Archive for February 2012
Via Torontoist comes a Yonge Street Media article by Bert Archer talking about recent growth of French-language education in Toronto. Apparently all it took was immigration from Francophone communities and shifts in Ministry of Education policy that allowed the transfer of unused school buildings between boards.
Thirty years on, it seems Torontonians are finally twigging to the implications of Section 23, the bit that guarantees parents the right, under certain conditions, to educate their children in French.
According to the Charter, if your first language is French, or if you were educated in French, your children have the right to French education. This applies to people born in Canada, as well as immigrants from the approximately 50 countries where French is an official language. And according to an executive at the French Catholic system in Toronto, admission in his system is extended further through a “grandfather” clause, which allows any child with a French-speaking or French-educated grandparent to register, as well. In a country with about seven million native French speakers, whose population growth is increasingly dependent on immigration, and in a city like Toronto that acts as a magnet for both domestic and international migration, that accounts for a lot of kids.
The French classes mandated in the English school system are mostly lamentable. French immersion has become enormously competitive, with far fewer spots than kids. But a spot in a French immersion program is not guaranteed by the Charter. Wholesale French education is. So when a school in Toronto’s public or Catholic French school boards gets crowded, it doesn’t turn students way or get ludicrously selective, it expands. The Catholic school board, the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud (CSDCCS) has grown by more than 10 per cent over the last four years. The public system, the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde, by 23 per cent. Because land zoned for schools is at a premium in the GTA, expansion has in the past meant crowded classrooms and portables. But ever since 2006, when the Ministry of Education has its Pupil Accommodation Review, which forced the English system to consolidate its students, shutter sparsely populated schools and offer those schools up to other boards before they could put them on the open market, the French systems have been positively blossoming.
“We’re building a new elementary school is Scarborough,” says Rejean Sirois, the director of education for the Catholic system, “and we’re also building a new school northwest of the 401 to replace an existing school.” The growth is impressive. They’re also expanding two elementary schools that are over-crowded/, have received funding to buy a school in Etobicoke (formerly known as Richview), have already bought the former Essex public school near Christie Pits and have a new high school at the corner of Eglinton and Markham Road. The public system has five new schools in the works, including the school formerly known as West Toronto Collegiate, a three-storey, 1,000-student school they’re renovating jointly with the Catholic board. On Lansdowne between College and Bloor, the as yet un-named school is in the heart of Dufferin Grove, and will open up some much needed spots in the downtown core.
Joe. My. God. linked to an excerpt (published in the Washington Post of Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin’s new book Tinderbox, one of several books recently published which draw upon molecular biology and history to describe how HIV became a global pandemic with tens of millions of dead and infected when a century ago it was limited to chimpanzee populations in central Africa. Colonialism–specifically, the demand for ivory in southeastern Cameroon where HIV-infected chimpanzees lived, a century ago udner German control–is responsible for the shift.
Not far from where HIV-1 group M was born was a major river, the Sangha, flowing toward the heart of Central Africa. This section of the Sangha was not ideal for navigation because of its ribbons of sandbars and the dense vegetation along its banks.
In the especially treacherous middle section, near where Hahn and Sharp’s team found the viral ancestor of HIV, few major human settlements ever developed. But there were numerous communities on the Sangha’s more accessible stretches. And due south, past riverside trading towns, was the mighty Congo River itself, the superhighway of Central Africa.
[. . .]
In December 1895 German colonial authorities heard reports that Cameroon’s southeastern corner contained fabulously rich ivory and rubber stocks awaiting exploitation.
The Germans soon after gave authority to a colonial company to take control of the region by force. Over the next four years they extended their power all the way through southeastern Cameroon and established a trading station on the Ngoko River about 75 miles upstream from where its waters merged with the Sangha. In the wedge of land defined by these two rivers, HIV either had just been born or soon would be.
The trading station was called Moloundou, and a busy town remains there today. But at the time it was almost unimaginably remote. Few human settlements had developed among these forbidding forests. And there were only two practical ways out: by steamship down the Ngoko to the Sangha and on to the Congo River; or overland by foot to the Atlantic.
The river route was the easier of the two, and steamships transported the bulk of the ivory and rubber collected in southeastern Cameroon. But overland routes were necessary to connect Moloundou with other trading stations and inland areas rich with rubber and ivory.
[. . .]
In just a few years [syphillis] reached epidemic proportions along porter routes and riverside trading posts in Cameroon and throughout the Congo Basin. It’s impossible now to determine how much of this spread resulted from rapes as opposed to other kinds of encounters, but it’s clear that colonial commerce created massive new networks of sexual interactions — and massive new transmissions of infections. (In later decades, transmission through the reuse of hypodermic needles in medical care probably had some role in HIV’s spread as well.)
So HIV’s first journey looked something like this: A hunter killed an infected chimp in the southeastern Cameroonian forest, and a simian virus entered his body through a cut during the butchering, mutating into HIV.
This probably had happened many times before, during the centuries when the region had little contact with the outside world. But now thousands of porters — both men and women — were crossing through the area regularly, creating more opportunities for the virus to travel onward to a riverside trading station such as Moloundou.
One of the first victims — whether a hunter, a porter or an ivory collector — gave HIV to a sexual partner. There may have been a small outbreak around the trading station before the virus found its way aboard a steamship headed down the Sangha River.
[. . .]
Most of this colonial world didn’t have enough potential victims for such a fragile virus to start a major epidemic. HIV is harder to transmit than many other infections. People can have sex hundreds of times without passing the virus on. To spread widely, HIV requires a population large enough to sustain an outbreak and a sexual culture in which people often have more than one partner, creating networks of interaction that propel the virus onward.
To fulfill its grim destiny, HIV needed a kind of place never before seen in Central Africa but one that now was rising in the heart of the region: a big, thriving, hectic place jammed with people and energy, where old rules were cast aside amid the tumult of new commerce.
It needed Kinshasa. It was here, hundreds of miles downriver from Cameroon, that HIV began to grow beyond a mere outbreak. It was here that AIDS grew into an epidemic.
I’ll be looking out for Tinderbox when it comes out. It’ll be worth comparing it with Jacques Pepin’s The Origins of AIDS, which I blogged about at Demography Matters back in December. Pepin’s narrative places greater importance on medical campaigns–specifically, the use of unsterile needles in campaigns against sleeping sickness in French Equatorial Africa–in letting HIV infect enough people to create the critical mass necessary for a global epidemic.
Clearly, though, the two books share a common emphasis on the misdeeds, knowing and otherwise, of colonial empires in central Africa. That’s enough for a first approximation.