in helping young people to feel integrated socially”, he says. “People that had money could do two or three sports but the immigrant communities were left out.” So, in 2001, he became President for the youth department of the club and by 2009 they had one of the best academies in the country.

Near the end of the interview, Joao opens up about the recent difficult times he’s been going through. In 2011 he lost two extremely important people during his existence, Mona and his mother. Their death made the 60-year-old look back at his life. It was difficult for him to cope with the loss, “it made me think about what and who I am”, he reveals. Shortly after, he started a blog on his earliest memories, “I write to publish some of the thoughts that passed through my mind in those days. Maybe I can make sense of it now”, he adds.

 

Some people that walk by our table recognize Joao and interrupt the interview. They talk in Swedish and I can’t understand what they are saying but these people are very willing to approach the Portuguese politician. He takes time to listen to what they have to say to him and is actually interested in knowing what is going on with them. There is honesty in Joao’s interaction with other people and they seem to appreciate that. Everyone is at ease.

While they speak, I think to myself that Joao’s life has been shaped by sturdy decisions that caused him to have a great sense of reverence for others. He’s a man that both respects and is respected. He’s a good man.”