In With the Nu

AS YOU sit in one of the small and scruffy departure lounges at Kunming Airport, waiting for the connecting flight to Xishuangbanna in the southwest, you turn your attention to two large billboards situated prominently near the windows facing the cluttered airstrip. The posters, with glossy defiance, celebrate the ongoing construction of two large hydropower stations on the Jinsha River, the western branch of the Yangtze. The plants, built also to reduce the siltation pressures on the Three Gorges Dam further downstream, are airbrushed in clean and shiny whites and greys, and the water around them remains a perfect and implausible blue.

They are among many such construction projects currently being considered in Yunnan, where economic development has been given the priority above almost everything else, and where power corporations from the east have been rushing to take advantage. A project that will eventually submerge the celebrated Tiger Leaping Gorge – on the section of the Jinsha north of Dali – is also underway, arousing significant international opposition. The International Rivers Network says that the damage caused by the flooding of the valley to the local ‘cultural heritage sites’ will be ‘irreplaceable’. They are also concerned by the irreversible changes to a unique ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the provincial capital of Kunming continues to grow. The train station, renowned as the most unbearable in the whole of China, is still surrounded by rubble and temporary wooden partitions marking some new road or building. The entire city, cowed by roadblocks and scaffolds, picked at by cranes, seems – like many others in China – to be on the verge of an explosion. As the government slogan announces, peremptory and beyond refute, ‘Development is inevitable’.

In the far west of Yunnan, the untouched Nu River seemed to have been given something of a reprieve a few months ago. China’s single remaining virgin waterway, which winds north through some of the province’s most beautiful landscape, was about to be given a big seeing-to by the nation’s energy-mad authorities. Earlier this year, Premier Wen Jiabao was said to have intervened personally, asking developers to reconsider their plans. Still, one imagines that the ‘rape’ of the Nu is just a question of time.

The philosopher, Martin Heidegger, chose to illustrate the two different approaches to nature by comparing the construction of a bridge with the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Modern technology, he wrote, was ‘a manner of unprotecting’ nature. A bridge, connecting up the two banks, shows ‘respect’ for the river, but a hydropower station actually turns nature into part of its own ‘inventory’. The power plant is not built into the river, but the river is built into the power plant.

To illustrate the difference in perspectives, Heidegger compared the Rhine as part of the inventory of modern technology with the Rhine described in a poem by Holderlin. After it has been devastated by technology, the river remains as ‘a provided object of inspection by a party of tourists sent there by a vacation industry’. Such a description seems appropriate in modern Yunnan. While the power companies work their way through the region’s rivers, foreign and domestic tourists have transformed old cities such as Dali and Lijiang, and plans to improve the transportation infrastructure to the west and to the south will see the character of prefectures such as Xishuangbanna and the Nu River changed beyond recognition.

There are a number of small bridges connecting the banks of the Nu, but the favoured means of crossing by the local farmers seems even purer than that. Hooking themselves into a harness consisting of a rope and a piece of flat canvas, they sweep back and forth at massive speeds on a cable attached to a couple of trees, and carry bags of cement, grain and sometimes even livestock between their knees as they do so. One farmer agreed to carry me. Slung across the grey autumn waters and into a patch of worn grass on the Nu River’s left bank, the bowel-shaking fear quickly gave way to a sense of exhilaration.

I was taking a long ride from Dali with an incompetent local tour guide to the town of Liuku in western Yunnan, right on the bank of the Nu River. The area is a picture of health, ruddy and rugged and robustly green. Farmers spin past on motorbikes, trading chunks of meat with local guest houses and restaurants. At one stop along the way, situated on a bend on a country road, a three-legged horse skipped past – cheerfully enough, considering the circumstances. The half-whistle, half-bleat of the local birds could be heard everywhere. Tiny communities lived in wooden shacks on the hills, emerging on Tuesdays to trade at the local markets.

It was tempting to call the place quaint, and worthy of any preservation order that might be made to stick. It was, however, dirt-poor, and though much better and much more lively than a decade or so ago (according to our guide), most of the people living here would love to replace their stilted huts, their latrines, their drafty outhouses, with new buildings and indoor plumbing.

Usually, it is only outsiders who get sentimental. We, after all, can go home somewhere else. One isn’t entirely sure that the life of the poor throughout China would be improved by any degree were their barns, their slums, their shanty towns to become ‘heritage sites’. On the other hand, it is clear that the mass destruction caused by economic growth is not of much benefit to the communities affected. It is also clear that the ecology of Yunnan – one of the most varied and vibrant in China – is being put under threat.

Still, crossing the upper reaches of the Mekong, watching the silt-filled, chocolate-coloured waves and negotiating the old van past the piles of rocks cast down during a recent landslide, one cannot fail to be impressed somehow. I have been bruised, stupefied and generally thrown about by hundreds of poor-quality roads throughout China. Here, the biggest challenge was the occasional ford cutting across a narrow but mostly impeccable mountain pass. In harsh conditions, the road builders had performed well.

Roads are the big thing in Yunnan. Plans are underway to complete a regional high-speed road network that will connect Kunming with Singapore. Coming back from the wild elephant park in Xishuangbanna, we were halted by a fleet of trucks and steamrollers inching along to assist a team of miscellaneously-dressed labourers spreading grit across the tracks. Above us was the skeleton of an overpass, its bare stanchions planted in the fields nearby. The old road will eventually become superfluous for the majority of freight traffic surging through the region and into southeast Asia. Things will change, we thought, and Jinghong, the region’s major city but run at a painfully slow pace, will no doubt be brought up to speed by an opportunistic migrant population from Sichuan or the northeast.

LIUKU is a small urban centre and trading spot for the hundreds of small counties and villages scattered throughout the area, several hundred kilometres west of Dali. Whatever purists might think, the locals would love it if streams of tourists were suddenly to pour in from the more fashionable areas further east, but apart from the way it nestles comfortably – if a little chaotically – in the mountains running along the banks of the Nu, there is little to distinguish the place. Its greatest advantage is its location, and visitors note the great potential of the riverfront, where a couple of cafes now provide much of the town’s nightlife.

As one enters the town, an old Ming Dynasty temple lies on the mountain above the intersection of the Yagoujia River and the Nu River itself. As is customary, the temple appears as if it was built out of papier mache and painted yesterday morning by industrious local schoolkids. A huge laughing Buddha decked out in gold paint seems to dominate the gaff from his little stage. Dogs patrol the high steps, and spiders, each two inches long, nest in the frames of doors and in the overhead lights.

Across on the other side of the river, the effects of the previous night’s rain storm were clear to see, with policemen knee-deep in mud and the road – the only route north – blocked by piles of displaced rock.

The foreigners, so prevalent in Dali, and less so in Jinghong further south, were nowhere to be seen. Hardcore travellers head north to see the enclaves of Tibetans, or the old ethnic ways of the Lisu, the Nu and the Drang nationalities. Some come to see the immense volume of indigenous butterflies, with a couple of Japanese collectors even managing to steal a few rare specimens under the noses of the local authorities a few years ago. There were also stories of a pair of American travellers crossbowed in the back by Lisu hunters after trying to abscond with some significant local religious icon – the man with the story wasn’t quite sure what the object was. The rest of the local legends about foreigners involve them being attacked by Tibetan dogs and carried out of the forests, bleeding. Still, foreigners here are once again the objects of fascination, rather than the sort of seen-it-all-before scorn one gets in Shanghai, or the dollar-sign gazes in Dali and Lijiang.

Guidebooks such as Lonely Planet abhor the current pace of Chinese development, of course, and as the years pass and the new editions enter print, the laments about the high-rises and highways seem to get longer and longer. China is losing its character.

We can understand this. And yet, after a week on the road along the Nu River, speaking no English and staying in the dingiest of guest houses, we still longed for the pizzas, banana pancakes and foreign influences in Dali. Many agreed, and many long-hatched tour plans are thwarted by the magnetism of the town’s bars and cafes. Some foreigners on year-long tours find themselves stuck, unable to leave, trapped in a perpetual marijuana haze and remaining lucid enough just to teach a few classes in the main city and pay for their lodgings.

Travelling further north from Liuku on the way to Fugong the following day, rain clouds lingered like smoke on the mountains, and dozens of blue, three-wheel buggies chugged down the slope on the only road out. We drove through building sites, where workers squatted on dunes of mud, and through villages in which cattle and old nags wandered wearily past, and where tiny, friendly little dogs lounged on almost every stoop. Streams of water, bloated by a heavy rain storm the previous evening, cascaded into the rough Nu waters.

We stopped off in a small market village called Gudeng, close to the Binuo Snow Mountain, and watched the local farmers manhandling a couple of disobedient black pigs. Another offered us a glass of warm corn liquor he had just produced at a makeshift stove attached to a dirty plastic pipe. The dominant presence in the town was the family planning centre, where government slogans about improving the quality of the population were pumped out from a pair of loud speakers, drowning out the Chinese disco beats emerging from the market itself. Apart from the family planning centres, there are other things that seem ubiquitous throughout China, from Xinjiang to Shanghai and from Guangdong to Yunnan. One of them is the pool table. Another is the bill poster advertising cures for sexually-transmitted diseases.

WE CAME to understand that in the pretty little town of Fugong, where we spent Mid-Autumn festival, the local residents – mainly of Lisu minority – would also have longed for the sort of opportunities afforded to Dali. Cafes, restaurants, and a place on the tourist trail would revitalize the place, and would ultimately be of far more value than a hydropower station. Can the two be disconnected? Some of the villages along the banks of the Nu River didn’t even have a watt of electricity until the last decade. It is a fact of life that further development – including the tourist industry – requires more power.

Purists are unlikely to consider the contradiction, and may indeed prefer to slum it – for a week in any case – in tents or in the dingy, second-rate guest houses available en route. Still, the woman at the reception of the guest house in Gongshan seemed apologetic. ‘Are you sure you want to stay here?’ she said.

Heading across the river, we came across a large wooden public house built on an old water mill. Wheels driven by the Nu River itself churned away beneath a section of rooms lined with soggy woven carpets and old Lisu paraphernalia – the traditional costumes and weaponry of the bulk of the local people. A dozen girls from a local hair salon were dancing in the middle of one of the stages on the upper tier of the building, moving two steps forward and two steps back, hand in hand. They greeted us favourably, encouraging us to join in their drinking games. We had a ‘one-heart drink’ (tongxinjiu) – where two people drink from the same glass, their cheeks and mouths touching – with every one of them, the sweet local liquor dripping onto our clothes.

Hours later, after crossing the bridge again and singing Lisu songs as we parted company with our new friends, we managed to stumble through a tunnel and into the grounds of the local Public Security Bureau, where the Fugong police were also celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with a form of dance which, by the time we started to participate, seemed to involve running at top speed while kicking our legs as high as possible in the air. Local police chiefs, conforming to the stereotypes of drunkenness that seem more or less international, told us that national boundaries didn’t matter, and that friendship transcended all countries. We agreed.

The next morning, driving out of the town and past a long row of old wooden buildings with red sliding doors and a range of shoddy garages that serve as shops and diners, we headed for Gongshan along a spectacular stretch of scenery, part of a 300-km gorge lined with waterfalls, brooks and white cloud pierced by the mountains on both banks. Houses seemed to balance precariously on the plateau, only a storm away from complete collapse. Women carried large squares of corrugated iron along the slopes, their children following.

The whole Gongshan region, an old man in the guest house told me, has now been renamed the ‘Three Rivers Gongshan Region’. ‘They are creating a trademark,’ the man said, shrugging his thin shoulders. The Mekong, the Nu, and the Jinsha all pass through before reaching their source, and the local government are trying to draw in the trade.

The town itself, another sleepy cluster of apartments, restaurants and trading posts all piled up in layers along the slopes leading from the river to the mountain, was actually far from untouched. As was the case in Liuku, the missionaries had already been and gone, leaving a curious legacy of Roman Catholicism among the local minority communities. Mothers sat weaving on the steps of a church – a square, squat one-storey affair with a bright red cross built on the mountain – waiting for evening prayer. Prayer notices on the wrought-iron door of the church were transcribed in a romanized version of the local Lisu language. Some hours later, an implausible disco beat pounded out from a wooden house further up the hill, and the church was empty.

A Tibetan girl, working in a curious entertainment complex close to another Catholic church further down in the valley, asked us if we were fellow believers. She answered to her Catholic name of Mary, and was from Dimaluo, an ethnic mishmash of Tibetans, Lisu, Drong, and others some way further north along the river. There was a sadness to her as she told us her life story, about her stalled education, about the death of her father after a sudden and inexplicable ‘infection’, and about her preference for the countryside from which she hailed.

In the stores nearby, posters of Zhou Enlai, Sun Yatsen and the Panchen Lama swayed slightly in the wind, and beneath them lay the usual clutter of mooncakes, cigarettes and cheap, defective batteries.

What worried us about ‘untouched’ places like Fugong or Gongshan was not so much the prospect of development, and the ‘exploitation’ or ‘despoliation’ or ‘swamping’ of the local culture and character, but the thousands of local residents, educated to a degree, certainly aspirational, but cut off even from the possibility of ambition, marooned in a remote town that is linked to the nearest city only through a single mountain pass that requires two days to traverse. As we did at the Three Gorges, we started to wonder whether the sacrifice of the local scenery could somehow be made worthwhile, if it could allow these people a way out. After all, it might be more appropriate to judge the vitality of a culture by its porousness, and more pertinently, by the opportunities it gives its members to escape and try something new.

Heidegger hated the way the Rhine had become an object of the tourism industry as well as the hydropower industry, but on the Nu River, we had to allow for the fact that the proposed construction of an airport in remote Gongshan, the construction of highways, and the development of local industry might actually be good for the area, in the absence of any other options. Heidegger hated TV and spent most of his final, disgraced decades in a wooden shack in the Black Forest, but he had choice. The local residents in Fugong and Gongshan have TV, and they see the glitter of wealth and opportunity. But they have no wealth. And no opportunity.

And yet, the ‘current mode of development’ is all about exploitation, and the further enrichment of China’s east coast at the expense of the west. The scenery is ruined, the ecology is damaged, and old farming communities are moved to nearby urban slums, where they have little prospect of work or prosperity. Here, as in the Three Gorges and other regions, one imagines that the local people will reap little of the rewards of ‘opening up’.

A Fragile Lifeline: Lessons I Learned Answering The Aids Hotline

Dial 1-800/AIDSNYC

Every Monday and Wednesday morning, promptly at 10 a.m., I leave behind

my daily life and turn to volunteering as an AIDS Hotline counselor at New York

City’s GMHC [Gay Men’s Health Crisis], the nation’s largest social service

agency for AIDS.

For the next four hours, my co-volunteers and I sit in front of a bank of

constantly-ringing telephones, talking to men, women, and teens who call in

from across the nation with urgent questions about AIDS, the ravaging disease

that has left 13.9 million people dead worldwide.

After almost 20 years, a whole generation, families are still facing the

heartache of tending the sick, while scientists continue to be confounded by

this stubborn, ravaging virus.

Although the federal government currently spends$4 billion per year on

AIDS research, and $15 billion worldwide, there is no cure in sight for the viral

infection and no vaccine available. Small wonder that the GMHC AIDS Hotline,

the nation’s first, is flooded with more than 40,000 calls each year.

Listening to callers 8 hours each week, I often think the Hotline is actually a

direct link to the soul of callers–an anonymous forum that allows each to

reveal secrets and fears that they might otherwise never discuss with anyone.

A Morning in May

This is the way it began: “Good morning, GMHC AIDS Hotline, can I help

you?”

“Yes…I have a question…[hesitantly] My son…he’s 21…and he just found

out…he’s HIV-positive [voice breaking] I’m…..alone, divorced. And I need some

help…someone to talk to…”

“Of course….happy to talk to you…it sounds like this has been devastating

for you….”

“It’s terrible. He told me two nights ago….he’s…he’s so young….I don’t

want him to die. He’s my only child….why did this have to happen?” [crying]

Her son, she explains, had sometimes neglected using condoms, convinced

he wouldn’t contract HIV infection from his female partners.

“How could he be so stupid?” she now asks angrily. “Why didn’t he know

how to protect himself? I don’t understand. What am I going to do?”

We talk for 35 minutes, and by the end of the conversation, I notice I’m

barely breathing. The distraught woman’s anguish is palpable. Her situation is

every mother’s worst nightmare.The life of her child is in jeopardy and she

feels helpless and afraid. I can’t imagine anything worse.

During the call, I do my best to employ the GMHC Hotline protocol of “active

listening,” which involves using silence, empathy and gentle probing with

open-ended questions. I’m also having my own emotional reaction to the panic

in her voice, and I’m worried about whether I’m doing enough.

Toward the end of the clal, when she exclaims: “I don’t want my baby to

die,” my heart plummets: “I know….I understand that, but there is hope,” I tell

her. I find myself on the verge of tears.

The Bad News

This mother’s story is too common. According to the Centers for Disease

Control in Atlanta, Ga., 40,000 Americans (half of them under 25) are newly

infected with the AIDS virus each year. Unprotected sex and intravenous drug

use remain the principal modes of   transmission .

“Teenagers,” notes AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor, “are being very hard hit.”

She refers to the three million adolescents who contract a sexually-transmitted

disease annually.

“Heterosexual teenage football players who are healthy and drink milk can

get it too!” says the 71-year-old actress, who has singlehandedly raised $150

million for AIDS research. “But teens are very ignorant and feel invincible. They

believe there’s an invisible shield protecting them from the virus, when it’s

actually aimed right at them.”

Taylor believes in addressing the problem head-on: “Tell your teenage son:

‘Maybe a condom doesn’t feel as good, but if it saves your life, it’s better than

being six feet under.’ Intelligence must replace random sex.”

Although a new generation of AIDS-fighting medications is prolonging the

lives of thousands, nearly half of the 900,000 people infected with HIV in the

U.S. cannot afford these drugs. Since the virus was discovered in l981, 410,800

Americans have died from AIDS-related complications, and the disease has left

13.9 million dead worldwide.

Who Calls a Hotline?

Not long ago I took a call from a 15-year-old boy living in a small town who

said he feels guilty about his sexual attraction to other boys and is scared to

discuss this with his parents. I ask him if there’s a school counselor or relative

he might talk to, but he says he’s too afraid to confide in anyone.

Being a teenager is hard enough, I thought, without the pressure of

keeping this kind of secret. I felt angry and saddened that this child can’t

comfortably discuss his feelings with his own parents.

I encourage him to call the Gay Community Center Youth Program in a

nearby city. In the meantime, I assured him that he could call our Hotline

anytime, that we’d be there for him.

This call was typical of the many we get from teenagers,whispering from

their parents’ homes, confiding their blossoming sexual feelings and concerns.

Our Hotline also receives calls from married men who phone from their offices,

worried about extramarital sexual encounters; gay men suffering side effects

from medications; mothers caring for a sick child or grieving for one lost to

AIDS; even health care professionals themselves confused and requiring

burnout support.

One particular morning, I’m struck by the number of single women who

turn to our hotline for help. At 10:15 a.m. a distraught young woman calls,

explaining that she had been dating someone “very charismatic,” after a two-

year period of sexual abstinence.

“At first we used condoms and I was taking the pill to avoid pregnancy,” she

says. But after her partner assured her he was HIV-negative, the couple began

having unprotected sex. A few months into the relationship, she recounts, his

behavior became “unpredictable,” until he finally admitted he was sleeping with

other women and was addicted to heroin. Now she has to withstand the

“terror” of waiting 3 months before getting an HIV antibody test. To help her

cope, I give her the names of three terapists in her area. The call lasts 43

minutes.

At 11:15 a.m. I take a call from a woman who is breathing heavily.

She says that four months earlier she’d had a brief affair with a limousine

driver, “not out of passion, but because I felt lonely. This was so totally unlike

me,” she continues. “I come from a traditional Orthodox Jewish family…”

Although they used condoms, and she has since tested negative for HIV, she

feels deeply ashamed, and has stopped seeing him. And because she has both

a persistent vaginal yeast infection and a rash on her neck, she’s convinced she

must be infected by HIV.

Although rashes, high fever, swollen lymph glands, heavy night sweats, sore

throat, or other flu-like symptoms may indicate HIV, they can just as easily

accompany the common cold or flu, or other type of infection. I encourage her

to seek medical help and counseling, but the calls ends on a down note. “I

must have it [AIDS],” she moans. I’m exasperated because it doesn’t sound

that way to me, yet I can’t get through to her. The call lasts 22 minutes.

It’s 11.38 a.m. when a well-spoken woman, who says she’s an attorney,

calls from her office, asking for the names of anonymous testing sites. At first

very businesslike, she calmly takes down all the information. I ask her why

she’s considering a test. Total silence. Then she begins to cry: “I….I can’t

talk….I’m sorry…you see, I have swollen lymph glands….[crying]….And my

doctor wants to rule out HIV…I feel overwhelmed…” Then, abruptly: “Where

can I send a donation?” She thanks me and hurries off the phone after just 3

minutes.

These were one-time callers, but, as in any epidemic, an element of panic

prevails, and our hotline also attracts an army of “chronic” or repeat callers

who are intensely fearful no matter how benign their risk, many revealing

continued misconceptions and paranoia about a disease that can be effectively

prevented. We do our best to help them, but often they’re impervious to

counseling.

Most poignant are calls we get from AIDS patients, phoning from their

hospital beds, attempting to navigate the exhausting labyrinth of insurance

and health care matters. One man, in hospice care, said he craved

companionship and missed the “good old days” when he was handsome and

healthy.

That call was a tough one for me as just the day before a close friend of

mine, Joe, who had battled HIV for 16 years, had finally succumbed. Although

at the end Joe was a mere skeleton, he was nonetheless at peace. “I’ve done

what I wanted to,” he told me on our last visit. An avid gardener, he insisted

on a final trip to his country house to see his garden one last time. For a

moment the caller’s reality and the memory of my deceased friend blurred in

my mind and I was overcome. Time for a break.

Face to Face

One of the most and unique services GMHC offers is called “A-Team

Counseling,” a one-time, in-person session that’s free and anonymous.

Recently, I was on an A-Team counselling a 26-year-old HIV-infected

mother from the Midwest. She had traveled to Manhattan by bus to find her

estranged boyfriend, who, she recounted tearfully, had kidnapped her 7-year-

old son. Disheveled, painfully thin, the woman was a disturbing sight. She’s

learned that the two had already returned home where the boyfriend was, and

the child put in his grandmother’s custory. custody of his grandmother.

Meanwhile she’d run out of money for the return trip, been refused a loan by

her family, lost her ID, gone hungry and spent two nights on the street.

Fortunately, this woman was registered at a local AIDS organization in her

town. I telephoned her caseworker and persuaded him to buy her a one-way

Greyhound bus ticket for $115.00. I also gave her subway tokens, a basket of

food, juice and coffee. Smiling shyly, she thanked me for caring.

Shaking hands good-bye with this woman was a bittersweet farewell. What

will happen to her? I wondered will her health deteriorate or improve? Will she

gain control of her life and be able to provide for her son? I’ll never know. One

thing I do know: She’d appeared with the sorrow of a difficult life in her eyes,

but when she left, she was elated at the thought of being reunited with her

child. It seems that with faith and a helping hand, almost anything is possible.

* * * * *

10 BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AIDS AND HIV

(This list would probably be most effective when presented in a vertical chart,

the misconception on the left, the correct answer on the right.)

1)The AIDS virus can be transmitted through saliva, sweat, tears, urine or feces;

also through deep kissing.

1) HIV can ONLY be transmitted through four bodily fluids: blood, semen,

vaginal secretions and breast milk–and can also be transmitted from a mother

to her child before birth, during birth, or while breast feeding. The exchange

of saliva through kissing is no-risk, unless the saliva has blood in it and both

you and your partner are bleeding in the mouth simultaneously.

2) HIV may also be transmitted through casual contact with an infected person.

2) You can’t get infected from toilet seats, phones or water fountains. The virus

can’t be transmitted in the air through sneezing or coughing. You can’t get

HIV from sharing utensils or food or from touching, or hugging. HIV dies after

being exposed to the air. Therefore, touching dried blood on a shaving blade, a

toothbrush or a bathroom counter top is no risk. In any case, unbroken skin is

impermeable, like a rubber raincoat, and cannot absorb the virus whether it’s

alive or dead.

Blood transfusions and medical procedures in the U.S. are safe. Giving blood is

completely risk-free. The chance of getting HIV from dentists or other health

care providers is too low even to measure.You can’t get it from mosquitoes or

other insect or animal bites.

3) Oral sex is just as risky as vaginal or anal intercourse.

3) Although not 100% risk-free, oral sex is considered a low-risk

activity,except if: you have bleeding gums, recent dental work, open sores such

as a herpes lesion, any cut, blister, or burn in the mouth, or if you’ve just

brushed or flossed your teeth. Also, oral sex with an infected woman is riskier

if she is having her period, since menstrual blood can contain HIV. Overall,

latex barriers, (such as condoms or dental dams) used during oral sex reduce

the  transmission  of not just HIV, but other sexual transmitted diseases.

4) Animal skin, latex and polyurethane condoms are all equally effective in

preventing HIV infection and you can use ANY lubrication on the condom

desired.

4)Only latex or polyurethane condoms may be used, as HIV can pass through

an animal skin condom. With latex condoms, only water-based lubricants–like

K-Y jelly or H-R jelly–may be used. No lubricants with oil, alcohol, or grease

are safe.Petroleum jelly,Vaseline, Crisco, mineral oil, baby oil, massage oil,

butter and most hand creams can weaken the condom and cause it to split.

However, with polyurethane condoms, petroleum-based lubricants can be

used.

5) Women have to rely on men using condoms during intercourse to protect

themselves against HIV.

5) Women may employ the “female condom,” a plastic sheath that can be

inserted in their vaginas and used for protection against HIV. It can be inserted

up to 8 hours before sex, has rings at both ends to hold it in place and can be

lubricated with oil-based lubricants that stay wet longer. In addition, women

can carry conventional condoms for their male partners’ use.

6) If a woman is HIV-positive, her offspring will automatically be born infected

with HIV.

6) With no medical treatment taken, about 25% of HIV-positive women will

give birth to infants who are also infected. However, the use of anti-HIV

medications has resulted in a significant decrease of mother-to-child

 transmission  of HIV in utero and during delivery to less than 5%. (NYT 10/19/

99].

7) AIDS is fundamentally a gay disease contracted by white males.

7) Recent data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

indicate that young gay Hispanic and African-American men and heterosexual

women are the fastest growing segment of the population being infected with

HIV. Women now account for 43% of all HIV infected people over age 15. [NYT

11/24/98] African-American and Hispanic women account for more than 76%

of AIDS cases among women in the U.S.

8) Heterosexual men are not really at risk for contracting HIV, even if they

don’t use condoms.

8) The inside opening of the penis is composed of highly-absorbent, sponge-

like mucous membrane tissues, which can provide a route for HIV-infected

vaginal secretions or blood to enter the bloodstream. Proper condom use

protects men from infection.

9) The AIDS epidemic is largely over because new AIDS medications like

protease inhibitors and others have turned AIDS into a chronic, not a terminal

disease.

9) In the U.S., AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death for people 25-44 years

old. Roughly half of all those infected with HIV in the U.S. are not receiving any

medications or medical care. AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any

other infection, including malaria and tuberculosis.[NYT 11/24/98] In 1998

alone, 2.5 million people died of AIDS worldwide. 13.9 million people have

died since the virus was discovered in 1981.

10) If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV through unprotected sex, you can

take an HIV antibody test 2 weeks later and get an accurate result.

10) The standard “window” or waiting period remains a full 3 months. However,

because the widely-used HIV antibody tests (The ELISA and Western Blot) have

become so sensitive, about 95% of people will procure an accurate result 4-6

weeks after a possible exposure to the virus.

* * * *

[Note:The information stated above was reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr.

Todd J. Yancey, an infectious disease specialist practicing in New York City and

affiliated with New York Presbyterian Hospital, NY, Cornell Campus.]

THE CHILD LIFE PROGRAM

“Mommy takes a lot of medicine and Mommy’s really tired sometimes and she

can’t take you to the park as much as she used to. It’s not that I don’t love

you…and that I don’t want to…but Uncle Jack’s going to take you to the park

today.” –A mother living with AIDS, a client at GMHC, talking to her 6-year-

old son.

In New York City alone, 28,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS since the

epidemic began [NYT 12/13/98]

GMHC’s unique Child Life Program serves HIV-infected parents and their

children–who may, or may not, be infected with the virus. “We help families

strengthen their ability to cope, relieve the pressure of parenting with support

services, and teach parents how to talk to their kids,” says Child Life Program

Coordinator Alison Ferst. “Unfortunately, should a parent or child be sick

enough to be facing death, we also help them walk through it with grace and

dignity—as opposed to feeling alone, isolated and frightened.

“We also encourage sick parents to make stable legal plans for their

children who may be left behind,” adds Ferst, “and to have disclosure

conversations with the children in advance, so you don’t have a child standing

at her mother’s funeral, not sure where she’s going next.”

When an HIV-infected Mom arrives at GMHC to have lunch, attend a support

group, consult with a lawyer, or access the acupuncture clinic, she can leave

her children in a spacious playroom, decorated with fanciful murals and a giant

tree hand-painted by the famed children’s story writer and illustrator, Maurice

Sendak, who donated his art. [see photos] The program provides: child-

sitting, nutrition services, a food pantry, art and magic classes, and

recreational trips–church picnics, seasonal apple-pumpkin picking,

amusement parks, zoos, museums, beaches. Also: homework help sessions,

holiday parties, hospital visits, summer sports and weekly support groups for

HIV- positive parents and their HIV-negative children.

This unique program also features: Cooking classes for kids who sometimes

prepare meals for sick parents; Pediatric Buddies, GMHC adult volunteers who

play with sick children and also assist with family chores; Fun With Feelings

Support Group, Friday Evening Family Time, Birthday parties, and a Holiday Gift

Drive.

“Children infected or affected by AIDS,” concludes Ferst, “want to be like

other kids: They want to play with their friends, want to know that someone

will always take care of them, want to know they’re not alone, and often

wonder if it’s their fault when Mom or Dad gets sick.” These children need a

helping hand and any of us can provide one.

5 Simple Steps to Having a Healthy Pregnancy

If you’ve decided to have a baby, the most important thing is that you care a lot, so that both you and the baby are healthy in the future. Girls who receive proper care and take the right decisions are highly likely to have healthy babies.

Prenatal Care

If you discover you are pregnant, see a doctor as soon as possible to begin receiving prenatal care (care during pregnancy). The sooner you begin receiving medical care, the better the chances that both you and your baby are healthy in the future.

If you can not afford to visit a doctor or pay for the consultation in a clinic for prenatal care, social service organizations exist that can help. Ask your parents, school counselor or another trusted adult to help you find resources in your community.

During the first consultation, the doctor will make a lot of questions, such as date of your last period. In this way, you can calculate how long have you been pregnant and what date you expect your baby.

Doctors estimate the duration of pregnancy in weeks. The due date is estimated, but the majority of babies born between 38 and 42 weeks after the first day of last menstrual period of women, or between 36 and 38 weeks after conception (when the sperm fertilizes the egg). Only a small percentage of women giving birth at the estimated delivery date.

The pregnancy is divided into three phases, or quarters. The first quarter runs from conception to end of week 13. The second is from week 14 to 26. The third, from week 27 until the end of pregnancy.

The doctor will examine you and perform a pelvic exam. The doctor will also order blood tests, urine tests and tests to check for sexually transmitted diseases (STD by its acronym in English), including an HIV test, an increasingly common condition in adolescents. (Because some STDs can cause serious health problems in newborns, it is important to get appropriate treatment to protect the baby.)

The doctor will explain what are the physical and emotional changes that are likely to experience during pregnancy. We also learn to recognize the symptoms of possible problems (complications) during pregnancy. This is essential, because teenagers are at greater risk of crossing certain complications such as anemia or hypertension, and give birth before the expected date (premature labor).

Your doctor will want to start taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, calcium and iron away. Your doctor may prescribe vitamins or can recommend a brand you can buy without a prescription. These minerals and vitamins help to ensure the good health of baby and mother, and avoid certain birth defects.

Ideally, you should visit your doctor once a month during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. Then you should visit every 2 weeks until week 36 and weekly thereafter until delivery. If you have a disease like diabetes, which requires careful monitoring during pregnancy, it is likely that your doctor wants to see you more often.

During consultations, your doctor will monitor your weight, blood pressure and urine, in addition to measuring your belly to go record the baby’s growth. When the baby’s heartbeat can be heard with a special device, the doctor will listen to every time you visit. It is likely that your doctor will also indicate other tests during pregnancy, such as an ultrasound to make sure the baby is in perfect condition.

Also part of prenatal care to attend classes where women who are expecting a baby learning how to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, as well as what are the basic care for the newborn. It is likely that these classes are conducted in hospitals, medical centers, schools and universities in your area.

If adults can be difficult to talk to your doctor about your own body, this is even more difficult for adolescents. The role of your doctor is to help you enjoy a healthy pregnancy and have a healthy baby… and it is likely that there is nothing that a pregnant woman has not told. So do not be afraid to ask about everything you need to know.

Always be honest when your doctor will ask questions, even if they are embarrassing. Many of the issues that your doctor wants you to cover could affect the health of your baby. Think of your doctor as someone who is not only a resource but also a friend you can trust to talk about what is happening to you.

What changes can you expect in your body

Pregnancy creates many physical changes. Here are some of the most common:

Growth of breasts

The increase in breast size is one of the first signs of pregnancy and the breasts may continue to grow throughout pregnancy. It is possible to increase several sizes of support during the course of pregnancy.

Skin changes

Do not be surprised if people’s comments that your skin looks “glowing” when you’re pregnant: pregnancy produces an increased blood volume, which can make your cheeks are a little more pink than usual. In addition, hormonal changes increase the secretion of the sebaceous glands, so that your skin may look brighter. For the same reason, acne is also common during pregnancy.

Among other changes that pregnancy hormones generated in the skin are yellowish or brownish spots that appear on the face, which are called melasma, and a dark stripe running from the navel to the pubis, which known as linea nigra.

Also, moles or freckles that you had before pregnancy may increase in size or become darker. Even the areola, the area around the nipple becomes darker. Stretch marks may also occur (thin lines of pink or purple) in the abdomen, breasts or thighs.

Except for the darkening of the areola, which is usually permanent, these skin changes will disappear after delivery.

Mood swings

It is very common to experience mood swings during pregnancy. Some girls may suffer from depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. If you have symptoms of depression such as sadness, changes in sleep patterns, desires to hurt yourself or negative feelings about yourself or your life, ask your doctor for advice about starting your treatment.

Pregnancy Discomforts

Pregnancy can cause some unpleasant side effects. Among such disorders, include the following:

  • nausea and vomiting, especially during the first months of pregnancy;
  • leg swelling;
  • varicose veins in the legs and the area around the vaginal opening;
  • hemorrhoids;
  • heartburn and constipation;
  • back pain;
  • fatigue and
  • sleeping problems.

If you suffer from one or more of these side effects, remember that you are not alone. Ask your doctor for advice on how to handle these common problems.

If you are pregnant and have bleeding or pain, contact your doctor right away, even if you decided to terminate your pregnancy.

What you should avoid

If you smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy, both you and your baby are at risk for serious problems.

Alcohol

At present, doctors believe it is not advisable to drink a drop of alcohol during pregnancy. If you drink alcoholic beverages can damage the developing fetus and the baby is at risk for birth defects and mental problems.

Smoke

Smoking during pregnancy carries some of the following risks: the birth of a dead fetus (when a baby dies inside the womb), low birth weight (which increases the possibility that the baby has health problems), infants infants (babies born before 37 weeks) syndrome and sudden infant death (SIDS for its acronym in English). SIDS is the sudden death for no apparent reason, a baby under one year.

Drugs

Illegal drugs such as cocaine or marijuana during pregnancy may cause abortions, premature births and other health problems. In addition, babies can be born with an addiction to certain drugs.

If you have trouble quitting smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs, ask your doctor to help you. Consult your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy. This includes medicines sold over the counter, prepared herbal supplements and vitamins.

Unsafe Sex

Talk to your doctor about sex during pregnancy. If your doctor allows you to have sex during pregnancy, you should use a condom to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD in English). Because some STDs can cause blindness, pneumonia or meningitis in the newborn, it is important for you to protect yourself and protect the baby.

How to take care during pregnancy

Feeding

Many young people are concerned by the appearance of your body and fear of weight gain during pregnancy. But this is not the time to cut calories or go on a diet because you are feeding two people. Both you and your baby need certain nutrients for the baby to grow properly. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, drink enough water and you reduce the junk food, high fat, help to both you and the baby are healthy and growing.

Doctors generally recommend adding about 300 calories a day to the diet, so as to provide the baby with adequate nutrition growth. According to the weight you had before becoming pregnant, you should gain between 11 and 15 kilos (25 to 35 pounds) during pregnancy, mostly during the last 6 months. Your doctor will advise you about this depending on your particular situation.

Eat more fiber from -25 to 30 grams daily, and drinking enough water can help prevent common problems such as constipation. Fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads, cereals or whole wheat muffins are good sources of fiber.

It is necessary that you avoid some foods and beverages during pregnancy, such as:

  • some types of fish such as swordfish, canned tuna and other fish that may have a high content of mercury (your doctor can help you decide which fish to eat);
  • foods containing raw eggs, such as mousse or salad type “Caesar”;
  • raw meat, fish or just cooked;
  • processed meats such as sausages or cold cuts;
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses such as feta, brie, blue or goat, and
  • milk, unpasteurized juice or cider.

It is also desirable to limit the consumption of artificial sweeteners and caffeine and artificial sweeteners.

Exercise

Exercising during pregnancy is good for your health when you have no complications with the pregnancy and choose appropriate activities. Doctors generally recommend low-impact activities such as walking, swimming and yoga. In general, you should avoid contact sports and high impact aerobic activities that pose a higher risk of injury. It is also not recommended to do a job that involves heavy lifting for women during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about what kind of exercises are safe for you and your baby.

Sleep

It is important to get plenty of rest during pregnancy. During the first months of pregnancy, trying to acquire the habit of sleeping on your side. As pregnancy progresses, lying on your side, knees bent, will be the most comfortable position. It will facilitate the functioning of the heart, since the baby’s weight will not exert any pressure on the vein that carries blood from the feet and legs back to the heart.

Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant girls should sleep on his left side. Because some of the major blood vessels are in the right side of the abdomen, lying on the left side helps keep the uterus puts pressure on them. Ask your doctor what your recommendation. In most cases, the trick is to lie on either side, to reduce pressure on the back.

Throughout the pregnancy, but particularly in the later stages, it is likely that you wake up frequently at night to go to the bathroom. While it is important to drink plenty of water during pregnancy, try to drink more during the day instead of night. Go to the bathroom before bed. As the pregnancy progresses, you might be hard to find a comfortable position in bed. You can try placing pillows around and under the stomach, back or legs to feel more comfortable.

Stress can also affect sleep. Perhaps you’re concerned about the health of the baby, birth, or how it will play this new role of mother. All these feelings are normal, but can produce insomnia. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble sleeping during pregnancy.

Emotional Health

It is common for pregnant adolescents experience a variety of emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, confusion and sadness. Maybe you take some time to adjust to the fact that you are having a baby. It means a huge change and it is natural for pregnant teens wonder if they are ready for the responsibilities involved in becoming mothers.

The feelings of a young often depend on how much support received by the baby’s father, his family (and family of the baby’s father) and his friends. The situation of each youth is different. Depending on your situation, you may need to seek more support for people who are not part of your family. It is important to talk with people who can support you, guide you and help you share and sort out your feelings. Your school counselor or nurse can guide you to find the resources offered to help your community.

In some cases, teenage pregnancies and spontaneous abortions have lost the baby. This can be very sad and difficult to overcome for some, but to others it causes a feeling of relief. It is important to talk about these feelings and receive support from friends and family, if this is not possible, go to counselors or teachers.

The school and the future

Some girls plan to raise her baby by themselves. Sometimes grandparents or other family members help them. Some young people choose to deliver her baby for adoption. These difficult decisions involve a great deal of courage and concern for the baby.

Young women who have completed high school will have greater chances of getting a good job and enjoy a more successful life. As far as possible, you should finish high school now instead of trying to go back to school later. Ask your school counselor or a trusted adult that you provide information about what programs and classes offered in the community for pregnant teens.

Some communities have support groups especially devoted to teen parents. In some schools, no childcare. Perhaps a member of your family or a friend can take the baby while you’re at school.

You can learn more about what happens when you mother if you read books, attend classes or consultations reliable websites on parenting. Your pediatrician, your parents, your family members and other adults can guide you when you’re pregnant and when you become a mother.

5 Daily Habits That May Shorten Your Life Span

The human body is considered as the greatest wonder. You are the person who is responsible for habits that may shorten your life span. No one else is to blame. The body of the humans is believed to be built for living more than a century, but the present situation shows that only the half of that can be taken as an average life span. The life span is shortened mainly due to the habits developed by the humans. Those habits can harm the whole system adversely. Any habit will take a fixed period of time to turn into a regular pattern. Avoiding the habits which are harmful is not such a Herculean task. So it is high time you reclaim the control of your life and live. There are mainly five habits that shorten your life span and that should be avoided.

Unbalanced Diet

You take in food to provide your body with the necessary nutrients which are inevitable for the proper working of the various systems of the human body. But think once more, do your diet has all the essential nutrients? If your body is not getting the vital nutrients it will not function properly. This is sure to shorten your life span considerably.

Drugs

Taking in drugs and toxic substances is another grave problem. Alcohol and such other intoxicating substances are silent killers of your body organs. Alcohol can cause damage to you heart, liver and such other vital organs. The effect of cardiac and liver problems is well known to every one. Thus the intake of intoxicating substances can shorten your life span dramatically. Not just that, these substances can make the living period itself as painful as hell.

Tobacco

Tobacco also comes under the category of toxic substances. It can destroy the cells in the lungs. Smoking is a major cause of cancer around the world. Chewing of tobacco and other like substances can cause mouth cancer. Once you are affected by these diseases, it will be a great distress not only for you but for the people closer to you also. Smoking is a huge factor that shortens your life span.

Stress

The busy life has a very bad level of stress. Stress has a lot to do with the health of a person. The life of a person can be worth living only if his mind and body work in perfect harmony. The mental breakdown is one of the main reasons which leads people to the habits of alcohol consumption, drugs and smoking. Avoiding stress can work wonders in one’s life. Stress is the sure by-product of this ultra modern era, but there are ways to avoid it. It should be avoided. Otherwise you will be the hunt of many diseases and your life span will also be affected.

Lack of Exercise

With the development of technology the human body is having very less workout. The adverse effects of having less or even zero exercise is very disturbing. If your body is not getting enough exercise, the calories taken in will get deposited in different parts of your body. These unwanted fat deposits will eventually cause health problems

EDGE: A Stepping-stone Toward 3G Technologies in Pakistan

ABSTRACT

The business of wireless data is expected to grow in the region of 100-200 % per annum and the mobile communication industry agrees that wireless data services will form the foundation for future business. The enormous success of short messaging in many countries proves that people accept the benefits of non-voice services.

Enhanced Data Rate for Global Evolution (EDGE) is a technology that gives Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM) the capacity to handle services for the third generation of mobile telephony. It provides three times the data capacity of General packet Radio Service (GPRS). Using EDGE, operators can handle three times more subscribers than GPRS; triple their data rate per subscriber, or add extra capacity to their voice communications.

This article provides an overview of EDGE technology. In particular, starting from the introduction of this 2.5G technology I describe the core technical aspects and distinct features. I will provide a comparison with GPRS for data services and then a survey of the current state of this technology in Pakistan. I have also covered some benefits for operators and customers.

1. Introduction

The importance of wireless data and multimedia services both for business and end customers are increasing on an unparalleled scale. Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) is a new radio interface solution and is based on an enhanced modulation. EDGE offers GSM network operators an evolution path to mobile data and multimedia services with a three fold increase of data throughput in the existing GSM spectrum. EDGE therefore provides an alternative for operators who do not have a Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS) license. Moreover it also represents a complement to UMTS for operators intending to first deploy UMTS only in densely populated areas, but who can also use EDGE to provide wide area coverage of future oriented 3G services. In the US market operators have chosen EDGE as the 3G solutions. [8].

We are presently experiencing the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) as well as the higher   transmission  speeds of High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD), joined by the convenience of “always on-line” direct Internet connections with GPRS. [1]

EDGE, new radios interface technology with enhanced modulation, increases the HSCSD and GPRS data rates by up to three fold. EDGE modulation is going to increase the data throughput provided by the packet switched service even over 400 kbps per carrier. Similarly, the data rates of circuit switched data can be increased, or existing data rates can be achieved using fewer timeslots, saving capacity. Accordingly, these higher speed data services are referred to as EGPRS (Enhanced GPRS) and ECSD (Enhanced Circuit Switched Data).

EDGE, is a major improvement in GSM phase 2+. As a modification to existing GSM networks, EDGE does not require new network elements. [1]

In the US, for instance, EDGE is part of the IS-136 High Speed concept, which is one of the third generation Radio  Transmission  Technology (RTT) proposals from TR.45. EDGE is eventually going to be standardized which makes possible to achieve a global mobile radio system with many services characteristic to third generation systems.

2. Overview

The increased bit rates of EDGE put requirements on the GSM/GPRS network architecture. Figure. 1 illustrates the GSM/GPRS architecture, the shaded parts of which are discussed in this section. Other nodes and interfaces are not affected at all by EDGE introduction. An apparent bottleneck is the A-bis interface, which today supports up to 16 kb/s per traffic channel. With EDGE, the bit rate per traffic channel will approach 64 kb/s, which makes allocation of multiple A-bis slots to one traffic channel necessary. Alternative asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) or IP-based solutions to this problem can also be discusses.

One important fact is, however, that the 16 kb/s limit will be exceeded already by the introduction of two coding schemes (CS3 and CS4) in GPRS, which have a maximal bit rate per traffic channel of 22.8 kb/s. Consequently, the A-bis limitation problem is being solved outside the EDGE standardization, and it is therefore a GPRS related, not EDGE-related, modification. For GPRS-based packet data services, other nodes and interfaces are already capable of handling higher bit rates, and are thus not affected. For circuit-switched services, the A interface can handle 64 kb/s per user, which is not exceeded by EDGE circuit-switched bearers. [9]

2.1. Impact on GSM Network Planning

An important prerequisite, which to a large extent will determine the success of EDGE in GSM, is that a network operator be able to introduce EDGE gradually. For initial deployment, EDGE-capable transceivers will supplement standard GSM/GPRS transceivers in a subset of the existing cells where EDGE coverage is desired. Hence, an integrated mix of GSM, GPRS, and EDGE users will coexist in the same frequency band. To minimize effort and cost for the network operator, radio network planning (including cell planning, frequency setting of power and other cell parameters) must not require extensive modification.

2.1.1. Coverage Planning

One characteristic of non-transparent radio link protocols that include automatic repeat request (ARQ), is that low radio link quality only results in a lower bit rate for the user. Hence, low SIR for a user does not result in a dropped call, as for speech, but in a temporary decrease of user bit rate. For transparent bearers, which typically offer a constant bit rate, link quality control must be extended to incorporate resource allocation, in the sense that the number of dynamically allocated time slots fits the bit rate and bit error rate (BER) retirements. Transparent bearers, will thus be available in the entire GSM cell, but require fewer time slots in the center of the cell (where 8-PSK coding schemes can be used).

2.1.2. Frequency Planning

Most mature GSM networks of today have an average frequency reuse factor of around 9 (meaning that available frequencies are divided into nine frequency groups). However, there is also a trend toward tighter reuse factors. With the use of frequency hopping, multiple reuse patterns (MRP), and discontinuous  transmission  (DTX), reuse factors as low as 3 become feasible. EDGE supports a variety of reuse patterns. In fact, by its use of link quality control, EDGE can be introduced in an arbitrary frequency plan, and benefit from high SIR closer to the base stations. EDGE can be introduced in an existing GSM frequency plan, and that it also supports future high-capacity solutions based on tighter frequency reuse.

2.1.3. Radio Network Planning

An important prerequisite (and to a large extent, one that will determine the success of Edge) is that network operators should be able to introduce Edge gradually. The initial deployment of Edge-capable transceivers will supplement standard GSM transceivers in a subset of cells where Edge coverage is desired. An integrated mixture of circuit-switched, GPRS and Edge users will thus coexist in the same frequency band. To minimize operator efforts and costs, Edge-related implementation must not require extensive modification of the radio network plan (including cell planning, frequency planning, the setting of power levels and other cell parameters).

2.1.4. Channel Management

After Edge has been introduced, a cell will typically include two types of transceiver: standard GSM transceivers and Edge transceivers. Each physical channel (time slot) in the cell can be viewed as being one of at least four channel types:

1. GSM speech and GSM circuit-switched data (CSD);

2. GPRS packet data;

3. Circuit-switched data, enhanced circuits witched data (ECSD), and GSM speech;

4. Edge packet data (EGPRS), which allows a mix of GPRS and EGPRS users simultaneously.

While standard GSM transceivers only support channel types 1 and 2, Edge transceivers support all four channel types. Physical channels are dynamically defined according to terminal capabilities and needs in the cell. For example, if several speech users are active, the number of type-1 channels is increased, at the expense of GPRS and Edge channels. Obviously, channel management must be automated, to avoid the splitting of channels into static groups. Otherwise, trunking efficiency would diminish.

3. Interleaving

To increase the performance of the higher coding schemes in EGPRS (MCS7 to MCS9) even at low C/I, the interleaving procedure has been changed within the EGPRS standard. When frequency hopping is used, the radio environment is changing on a per-burst level. Because a radio block is interleaved and transmitted over four bursts for GPRS, each burst may experience a completely different interference environment. [7]

If just one of the four bursts is not properly received, the entire radio block will not be properly decoded and will have to be retransmitted. In the case of CS4 for GPRS, hardly any error protection is used at all. With EGPRS, the standard handles the higher coding scheme differently than GPRS to combat this problem. MCS7, MCS8 and MCS9 actually transmit two radio blocks over the four bursts, and the interleaving occurs over two bursts instead of four. This reduces the number of bursts that must be retransmitted should errors occur. The likelihood of receiving two consecutive error free bursts is higher than receiving four consecutive error free bursts. This means that the higher coding schemes

for EDGE have a better robustness with regard to frequency hopping.

4. EDGE & GPRS

EDGE, or the Enhanced Data Rate for Global Evolution, is the new mantra in the Global Internet Connectivity scene. EDGE is the new name for GSM 384. The technology was named GSM 384 because of the fact that it provided Data  Transmission  at a rate of 384 Kbps. It consists of the 8 pattern time slot, and the speed could be achieved when all the 8 time slots were used. The idea behind EDGE is to obtain even higher data rates on the current 200 KHz GSM carrier, by changing the type of the modulation used.

Now, this is the most striking feature. EDGE, as being once a GSM technology, works on the existing GSM or the TDMA carriers, and enables them to many of the 3G services. Although EDGE will have a little technical impact, since its fully based on GSM or the TDMA carriers, but it might just get an EDGE over the up coming technologies, and of course, the GPRS. With EDGE, the operators and service providers can offer more wireless data application, including wireless multimedia, e-mail (Web Based), Web Infotainment, and above all, the technology of Video Conferencing.

Now all these technologies that were named earlier, were the clauses of the IMT-UMTS 3G Package. But, with EDGE, we can get all these 3G services on our existing GSM phones, which might just prove to be a boon to the user.

The current scenario clearly states that EDGE will definitely score higher than GPRS. The former allows its users to increase the data speed and throughput capacity, to around 3-4 times higher than GPRS.

Secondly, it allows the existing GSM or the TDMA carriers to give the sophisticated 3G services. And with 1600 Million subscribers of GSM in over 170 countries, offer the full Global Roaming, anywhere between India to Japan and to San Francisco. Based on an 8 PSK modulation, it allows higher bit rate across the air Interface. There is one symbol for every 3 bits. Thus, EDGE Rate is equal to 3x GPRS Rate.

5. Future Evolution Towards WCDMA

The next evolutionary step for the GSM/EDGE cellular system includes enhancements of service provisioning for the packet-switched domain with the service provisioning in UMTS/UTRAN (UMTS terrestrial radio access network). GERAN will provide improved support for all quality of service (QoS) classes defined for UMTS: interactive, background, streaming and conversational. By doing so, a new range of applications, including IP multimedia applications, will be adequately supported. This part of the GSM/EDGE evolution focuses on support for the conversational and streaming service classes, because adequate support for interactive and background services already exists. Additionally, parallel simultaneous bearers will support multimedia applications with different QoS characteristics towards the same MS, such as multiple media streams handled through IMS domain. A driver for such evolution on the packet-switched side is the paradigm shift within the telecommunications world from circuit to packet-switched communications.

Both the core network defined for GPRS and the current GSM/EDGE radio access network require modifications to support enhanced packet services. The GPRS/EGPRS networks can quickly and cost effectively evolve with market needs, and align with services provided by WCDMA networks. The current evolution of GSM/EDGE, which covers all of the above aspects, is being standardized in 3GPP TSG GERAN. [4]

6. EDGE in Pakistan

Pakistan has the sixth largest population in the world – approximately 150 million. There are currently four mobile operators in the country. Mobile penetration at the end of 2003 was just 2.3% with a subscriber base of 3.4 million, while fixed line penetration was approximately 2.4%. Many geographic areas in Pakistan are without telephone coverage. To accompany recent positive economic development in Pakistan and the inherently low mobile penetration, high growth within the mobile segment is expected. At the moment the people in Pakistan are more concern with the text-enabled facility like SMS. Although the introduction of GPRS gave a new concept and new boost in Cellular network but still, people are not that much concern using Internet by their terminal. Few think that it still more costly and few believe that GPRS didn’t develop the interest for using Internet if we compared it by computer.

In April 2004 Norwegian mobile telecom operator, Telenor, bid for and ultimately won a license to operate a cellular network in Pakistan. The license covers the operation of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) technology for the network. [14]

Telenor Pakistan has signed two deals with mobile infrastructure contractors for different areas of the network:

Nokia have signed a three-year deal to build and operate a GSM / GPRS / EDGE network to cover the central and Northern Punjab region (phase one), centered around Lahore.

Siemens have signed a deal to build a GSM / GPRS / EDGE network to cover the southern areas of Pakistan, centered around Islamabad.

Further enhancements in data capability over the core GPRS / GSM network will be provided in both networks with the installation of Enhanced Data for Global (GSM) Evolution technology. This component of the two systems will be installed after the initial roll-outs and will allow the subscribers to have the use of advanced mobile services such as downloading video and music clips, full multimedia messaging, high-speed color Internet access and email on the move.

Nortel Networks will upgrade Ufone’s existing wireless systems and supply new GSM/GPRS core network and radio access equipment, including Mobile Switching Center, Home Location Register (HLR) and advanced Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).

A key component of the Ufone expansion will be Nortel Networks BTS 12000, designed to deliver additional capacity within a GSM/GPRS network while positioning operators to drive lower costs and to offer advanced wireless services based on third generation (3G) EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution) technology. The expansion will also include Nortel Networks Passport Packet Voice Gateway (PVG) for migration of TDM voice trunking to a packet-based infrastructure.

7. Benefits

As highlighted previously the need to reduce business risk and make the best use of existing resources is of paramount importance within today’s business environment.

7.1. Financial

GSM based networks have become the standard within the cellular landscape. As EDGE is a GSM based technology and provides an enhancement for GPRS at a little additional cost it is considered the best way in which to capitalize on existing resources. [1]

7.1.1. Radio Access Network

In most cases GPRS enabled base stations and BSC’s can be simply upgraded to EDGE by way of relatively low-cost software and hardware upgrades, which will pro-long the life cycle of the deployed RAN elements.

7.1.2. Core Network

For GPRS enhancement, there is very little modification to be completed within a GPRS enabled core network, thus enhancing the sunk core network investment.

7.1.3. Antenna Sites

There is no requirement for additional antenna sites when deploying EDGE. Assuming high quality linear amplifiers with high RF output power are used within the BTS, the coverage pattern will be the same as the existing GPRS deployment, so protecting existing site investment.

7.1.4. Spectrum Utilization

EDGE triples the GPRS data capacity whilst using the existing GSM spectrum and offers up to three times the GPRS data rate to the end user. EDGE is spectrally the most efficient radio technology for data applications requiring up to 100Kb/s throughput (compared to CDMA and WCDMA), and only WCDMA is spectrally better for higher throughputs.

7.1.5. Applications

GPRS enabled applications and services will generally not require any additional investment to become EDGE compatible. This is also valid for known WCDMA applications.

Although the financial benefits of EDGE can be apportioned to individual network elements as outlined above, one of the main business drivers is that EDGE forms an essential part of the overall GSM evolution towards a seamless multi-radio GSM/ GPRS/EDGE/WCDMA network. As mentioned previously GSM is the main standard for cellular communications worldwide and the business benefits of deploying an industry standard technology can be seen in nearly every aspect of a network deployment, from end-user devices, to applications to hardware.

7.2. For Operator

Operators can also experiences the advantages of EDGE in following ways.

7.2.1. Migration to wireless multimedia services

The operator can increase data revenues by offering attractive new types applications to end-users.

7.2.2. Improved customer satisfaction

Increased data capacity and higher data throughput will decrease response times for all data services, thus keeping end users satisfied and connected.

7.2.3. Early deployment of 3G type applications

EDGE networks are expected to emerge in year 2001, when mature markets are likely to start demanding multimedia applications.

7.2.4. Quick network implementation

EDGE will not require new network elements and EDGE capability can be introduced gradually to the network.

7.3. For User

7.3.1. Improved quality of service

Increased data capacity and higher data throughput will eventually satisfy the customers’ need for QoS.

7.3.2. Personal multimedia services

Attractive new types of applications and terminals will become available.

7.3.3. Potentially lower price per bit

Lower cost of data capacity for high-speed data applications gives the operator flexibility in pricing.

8. Conclusion

While the tug of war between access technologies – CDMA vs. UMTS vs. GSM — continues to be debated globally, EDGE provides an ideal solution for GSM carriers to add data capacity using limited spectrum. Keeping in view the fact that GSM supports more subscribers today than any other access technology (roughly 65 to 70% of the global subscriber market), and that GSM/GPRS operators are scrambling to add capacity to support user growth and launch next generation data services, the increased capacity and throughput offered by EDGE becomes very compelling. And, in a market where wireless carriers must squeeze the most out of capital outlays–past and future, it is no real surprise that we are going to see a renewed wave of interest in EDGE from our GSM customers.

Today the position of EDGE as a technology evolution of GSM is clear. Initially promoted as an alternative to WCDMA and generally a niche technology, EDGE is now regarded as a key enabler for GSM/EDGE and WCDMA operators alike. Being able to drive business value from existing GSM infrastructure and spectrum is one of the main advantages, and along-with the ability of EDGE to reduce CAPEX, time-to-market and time-to-revenue, with regards the delivery of global high-speed data services, EDGE is a must technology.

The cellular companies working in Pakistan did not have the license for the EDGE. Now as the introduction of some new companies like Telenor and WARID, it is possible that in near future Pakistan will also be able to use this facility. Then GPRS can become a real important factor in cellular network, as the people in Pakistan will use the Internet not only for downloading ring tones but also can enjoy the streaming videos by their cell phone and so many other facilities.

The Transformative Power of Sacred Art-Making

When I began teaching Western women the sacred art of Tibetan appliqué in 2008, I thought I was just teaching stitching technique. My students quickly set me straight. It turns out I had seriously underestimated the power of tradition and   transmission . Through teaching, I discovered the transformative effect of the sacred textile art I’d been making for 20 years.

I had lived in northern India for nine years and learned to make silk thangkas in apprenticeship to Tibetan master craftsmen.

A thangka is rollable wall hanging, a scroll, depicting a sacred image or spiritual teacher. Most thangkas are painted on canvas and framed in brocade, but I studied a rarer type of thangka in which the images are built from hundreds of pieces of silk, outlined in hand-wrapped horsehair, assembled in an intricate patchwork.

Six days a week for four years, I sat alongside young Tibetans in a sewing workshop just outside the Dalai Lama’s temple. The environment was infused with dharma. Sounds of teaching and practice echoed from every window and courtyard. I attended Buddhist philosophy classes in the morning with learned Tibetan scholars (geshe) and then trudged up the steep hill to the workshop where I stitched thangkas all afternoon.

I had absorbed the dharma this community breathed, and it came out through my fingers into the thangkas I stitched. But I was no dharma teacher, and only an inconsistent meditator. I told prospective students that I would teach them stitching techniques, made sacred only by association. They should not expect spiritual illumination from me. They must seek that elsewhere, I thought.

Little did I know, each line and stitch of this artwork carries the light of the buddhas and of generations of artists and practitioners. You can’t escape the deeper lessons woven into the fabric of this lineage.

I was living in Italy, married and making thangkas on commission, when an American woman in France contacted me and sparked the creation of the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program. Louise had returned to France after many years of following her husband’s job from country to country while raising young children. Now, she was seeking an occupation, something meaningful to do with her energies.

Louise had been trained as a costume designer and was a practicing Buddhist. When she saw her first silk thangka on the internet, it struck her as a natural coupling of her creative background with her spiritual practice. I had the same feeling sixteen years earlier when I walked into a Tibetan appliqué studio in India. Could I now offer this gift to others?

Working with needle and thread re-awakens our tactile intelligence. Eyes and ears are not our only receptors for learning. The rational mind is not our only mode of understanding. And the voice is surely not our only instrument for communicating. We perceive, learn, and communicate through our fingers as well. But in the 21st century, our range of manual engagement has been reduced to tapping smooth keys and swiping touch-screens.

People who knit or quilt or work on a potter’s wheel have experienced the mindful quality that can arise in slow, deliberate movement and tactile sensation. Doing something by hand slows down the busyness of life – if only momentarily.

Not only that, but the thread becomes a metaphor for your life. You see how things get tangled when you don’t pay attention. You see where perfectionism trips you up, where you are afraid to move forward and how, sometimes, the more effort you exert the worse things get. Sometimes gentleness and a relaxed approach are needed. These patterns become evident in the stitching, and awareness filters into other activities.

The Tibetan appliqué tradition flows from an ancient spiritual lineage of artists, teachers and practitioners who have created and used its images in their practice. When we stitch, we receive their  transmission  through our fingers.

People often ask if I meditate while I stitch. I say this stitching IS meditation.

Literally, the Tibetan word for meditation (gom) means to familiarize. Through meditation, we familiarize ourselves with desirable mind states – expansive, loving, generous, imperturbable mind states – in an effort to make them habitual.

When we stitch a thangka or even a lotus flower, we are in the presence of enlightenment. We familiarize ourselves with enlightened beings, and therefore with the highest qualities of our own nature. The images in our hands symbolize the clearest, highest, best parts of ourselves and of humanity. Stitch by stitch, we allow these qualities to fill us.

Most of my students, the Stitching Buddhas, are women in the 50s and 60s. They are well educated. Many have worked in healing professions such as nursing, medicine, social work, and psychotherapy. Many are mothers of grown children. They come to the practice with an awareness of limited time. Some face diminishing eyesight or challenges to their manual dexterity. Some have no sewing experience at all. They’re not preparing for a career in thangka-making. They are seeking to live their life meaningfully and happily, and to leave something beautiful in their wake.

Buddhism encourages us to recognize our good fortune and to use this precious human life well. Human rebirth is rare and hard to come by. With gratitude in her heart, each woman-buddha stitches her response to Mary Oliver’s sumptuous question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone

INTRODUCTION

The heart of information literacy is contained within definitions used to describe it. Traditionally librarians have given ‘library induction’ or ‘library skills training’ in a limited role. Library users need to know where the catalogue is, what the services are, and most importantly where the enquiry desk is. This is not to reduce the value of traditional library induction, but libraries and information are also changing. The provision of information through a library in a traditional form has gone through radical alterations. Already in most library and information organisations staffs are adjusting their services with the provision of new media and access to information provision within these organisations. Thus librarians are talking about social inclusion, opportunity, life-long learning, information society and self development.

A plethora of definitions for information literacy abound in books, journal papers and the web. Some of these definitions centre on the activities of information literacy i.e. identifying the skills needed for successful literate functioning. Other definitions are based on the perspective of an information literate person i.e. trying to outline the concept of information literacy. Deriving therefore a single definition is a complex process of collecting together a set of ideas as to what might be, should be, or may be considered a part of information literacy. For example Weber and Johnson (2002) defined information literacy as the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society. The American Library Association (2003) defined information literacy as a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. While CLIP (2004) defined information literacy as knowing when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. Succinctly these definitions imply that information literacy requires not only knowledge but also skills in:

• recognising when information is needed;

• resources available

• locating information;

• evaluating information;

• using information;

• ethics and responsibility of use of information;

• how to communicate or share information;

• how to manage information

Given therefore the variety of definitions and implied explanation information literacy is a cluster of abilities that an individual can employ to cope with, and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surrounds us in our daily life and work.

STRUCTURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

Sierra Leone’s current educational system is composed of six years of formal primary education, three years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), three years Senior Secondary School (SSS) and four years of tertiary education-6-3-3-4. (The Professor Gbamanja Commission’s Report of 2010 recommended an additional year for SSS to become 6-3-4-4). The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years. All pupils at the end of class six are required to take and pass the National Primary School Examinations designed by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to enable them proceed to the secondary school divided into Junior Secondary School(JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each part has a final examination: the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for the JSS, and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) for SSS, both conducted by WAEC. Successful candidates of WASSCE are admitted to tertiary institutions based on a number of subjects passed (GoSL,1995)

The curriculum of primary schools emphasizes communication competence and the ability to understand and manipulate numbers. At the JSS level, the curriculum is general and comprehensive, encompassing the whole range of knowledge, attitudes and skills in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social studies are compulsory for all pupils. At the SSS level, the curriculum is determined by its nature (general or specialist), or its particular objectives. Pupils are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects with optional subjects based on their specialization. Teaching is guided by the teaching syllabuses and influenced by the external examinations that pupils are required to take at the 3/ 4-year course. English is the language of instruction (GoSL,1995).

The countries two universities, three polytechnics, and two teacher training colleges are responsible for the training of teachers in Sierra Leone. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for private universities so that these institutions too could help in the training of teachers. Programs range from the Teacher Certificate offered by the teacher training colleges to the Masters in Education offered by universities. Pre-service certification of teachers is the responsibility of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA). There is also an In-service Teacher Training program (Distance Education Program) conducted for teachers in part to reduce the number of untrained and unqualified teachers especially in the rural areas.

LITERACY IN SIERRA LEONE

In Sierra Leone as it is in most parts of the developing world literacy involves one’s ability to read, write and numeracy. It is the ability to function effectively in life contexts. A literate person is associated with the possession of skills and knowledge and how these could be applied within his local environment. For instance a literate person is believed to be able to apply chemical fertilizer to his crops, fill in a loans form, determine proper dosage of medicine, calculate cash cropping cost and profits, glean information from a newspaper, make out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions and basic human rights.

Literacy is at the heart of the country’s development goals and human rights (World Bank, 2007). Wherever practised literacy activities are part of national and international strategies for improved education, human development and well-being. According to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 34 %.Implicitly Sierra Leone is an oral society. And oral societies rely heavily on memory to transmit their values, laws, history, music, and culture whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities for transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what make the goal of literacy crucial in society.

In academic parlance literacy hinges on the printed word. Most pupils are formally introduced to print when they encounter schoolbook. School teachers in Sierra Leone continue to use textbooks in their teaching activities to convey content area information to pupils. It is no gainsaying that pupils neither maximise their learning potential nor read at levels necessary for understanding the type of materials teachers would like them to use. Thus the performance of pupils at internal and public examinations is disappointing. Further pupils’ continued queries in the library demonstrate that they do not only lack basic awareness of resources available in their different school libraries but also do not understand basic rudiments of how to source information and materials from these institutions. What is more worrisome is that pupils do not use appropriate reading skills and study strategies in learning. There is a dearth of reading culture in schools and this situation cuts across the fabric of society. In view of the current support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to establish literacy standards in school this situation has proved frustrating as teachers do not know how to better help pupils to achieve this goal. Thus they look up to the school librarians to play a more proactive role.

LITERACY DEMANDS ON SECONDARY SCHOOL PUPILS

In everyday situations school pupils are expected to be able to identify and seek information they need. Providing a variety of reading and writing experiences using varied materials in the school library can help develop pupils’ literacy ability (Roe, Stoodt-Hill and Burns, 2004). The mode of assessment in schools in Sierra Leone includes class exercises, tests, written and practical assignments, as well as written examinations to see pupils through to their next levels. These pupils, for example, need to read content books and supplementary materials in school for homework. Pupils have even more literacy needs in their activities outside school. They need to read signs found in their communities, job applications, road maps and signs, labels on food and medicine, newspapers, public notices, bank statements, bills and many other functional materials. Failure to read and understand these materials can result in their committing traffic violations, having unpleasant reactions to food or medicine, becoming lost, losing employment opportunities and missing desirable programs. Equally so pupils need to write to their relatives and loved ones, instructions to people who are doing things for them, notes to themselves about tasks to be completed, phone messages for colleagues and many other items. Mistakes in these activities can have negative effects on them. Good literacy skills are especially important to pupils who plan to pursue higher education studies. The job market in the country calls for pupils to be literate. For instance most jobs advertised these days require people who have completed their JSS. The fact is that workers need to be able to understand graphic aids, categorized information and skim and scan to locate information. Also the nature of reading in the workplace generally involves locating information for immediate use and inferring information for problem solving. The reading and writing of a variety of documents like memos, manuals, letters, reports and instructions are necessary literacy skills in the workplace.

SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN SIERRA LEONE

School libraries in Sierra Leone are perceived as integral aspect of the county’s educational system. These institutions bring together four major components of the school community: the materials, pupils, teacher and library staff. The main purpose for the establishment of these institutions in schools is to complement the teaching/learning process, if not to support the curriculum. This purpose is achieved in two ways: by providing pupils with the means of finding whatever information they need; and by developing in pupils the habit of using books both for information and for pleasure. Pupils need information to help them with the subjects they learn in school. The textbooks they use and the notes they take in class can be an excellent foundation. They may also be sufficient for revision purposes. But these could not be enough to enable pupils to write good essays of their own or to carry out group projects. School libraries then are expected to complement this effort and therefore are perceived as learning centres.

Pupils need information on subjects not taught in school. School libraries are looked upon as places pupils find information to help them in their school studies and personal development. Through these institutions pupils’ habit of using libraries for life-long education is not only developed but also school libraries could be used to improve pupils’ reading skills. In the school community both pupils and teachers use school libraries for leisure and recreational purpose and for career advancement. The culture of society is also transmitted through use of school libraries. Because of the important role school libraries play in the country’s educational system they are organised in such way that pupils as well as teachers can rely upon them for support in the teaching/learning process. Most of these institutions are managed by either a full-time staff often supervised by a senior teacher. Staffs use varied methods to promote their use including user education.

JUSTIFYING THE LIBRARIAN’S INVOLVEMENT IN PROMOTING LITERACY IN SCHOOL

A pre-requisite for the development of autonomous pupils through flexible resource-based learning approaches is that pupils master a set of skills which gradually enable them to take control of their own learning. Current emphasis in teaching in schools in Sierra Leone has shifted from “teacher-centred” to “pupil-centred” approach thereby making pupils to “learn how to learn” for themselves so that the integration of process skills into the design of the school curriculum becomes crucial (GoSL,1995). It is in this area of “learning” or “information literacy” skills that one can most clearly see the inter-relationship between the school curriculum and the school library. For pupils to become independent users of information and for this to occur it is vital that they are given the skills to learn how to find information, how to select what is relevant, and how to use it in the best way possible for their own particular needs and take responsibility for their own learning. As information literate, pupils will be able to manage information skilfully and efficiently in a variety of contexts. They will be capable of weighing information carefully and wisely to determine its quality (Marcum2002). Pupils do recognise that having good information is central to meeting the opportunity and challenges of day-to-day living. They are also aware of the importance of how researching across a variety of sources and formats to locate the best information to meet particular needs.

Literacy activities in schools in Sierra Leone are the responsibility of content area teachers, reading consultants and school librarians. Of these the role of the school librarian is paramount. As specialist the school librarian is expected to provide assistance to pupils and teachers alike by locating materials in different subjects, and at different reading levels by making available materials that can be used for motivation and background reading. The school librarian is also expected to provide pupils with instructions in locating strategies related to the library such as doing online searches and skimming through printed reference materials. The librarian is expected to display printed materials within his purview, write specialised bibliographies and lists of addresses on specific subjects at the request of teachers. He should be able to provide pupils with direct assistance in finding and using appropriate materials; recreational reading can be fostered by the librarian’s book talks or attractive book displays on high-interest topics like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child rights, human rights and poverty alleviation. In view of this the fundamental qualities expected of the good school librarian include knowledge of his collection and how to access it; ability to understand the needs of his users more so those of pupils; ability to communicate with pupils and adult users; and knowledge of information skills and how to use information.

ROLE OF THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

Pupils’ success in school depends to a large extent upon their ability to access, evaluate and use information. Providing access to information and resources is a long-standing responsibility of the school librarian. The school librarian should provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the library becomes integral in the instructional program of the school. In school the librarian is the information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant. He is the interface responsible for guiding pupils and teachers through the complex information resources housed in his library (Lenox and Walker, 1993). He is looked up to assist and guide numerous users in seeking to use and understand the resources and services of the library. In this respect the school librarian should inculcate in these users such skills as manual and online searching of information; use of equipment; developing critical skills for the organization, evaluation and use of information and ideas as integral part of the curriculum (Lonsdale, 2003). The school librarian should be aware of the range of available information retrieval systems, identify that most suitable to the needs of pupils and provide expertise in helping them become knowledgeable, if not comfortable, in their use. Since no library is self-sufficient the school librarian can network with information agencies, lending/renting materials and/or using electronic devises to transmit information (Tilke, 1998; 2002).

As information specialist the school librarian should be able to share his expertise with those who may wish to know what information sources and/or learning materials are available to support a program of work. Such consultation should be offered to the whole school through the curriculum development committee or to individual subject teachers. The school librarian should take the lead in developing pupils’ information literacy skills by being involved with the school curriculum planning and providing a base of resources to meet its needs. He should be aware of key educational initiatives and their impact in teaching and learning; he should be familiar with teaching methods and learning styles in school; over all he should maintain an overview of information literacy programmes within the school (Herring, 1996; Kuhlthau, 2004).

Kuhlthau (2004) opined that information seeking is a primary activity of life and that pupils seek information to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them. When therefore, information in school libraries is placed in a larger context of learning, pupils’ perspective becomes an essential component in information provision. The school librarian should ensure that skills, knowledge and attitude concerning information access, use and communication, are integral part of the school curriculum. Information skills are crucial in the life-long learning process of pupils. As short term objective the school librarian should provide a means of achieving learning objectives within the curriculum; as long term information skills have a direct impact on individual pupils’ ability to deal effectively with a changing environment. Therefore the school librarian should work in concert with teachers and administrators to define the scope and sequence of the information relevant to the school curriculum and ensure its integration throughout the instructional programs (Tilke, 2002; Birks and Hunt, 2003). Pupils should be encouraged to realise their potential as informed citizens who critically think and solve problems. In view of the relationship between the curriculum and school library, the librarian should serve on the curriculum committee ensuring that information access skills are incorporated into subject areas. The school librarian’s involvement in the curriculum development will permit him to provide advice on the use of a variety of instructional strategies such as learning centres and problem-solving software, effective in communicating content to pupils (Herring, 1996; Birks and Hunt, 2003).

Literacy could be actively developed as pupils need access to specific resources, demonstrate understanding of their functionality and effective searching skills. In this regard pupils should be given basic instruction to the library, its facilities and services and subsequent use. Interactive teaching methods aimed at information literacy education should be conducted for the benefit of pupils. Teaching methods could include an outline of a variety of aides like quizzes and worksheets of differing complexity level to actively engage pupils in learning library skills and improving their information literacy. Classes should be divided into small groups so that pupils could have hands-on-experience using library resources. Where Internet services are available in the library online tutorials should be provided. Post session follow-up action will ensure that pupils receive hands-on-experience using library resources. Teaching methods should be constantly evaluated to identify flaws and improve on them.

Further the school librarian should demonstrate willingness to support and value pupils in their use of the library through: provision of readers’ guides; brochures; book marks; library handbooks/guides; computerization of collection; helpful guiding throughout the library; and regular holding of book exhibitions and book fairs. Since there are community radio stations in the country the school librarian could buy air time to report library activities, resources and services. He can also communicate to pupils through update newspapers. Pupils could be encouraged to contribute articles on library development, book reviews and information about opening times and services. The school librarian could help pupils to form book and reading clubs, organize book weeks and book talks using visiting speakers and renowned writers to address pupils. Classes could also be allowed to visit the library to facilitate use. More importantly the school librarian should provide assistance to pupils in the use of technology to access information outside the library. He should offer pupils opportunities related to new technology, use and production of varied media formats, and laws and polices regarding information. In order to build a relevant resource base for the school community the librarian should constantly carry out needs assessment, comparing changing demands to available resources.

The Internet is a vital source for promoting literacy in the school library. The school librarian should ensure that the library has a website that will serve as guide to relevant and authoritative sources and as a tool for learning whereby pupils and teachers are given opportunity to share ideas and solutions (Herring, 2003). Through the Internet pupils can browse the library website to learn how to search and develop information literacy skills. In order for pupils to tap up-to-date sources from the Net the school librarian should constantly update the home page, say on a daily basis, if necessary. Simultaneously the school librarian should avail to pupils and teachers sheets/guides to assist them in carrying out their own independent researches. He should give hands-on-experience training to users to share ideas with others through the formation of “lunch time” or “after school support groups”. Such activities could help pupils to develop ideas and searching information for a class topic and assignment.

Even the location of the library has an impact in promoting literacy in school. The library should be centrally located, close to the maximum number of teaching areas. It should be able to seat at least ten per cent of school pupils at any given time, having a wide range of resources vital for teaching and learning programs offered in school. The library should be characterised by good signage for the benefit of pupil and teacher users with up-to-date displays to enhance the literacy skills of pupils and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.

CONCLUSION

Indeed the promotion of literacy should be integral in the school curriculum and that the librarian should be able to play a leading role to ensure that the skills, knowledge and attitudes related to information access are inculcated in pupils and teachers alike as paramount users of the school library. But the attainment of this goal is dependent on a supportive school administration, always willing and ready to assist the library and its programs financially. To make the librarian more effective he should be given capacity building to meeting the challenges of changing times.

REFERENCES

American Library Association (2003). ‘Introduction to information literacy.’

Birks, J. & Hunt, F. (2003). Hands-on information literacy activities. London: Neal-Schumann.

CLIP (2004).’Information Literacy: definition.’

GoSL (2010). Report of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Performance of Pupils in the 2008 BECE and WASSCE Examinations (Unpublished).

___________(1995). New Education policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education.

Herring, James E. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.

__________________ (2003).The Internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and librarians. London: Facet Publishing.

Kahlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. London: Libraries Unlimited.

Lenox, M. F. & Walker, M. L.(1993). ‘Information Literacy in the education process.’ The Educational Forum, 52 (2): 312-324.

Lonsdale, Michael (2003). Impact of school libraries on student achievement: a review of research. Camberwell: Australian Council of Educational Research.

Marcum, J. W. (2002). ‘ Rethinking Information Literacy,’ Library Quarterly, 72:1-26.

Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill & Burns, Paul C. (2004).Secondary School Literacy instruction: the content areas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Tilke, A. (1998). On-the-job sourcebook for school librarians. London: Library Association.

_________ (2002). Managing your school library and information service: a practical handbook. London: Facet Publishing.

Weber, S. & Johnston, B. ( 2002). ‘Assessment in the Information Literate University.’ Conference: Workshop 1st International Conference on IT and Information Literacy, 20th- 22nd. March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland. Parallel Session 3, Thursday 21st March,2002.

World Bank (2007). Education in Sierra Leone; present challenges, future opportunities. Washington,DC: World Bank.

Warts – Types and Treatment

There are many different types of warts, all of which have one thing in common… they are embarrassing, unpleasant, cosmetically unattractive, unwanted, annoying and sometimes painful protrusions that appear on the skin almost anywhere. They have always been considered ugly and in folklore over the years… witches have usually modelled a whole host of various ‘warty’ protrusions on various parts of their anatomy. In fact the larger the wart… the more evil the witch! The princess never had warts… the wicked stepmother had them though! The ‘goodies’ never sported a fashionable wart but the baddies were regularly seen displaying one or more particularly heinous ones.

What are warts and why do we get them?

They are completely benign epidermal tumors or growths on the skin and most of them are highly contagious. They originate from the human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes the infection and more than 100 HPV subtypes are known.

Warts are particularly common in childhood and are spread by direct contact or by touching itching and spreading through touch. If a wart is scratched, the viral particles may be spread to another area of skin. It can take as long as twelve months for the wart to first appear and they can just as easily spontaneously disappear temporarily or even permanently. The majority of them have a hard surface and a tiny black dot in the middle or each warty mark can often be seen. This is a capillary blood vessel seen through the skin. Warts can develop individually or in clusters and can spontaneously disappear. Hygiene must be of the highest importance to avoid cross infection and if not treated they may spread.

In children, even without treatment, some warts disappear within 6 months and up to 90% are gone in 2 years. They are more persistent than this in adults but they can sometimes disappear of their own accord.

Warts are particularly numerous and troublesome in patients that are immuno-suppressed.

There are many types of warts:

1. Common warts arise most often on the backs of fingers or toes, palms of hands and on the knees.

2. Plantar warts (verrucas) are seen on the foot – mainly on the sole of the foot.

3. Mosaic warts are also seen on the sole of the foot and appear in clusters over an area often proliferating to several centimeters in diameter. Many little dots from capillaries underneath the surface of the skin can be seen throughout mosaic warts.

4. Plane, or flat, warts are often seen on the face or limbs and under the arms and can be very numerous.

5. Periungual warts grow at the sides or under the nails and can distort nail growth if left. Treatment can be difficult because of the sensitivity of the area and the risk of damaging the nail bed.

6. Filiform warts are on a long stalk and these can appear quite often on the face where they are a most upsetting and cosmetically unattractive addition. They often have a multi faceted top like finger like projections which are very dry and crusty.

7. Oral warts can affect the lips and even inside the cheeks. They include Squamous Cell Papillomas (not to be confused with Squamous Cell Carcinomas), are small benign (non-cancerous) growth that begin in squamous cells (thin, flat cells) that are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin (epidermis), the passages of the respiratory and digestive tract and in the lining of hollow organs of the body.

8. Genital warts are very common. There are at least 100 different types of HPV and at least 40 can infect the genital area they are often transmitted sexually and predispose to cervical, penile and vulval cancers.

Treatment Options:

Warts are not a serious health condition and many people will not bother to treat them as often the treatment is uncomfortable and requires considerable effort. To get rid of them, the body’s own immune system has to be stimulated to attack the wart virus. Persistence with the treatment and patience is essential!

There are several options of treatment, some more successful than others.

Electrolysis

Electrolysis has been around for over 130 years for hair removal but is fairly new to wart treatment but is proving high successful and illustrating excellent results. It is a very precise form of treatment not unlike Electrosurgery (curettage and cautery) but is gentler and less invasive. Treatment techniques depend upon the type of wart but with a common wart the tiny electrolysis needle (about the size of a eyelash) is used to cauterise the surface of the skin over the affected area. This is then inserted into the centre of the wart where a high frequency, radio frequency current is expelled. Following treatment the surface of the wart will scab over, which will, after a week or so, slough away leaving perfect skin behind. More than one treatment may be required with verrucas in particular being very resilient and definitely needing more than one treatment.

Other methods of treatment include:

Occlusion. By covering the wart 24 hours of the day may result in it clearing. Duct tape is often used.

Chemical treatment. Chemical treatment includes wart paints containing salicylic acid which remove the dead surface skin cells. Perseverance is essential as it can take 12 weeks to go or more likely to reduce in size.

Cryotherapy. The wart is repeatedly frozen with liquid nitrogen resulting in blistering, swelling and sometimes permanent white scarring following treatment.

Electrosurgery (curettage & cautery) is used for particularly large and annoying warts. Under local anaesthetic, the growth is pared away and the base burned by diathermy or cautery. The wound heals in about two weeks.

Other treatments. There are numerous treatments for warts and none offer a guarantee of cure. They include: Topical creams, oral medication, vaporisation, pulse dye laser destruction of feeding blood vessels and even duck tape and banana skin are home care options.

How To Get Rid Of Cold Sores Fast And Resume Your Daily Life

Suddenly you feel the tingling sensation at the edge of your lip. There is no doubt in your mind that a cold sore is coming. Although you can’t cure it at the moment or prevent it completely, but you can speed up the healing with the following remedies.

Peppermint Oil

Essential oils can help your cold sores to heal faster. One study shows that peppermint oil can eliminate herpes simplex virus outside the cells in 3 hours. In other words, essential oils are not effective if the virus is hiding in the nerve. To use peppermint oil, you need to dilute it with olive oil because at high concentration, it is toxic. Apply it when you notice the tingling sensation.

Lysine

Taking high dosages of lysine has been found to speed up healing of cold sores. It replaces arginine in the cells. Arginine is the fuel for herpes simplex virus. The lack of arginine in the cells forces the virus to retreat.

You can reduce the consumption of foods that contain arginine. These include grains, chocolate, nuts, and seeds.

If you don’t want to take lysine supplements, increase the intake of lysine rich foods such as meat and dairy products. Just make sure they provide between 3000 and 9000 milligrams of lysine daily.

Abreva

Abreva is FDA-approved over-the-counter cream. It contains docosanol or behenyl alcohol that can get rid of cold sores fast. For best results, you have to use it as soon as the first symptom appear. It requires up to 5 applications per day.

Compeed

One study compares the speed of healing between Compeed Cold Sore Patches and acyclovir 5% cream. The result is that Compeed has the similar quick healing abilities as acyclovir cream. According to consumers’ reviews, many find that their cold sores clear quickly after patching their sores with Compeed. Unlike topical creams, Compeed is not messy. It is transparent so you don’t even know the patch is there. It also prevents the virus from spreading. In addition, it is an ideal remedy for pregnant women who have concerns about prescriptions.

Manage Your Stress

When you are under stress, your immune system weakens. This does not help your body to recover quickly for the herpes outbreak. If you want the cold sores to go away faster, you have to reduce your stress. Take a stroll, or join yoga classes. Modify your hectic schedule to give you time to relax.

The problem I find with today’s cold sore remedies is the timing. Most treatments will work the best if you act the moment you spot the tingling sensation. If you fail to do so, it will take longer time for you to resume your daily activities. Although the above remedies can get rid of cold sores quickly but what if you have to attend a major meeting or event tomorrow?

Why Online IT Training Is Possible

If you understand the value of a good online courses for IT, you’ll realize there should be some good reasons why it is so very cheap. In fact, there are several.

The Information Technology by its very nature, are a perfect type of courses to take online. Training courses affordable online IT and they are accessible to help you use the technical means that you must learn about topics related to computer science.

Training schools affordable IT online save money in their administration to transmit to students. They can avoid responsibility for expenses associated with transportation to school., they can not charge the fee because these services are provided through technology rather than through a group of paid employees.

Because that schools affordable IT training online usually required to update the software, they have the ability to manage online tests from their own server. No supervisor is needed to control students when they take the tests, in addition, students should not go to the location of the school to take a test. For example, you may test your accounting courses by correspondence from your home, without worry about transport, traffic jams and arrive on time.

Training courses affordable online IT tend to stay away from being useless. There will not be too many courses of basic education in most IT degrees. You learn what to do for work. You can always take classes after school in your free time.

Very little hard materials and learning are required for most courses affordable online IT. Rather than sending several textbooks, a school of IT will focus on the information obtained via the Internet and other media related to technology. If you choose to take a correspondence course, you will not need to buy a large quantity of books, since everything will be sent either by mail or by Internet.

Instructors of online courses should be trained in using technology to teach. While other correspondence schools use instructors who are reluctant with technology instructors Information Technology are a poison in the water in this area. Affordable IT training online is possible because it is easier to find instructors who are better trained to teach courses using the tools of technology. If you opt for distance learning should be better than choosing an instructor expert in online teaching.

Training schools affordable IT Online is not only a possibility, they are a reality. If you want to work in the comfort of your own home, you can save costs and Additional mentions tuition. The nature of the industry makes training affordable IT well suited to offer affordable options. Do not be surprised, then, when you see examples of schools affordable IT training online.

By IRFAN MAN SURI