Africa

Five inspiring stories of dedication and change in Africa from 2019

Peter Tabichi being held aloft Image copyright Getty Images

Dedication is the word that links all the people whose lives have inspired others this year in Africa.

We revisit the stories of the dedicated teacher, student, lawyer, choir and activist, who have all in their own way encouraged others in 2019.

1. 'Young people have a lot of potential'

Brother Peter Tabichi

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Media captionPeter Tabichi was named 2019's best teacher in the world.

Held aloft by his cheering pupils, Brother Peter Tabichi got a hero's welcome in Kenya when he returned from Dubai brandishing the golden trophy he won after being named the world's best teacher.

He was awarded the Global Teacher Prize in March by a panel of judges, but the beaming faces of his students was testament to how much he was appreciated at home.

The modest Franciscan monk, who teaches maths and physics, gives away most of his salary to support poorer pupils at the rural secondary school in Nakuru country.

Reflecting on the year, Brother Tabichi told the BBC that the award was "clear evidence that Africa's young people have a lot of potential to positively transform the world".

Image copyright Getty Images

It has also inspired many people and showed that "teachers play a very important role in bringing the needed change in society through education", he added.

Brother Tabichi is also committed to encouraging his pupils, especially the girls, to get more interested in science.

"Peter Tabichi is really a great teacher," pupil Teresia Kanini told the BBC, "and he deserves the recognition and the award".

2. New mother, new graduate

Almaz Derese

Image copyright Almaz Derese
Image caption Almaz Derese gave birth to Yididiya, seen here at three months, half an hour before sitting an exam

Nothing, it seemed, was going to get in the way of Ethiopian Almaz Derese, 21, from taking her secondary school exams.

In June, she went into labour shortly before her first exam was due to start. She gave birth to a boy, Yididiya, and then 30 minutes later sat the exam on her hospital bed.

Image copyright Ilu Abba Bor Zone communication office
Image caption Almaz Derese took three exams at the Karl Mettu hospital in western Ethiopia

"Because I was rushing to sit the exam, my labour wasn't difficult at all," Ms Almaz told BBC Afaan Oromoo at the time.

Her husband, Tadese Tulu, said he had to persuade the school authorities to allow her to take the exams at the hospital.

In June, Ms Almaz found out she passed with a mark of 75%

The new mother said she did not expect such a good result as she was in pain whilst writing the papers and had been tired whilst pregnant.

"During my pregnancy, I was not comfortable to sleep at night, so I used the time to study," she told the BBC.

Her success meant she could continue at secondary school for two more years and apply to go to university. She now dreams of becoming an engineer.

3. 'How to make a difference'

Jordan Kinyera

Image copyright Jordan Kinyera
Image caption Jordan Kinyera was six years old when the land dispute began

Dedication to studying made 2019 a special year for Ugandan lawyer Jordan Kinyera.

The 29-year-old was driven to study law after he saw his father lose his property in a land dispute in 1996. Twenty-three years later, the High Court delivered a final judgement which ruled in his family's favour.

"My dad was retired, so he didn't have a lot of resources," Mr Kinyera told the BBC in April when discussing the protracted legal battle.

"He was desperate and there is something dehumanising about being in a desperate situation and not being able to do something about it. That is what inspired me the most."

Sadly, the ruling came too late for Mr Kinyera's father to really benefit. The 82-year-old struggles with Alzheimer's and "we have to keep reminding him that things are done", Mr Kinyera recently told the BBC.

The six hectare (15 acre) plot of land is in Kitgum, some 430km (270 miles) north of the capital, Kampala.

Since April, not much has changed there as a lot still needs to be sorted out, including reconciling with the neighbours who had disputed the ownership, Mr Kinyera said.

But the most important thing is that "we're in a better mental state right now, everyone has peace of mind", he added.

The young lawyer is now advising other people who are involved in similar land disputes.

His story of dedication and tenaciousness garnered a huge reaction on BBC Africa's Facebook page.

"This young man is a great example of how to make a difference, congratulations are in order - great job done," Paul Watson wrote in response.

4. 'Proud ambassadors of Africa'

Ndlovu Youth Choir

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Conductor Ralf Schmitt and three of the choir before one of the rounds of America's Got Talent

"It's been a manic but epic year," the conductor of South Africa's Ndlovu Youth Choir, Ralf Schmitt, told the BBC.

Things began to get crazy when the choir - made up of young people from a poor rural community - was asked to audition for the US TV show America's Got Talent.

The singers made it through to September's final and by then they had the whole of South Africa rallying behind them.

The choir sang their own rendition of Africa - a hit for US band Toto in the early 1980s - wowing the judges and audience.

"Tonight we were proud young ambassadors of a united Africa," the choir tweeted.

Ndlovu did not win the competition, but did get a record deal and in November they released their first CD, which reached the top of South Africa's iTunes chart.

Image copyright Getty Images

"America's Got Talent changed everything for us," Schmitt explained. "There is a marked difference in the singers' school work and they are considered role models for the community and millions of other young South Africans."

5. 'I'm just a messenger'

Alfred Brownell

Image copyright Goldman Prize

"I'm just a messenger - the real winners are the communities," Liberian lawyer and activist Alfred Brownell told the BBC in April after winning a major environmental prize.

Mr Brownell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work in stopping the destruction of more than 500,000 acres of rainforest in Liberia.

Together with local community leaders, Mr Brownell documented the destruction of forests and farmlands in the south-east by palm oil company Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL).

As a result of his work, the global certification body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, put a "stop work" order on GVL, freezing any expansion of the palm oil plantations and preventing any further forest clearance.

"It's the time now for big corporations, palm oil companies and investors to invest in communities, to protect them and to empower them," he told BBC's Newsday radio programme.

His activism raised the ire of the Liberian authorities and after facing violence and death threats, he was forced to flee Liberia and is now in exile in the US.

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