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New Social Compact

Diary of a Confessional Poet

Abigail George



Dizzying and introspective. My limbs soon became antiques with their own mood.

There are frozen tigers behind the red brick walls wearing a flock of suits. Soon they will fly away for winter will be upon us. You are frozen mother. I am frozen and what a pair we make. Take me to the sea. It will do me the world of good as if I have never seen anything like it before. It is as if I have never loved anything quite like it in my life before. I know of it. I know all of it. The weight of water is different from warm bathwater. It knows me well. I reach out to its swell country. It feels as if my hands do not belong to me anymore.

The psychoanalyst said. To be at peace with yourself is to write. Write anything but just write. Write words. It does not have to make sense at first it is just important that you write what you feel and write down what you think. How can anything that is graceful and elegant floating body also have insane quality to it make any sense? You will find yourself there. On that page, that is where you will find yourself. There is a taproot even in your vein. The psychiatrist said. You can have that family. You can have that husband and those children with the angel shine on their faces. Why do you not study further? Give it a go self-portrait girl. I glide into rooms of my childhood home on madness as if I planned for this to happen. A bipolar life. I fall. I fall. I fall into the dawn’s light.

In childhood, I was loved. I took this love for granted and thought I was always going to be loved. I thought that the perfectionist in me would always be loved and that would be enough for me but then I went out into the world and discovered that women were many things besides the obvious. Besides being manic-depressive. In childhood, my mother was the sun and when it set on me Kafkaesque, I thought that love set on me too. There came a pilgrimage after that. The survival kit of living with mental illness lit up inside of me. I would imagine Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton eating bread and cake. Their children eating pink watermelon. The Easter bunny in their eyes. Manic-depression can take you imagination. Somehow, your body will be damaged. Caught on dynamic hooks that will programme you but still you must do the impossible. You must love yourself.

You must minister love to yourself. If no one else can in those moments when the illness is at its most predominant you must. Write what you see. Write everywhere you go. It will soon become second nature your studies of human behaviour. Your observations. Respond to your mother with love. Respond to her with kindness even if it is the most difficult thing in the world. I think that every writer in their own way leaves their mark on this planet in what they write about and it usually is confessional even though that is not what they would call it. I do not feel quite as if I have arrived yet. It feels as if I am always saying goodbye. I am not invited to weddings (thank goodness). I do not go to funerals (one does not need to be invited to funerals). Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. The dark is like a veil. It is as if we desire the same thing. To go forward. To make progress. The dark veil appears at the door covering its host’s face. I choose my grandmother as the host. She told me not to waste the mind that God gave me.

In a concrete city, parents who moved furniture in the rooms of my childhood home. I wrote with his hollow marshmallow Easter egg next to me. All I could see was Easter light. The romantic tyke with his little shark teeth marks in the orange marshmallow and white marshmallow. I can still imagine the hollow Easter egg in his hands warm from his touch. His hands brown, sticky and warm. His sweet breath in my face spoke to me in plurals of winter. How hard it was to let him go. To return him to his people. The house is past. You speak to me in plurals. You speak to me in plurals of winter. If they only knew. The elixir’s will. That I was a self-imposed exile, Queen Fear in a sea of monkeys locked in the boneyard.

There are lifelines in stages. A concrete garden. Chronic city. Life flying solo. The intimacy of death. The land of somersaults. I am no longer in any one of those stages. Topography. I do not entertain kind of man. Do not wish for any kind of explosions in the night sky. Do not wish for echoes or any kind of fireworks. Women who are writers have to do readings. The intellectuals make love pressed against a man. Women who are writers have to go to book launches. Make love pressed against a man. I do not know how to do any of those things anymore. I do not know how to be brave. I will never be a bride holding the first draft of a manuscript. I will never be a Cinderella hiding her poetry away when her children come looking for her. A Cinderella believes in ephemera. Not in filmmaking.

Women become mothers. They say please touch me here. When an intellectual kind of woman makes love, they do not necessarily become mothers. Women make love in order to have sons and daughters. They make love in order to become mothers. It does not mean that they become better people. Kinder, nursemaids and that the ashtray, the single malt whisky disappears. She sees a sea’s in the roaring fireplace. Destroys correspondence. Letters from her mother, her diaries. Cinderella gets her prince in the end. I will never be the wife making hungry introductions. Making lists. Making grocery lists. Doing the laundry. Re-reading Lolita. Women need a cave, an escape. Like any ghost, kind of woman women need an exit route.

Is the sea not beautiful this time of year? It says things like, ‘do not be cautious.’ This was Ingrid Jonker’s sea. I inherited it the archipelago. The mass of the architecture. Wrapped the weight of the muse of water around my legs. A slush pile, a scapegoat. The news of it has reached my parents by now. My parents who are married but separated. I could have written a letter but I did not. Not that it did not cross my mind. My heart was starved. Words was all that I had left. It was a pale September. I left the bed dishevelled. My tousled unkempt hair. An otherworldly atom feed welcomed me inside the sea. The sea poured itself into me, my wet hair. How my lungs ached for air. Gulls screeched. Potbellies full. Sun gold dust. Sand gold dust. Then I was lying down in darkness. Famished in a temple.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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New Social Compact

Seven Out of 10 Top School Systems Are in East Asia Pacific

MD Staff



The East Asia and Pacific region has seven of the top ten performing education systems in the world, with schools in China and Vietnam showing significant progress, according to a new World Bank report released today. This is a major accomplishment that offers important lessons to countries around the world. In the rest of the region, however, up to 60 percent of students are in under-performing schools that fail to equip them with the skills necessary for success.

Growing Smarter: Learning and Equitable Development in East Asia and the Pacific argues that improving education is necessary to sustain economic growth and highlights the ways that countries in the region have been able to improve learning outcomes. Drawing on lessons from successful education systems in the region, it lays out a series of practical recommendations for key policies that promote learning so that students acquire foundational skills in reading and math, as well as more complex skills that are needed to meet future labor market demands.

Providing a high-quality education to all children, regardless of where they are born, isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also the foundation of a strong economy and the best way to stop and reverse rising inequalities,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific.

A quarter of the world’s school-age children – some 331 million – live in East Asia and the Pacific. Up to 40 percent of them attend school in education systems whose students are ahead of the average students in OECD countries. These schools are not only in wealthy countries such as Singapore, Korea and Japan, but also in middle-income countries such as China and Vietnam. And, as the report highlights, student performance isn’t necessarily tied to a country’s income level. By age 10, for example, the average Vietnamese student outperforms all but the top students in India, Peru and Ethiopia.

But many countries in the region are not getting the results they want. In Indonesia, for example, test scores showed students were more than three years behind their top-performing peers in the region. In countries such as Cambodia and Timor-Leste, one-third or more of second graders were unable to read a single word on reading tests.

Another key finding of the report is that across the region, household incomes do not necessarily determine children’s educational success. In Vietnam and China (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces), for example, students from poorer households do as well, if not better, in both math and science, as compared to average students in the OECD.

Effective policies for the selection, motivation, and support of teachers as well as sound practices in the classroom are what determine how much students learn. For policymakers looking to improve their school systems, allocating existing budgets efficiently, coupled with strong political commitment, can make a real difference in the lives of children across the region,” said Jaime Saavedra, the World Bank’s Senior Director for Education.

The report lays out concrete steps for improving learning for lagging systems in the region and beyond, starting with ensuring that institutions are aligned so that objectives and responsibilities across the education system are consistent with each other. The report also urges a focus on four key areas: effective and equity-minded public spending; preparation of students for learning; selection and support of teachers; and systematic use of assessments to inform instruction.

The report found that top-performing systems spend efficiently on school infrastructure and teachers, have recruitment processes to ensure the best candidates are attracted into teaching, and provide a salary structure that rewards teachers with proven classroom performance. It also found that schools throughout the region increased preschool access, including for the poor, and have adopted student learning assessment into their educational policies.

The report complements and builds on the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, which was released in September 2017 and found that without learning, education will fail to deliver on its promise to eliminate extreme poverty and create shared opportunity and prosperity for all.

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New Social Compact

UN women’s commission opens annual session at ‘pivotal moment’ for gender equality movement

MD Staff



Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN and Chair of the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), at the opening of the session. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Taking place at “a pivotal moment for the rights of women and girls,” the United Nations body dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment opened its annual session on Monday hearing calls to help women, especially those in rural communities, secure an end to the male-dominated power dynamic that has long marginalized their participation and muted their voices.

“Across the world, women are telling their stories and provoking important and necessary conversations – in villages and cities; in boardrooms and bedrooms; in the streets and in the corridors of power,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, opening the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62).

“From ‘MeToo’ to ‘Time’s Up’ and ‘The Time is Now’ […] women and girls are calling out abusive behaviour and discriminatory attitudes,” he added.

Under the Commission’s theme ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls,’ the UN chief observed that although a marginalized group, they were often the backbone of their families and communities, managing land and resources.

Mr. Guterres said that supporting these women is essential to fulfilling our global pledge to eradicate poverty and to create a safer, more sustainable world on a healthy planet – 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mr. Guterres painted a picture of a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture in which centuries of patriarchy and discrimination have left a damaging legacy.

Calling it “the greatest human rights challenge of our time,” he said “progress for women and girls means changing the unequal power dynamics that underpin discrimination and violence.”

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he continued. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality. And that is why I consider myself a proud feminist.”

The President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Marie Chatardova pointed to the Commission, as a critical instrument to strengthen the global normative framework for women’s empowerment and the promotion of gender equality.

The body is also as a key driver of ECOSOC’s work, with the Commission’s outcomes as bolstering the 2030 Agenda’s implementation and that of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

Noting that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is a theme that cuts across all the Goals, Ms. Chatardova said the Commission’s focus on rural women and girls was both timely and well-aligned with the 2030 Agenda.

According to the ECOSOC President, inclusion is a key element in all efforts.

Noting that the Commission has long provided a roadmap for the UN’s work in women’s empowerment and gender equality, she announced a special Council session in May to build sustainable, inclusive and resilient societies.

Gender perspective is critical

For his part, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, noted that past challenges were approached without a gender perspective, which “has had a particularly damaging effect on rural women.”

Mr. Lajčák underscored that this needs to stop, and that women must be taken into account in all actions, from access to water to closing pay gaps.

Drawing attention to rural women as a major source of innovation, he explained that their empowerment would benefit everyone.

“These kinds of women do not need our help, in finding solutions,” he stated. “What they need is our support, in turning their ideas into reality.”

Calling gender equality “an urgent priority,” Mr. Lajčák he encouraged the Commission to carry on with its important work “until every woman, sitting in this room today has the same rights, and the same opportunities, as the man sitting beside her.’

“Thank you for continuing your calls. Let’s make them stronger than ever,” he concluded.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted the importance of this year’s focus on rurual women.

“It speaks to our commitment to fight some of the biggest challenges of our time: poverty, inequality, intersectionality and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live, so that we ‘leave no one behind,’” she stated.

Calling it “a tipping point moment,” the UN Women chief urged the forum to seize the opportunity to secure and accelerate progress, build consensus and share best practices to serve “the poorest of the poor.”

“It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress” on the SDGs, she said.  An unprecedented hunger for change in women’s lives was being seen around the world, as well as a growing recognition that when women banded together, “they can make demands that bite.”

“Women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and they are refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion and discrimination across all walks of life,” she argued.

She urged everyone to unite around the common cause, as set out in the principles of equality in the UN Charter, “to make this a moment of real acceleration, change and accountability.”

The chair, Geraldine Byrne Nason, said the current session is a key moment on the path to ending discrimination against women and girls once and for all.  Indeed, “time is up” on women taking second place around the world, she said, challenging the Commission to do more and do better.

CSW functions under ECOSOC, acting as the UN organ promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.  CSW62 runs until 23 March.

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New Social Compact

UNESCO Rewards Outstanding Teacher Initiatives in Chile, Indonesia and the UK

MD Staff



Three programmes designed to empower teachers have been named as winners of the 2017-2018 UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize: The Center for Mathematic Modeling of the University of Chile, the Diklat Berjenjang project of Indonesia and the Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers will be awarded on 5 October as part of World Teachers’ Day celebrations at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris when the each winner will receive $100,000.

The Center for Mathematic Modeling of the University of Chile (Chile) is rewarded for its Suma y Sigue: Matemática en línea (Adding it up: Mathematics online) programme which was developed to address the performance gaps in mathematics between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and improve the quality of maths teaching in general. It is a ‘learning by doing’ programme organized by grade levels and curricula, enabling teachers to focus on their specialized area of mathematics teaching. It blends face-to-face sessions with intensive virtual instruction. The programme is scaleable, easily accessed by teachers in remote areas, and it promotes inclusion.

The Diklat Berjenjang project from Indonesia is rewarded for bringing quality professional development to early childhood teachers, notably in the poorest and most remote areas. It helps meet Indonesia’s need for teachers skilled in creating stimulating learning environments for young learners. It helps identify potential teacher trainers and provides step-by-step written guides, follow-up assignments and exchanges.

The Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was selected for its highly innovative and impactful approach to training teachers in various professional environments in Ghana. It promotes child-centred and play-based pedagogy in early education to replace traditional talk chalk disciplinarian methods. Practicing teachers receive a two-year training, combining workshops with smaller peer group meetings in which they are paired on the basis of their complementary strengths to engage in classroom observations and in class coaching.

The three winners were selected from 150 nominations submitted by the Governments of UNESCO’s Member States and UNESCO partner organizations on the recommendation of an International Jury of education professionals.

Established in 2009 with funding from Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai, the Prize is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalized or disadvantaged communities.

More information on the prize:

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