Sub-Saharan Africa

When Life Is in Limbo, Education Can't Wait

Sarah Dryden-Peterson, associate professor of education at Harvard, shares insights from her team’s work on refugee education around the world.

Image of student hands building a map

By Michelle Nicholasen

Of the sixty-five million people currently displaced worldwide, about half of them are children. On average, a refugee may spend between ten to twenty-five years in exile. This means that for many children, their entire formal education will take place while awaiting a durable solution to their displacement. However, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that only 50 percent of refugee children have access to primary education, and only 22 percent have access to secondary school. 

The critical task of educating refugee children has been the focus of scholarship for Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate Sarah Dryden-Peterson and her research team who are investigating processes of refugee education in Kenya, Lebanon, and Uganda, among others. Documenting the experiences of students, families, and teachers over time, the group has gained insight on education delivery, quality of instruction, and resource allocation. The struggle to meet the educational needs of refugee children, according to Dryden-Peterson, has called into question the very purpose of education and what kinds of futures it prepares young people for.

The Weatherhead Center asked Dryden-Peterson and doctoral students Vidur Chopra and Elizabeth Adelman to describe some of the realities facing Syrian refugees, who rely on education as a critical pathway to establishing a secure life. What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.... Read more about When Life Is in Limbo, Education Can't Wait

Global Oncology in Rwanda

A case study in best practices, Rwanda’s commitment to cancer treatment demonstrates how a state can utilize private resources while safeguarding national ownership.

Image of Burera district, Rwanda

By Darja Djordjevic

Darja Djordjevic, now a postdoctoral fellow in the Weatherhead Scholars Program, worked as a MD/PhD student in the Burera district of Rwanda and in Kigali during 2010–2015 when she was a Graduate Student Associate at the Weatherhead Center. As a medical volunteer, she worked directly on the pilot cervical/breast cancer prevention program in Burera, which was developed through a transnational partnership between the Rwandan government and Partners In Health, an NGO based in Boston. Her ethnographic fieldwork contributes to the yet nascent anthropology of cancer in contemporary Africa.

Last summer, two major pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Cipla, reached an agreement to sell sixteen standard chemotherapy drugs at very low cost (purportedly only slightly higher than the manufacturing cost) to six African countries: Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Nigeria.1 This negotiated deal also included a plan for top American oncologists to simplify cancer treatment protocols, which an IBM team would then make available through an online, open-access tool. 

This development signaled an important moment in the politics of global health, one of growing awareness and advocacy around cancer in Africa and the Global South. While this particular deal was a positive and overdue development in the battle long-fought by care providers across the world who look after poor people with cancer, we have to wonder for how long such a deal will last, alongside other pressing concerns. Further, how does this initiative fit into the broader political economy of a profit-driven pharmaceutical industry always in search of new markets, with Africa being a potentially massive one? 

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What We Think about When We Think of Crime

How does perceived vulnerability to crime pervade politics, markets, and democracy? Professors Jean and John Comaroff compare the United States to South Africa. 

Image of gated community

Jean and John Comaroff, professors in the Departments of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, divide their teaching and research between Harvard and universities in South Africa. Their scholarship has focused on colonialism and the transformation of societies in the postcolonial and late modern worlds. A recent joint effort, The Truth about Crime, documents their “existential engagement” with the interplay of crime, policing, and sovereignty, in response to what they see as a rising global preoccupation. 

The Comaroffs joined the academic boycott of South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s until the transition of power and formal end of apartheid in 1994. Upon their return to Cape Town, they immediately noticed an overwhelming preoccupation with crime in South Africa. Their desire to unpack this obsession, and what it says about modernity and our relationship to the state, is the subject of their book. Together, the Comaroffs consider the economic, political, and sociological shifts that underlie modern attitudes toward criminality and how these shifts have contributed to the fear of one another, to racial violence, and to public distrust in government.

The Weatherhead Center spoke to the Comaroffs from their home in Cape Town, and asked them to tease out some of the complex relationships between crime and policing and how they affect the concept of citizenship.

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Coming of Age, Setting a Goal

Image of Hanna Amanuel

Hanna Amanuel knows something about dignity. Even as a child in the Bronx, she saw it in places others did not—the bravery of new immigrants; the potential in low-income grade schoolers of color who, like her, were often underestimated; and in her mother, a proud woman from the Horn of Africa.

Amanuel will graduate in May. With her sharp intelligence, a Harvard degree and the future it implies might seem to have been a given; an accomplishment, yes, but not an unusual one. That is not the case. She got here because mentors of color drew her onto a path that included competitive private schools, role models, and the reassurance that she too could succeed.... Read more about Coming of Age, Setting a Goal

Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field

Image of Robert Bates in his office

Robert Bates’s When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa released as a classic

During the turmoil in Uganda after the fall of repressive leader Idi Amin Dada, political scientist Robert Bates was in the field. At the time, he was widely known for his astute public policy analysis of agricultural decline in Africa. His war zone experience led to the great concern of the latter part of his career—the study of political violence.... Read more about Bridging Theory and Practice: A Life in the Field