Ugandan teachers turn coffin-makers after schools shut

Ugandan teachers turn coffin-makers after schools shut
Livingstone Musaala, a private teacher at Bulange Nursery and Primary School, works as a coffin maker at their workshop in Namutumba, Uganda. (AFP)
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Updated 13 October 2021

Ugandan teachers turn coffin-makers after schools shut

Ugandan teachers turn coffin-makers after schools shut
  • Family members criticised him for capitalising on a pandemic-fuelled boom in his densely-populated hometown of Bugobi
  • The former mathematics teacher realised that he could make and sell coffins for a lot less than the exorbitant prices charged by other carpenters

BUGOBI, Uganda: As a Covid-19 surge overwhelmed Uganda earlier this year, Livingstone Musaala, who was forced to quit his teaching job following school closures, turned to coffin-making to pay the bills and help his community.
But few welcomed his initiative at first. Family members criticized him for capitalizing on a pandemic-fueled boom in his densely-populated hometown of Bugobi, 140 kilometers (90 miles) east of Kampala.
“Of all the business ideas you start selling coffins as if you wish people death?” Musaala recounted a relative asking him.
But the former mathematics teacher realized that he could make and sell coffins for a lot less than the exorbitant prices charged by other carpenters after demand surged due to Covid-19 deaths.
“It was a tough decision but people now appreciate it,” the 28-year-old told AFP, with Bugobi residents no longer compelled to travel long distances to find affordable coffins.
“At the height of the pandemic, we did brisk business, we sold between four to 10 coffins daily,” he said, earning between 150,000 to 450,000 shillings ($42 to $125) per coffin.
His success prompted some 30 teachers to join him, many of whom were left frustrated and penniless by the ongoing school shutdown.
Although coffins have proven to be their biggest seller, the teachers have also taken on other joinery jobs.
Some had already been trained in carpentry, but most have simply learned on the job.
Today, many say they have no intention to return to school, even if classes resume — something that spells even worse news for the East African nation’s rickety education system.
Some 15 million students have been out of school since the government sent them home in March 2020, and activists fear a surge in teen pregnancies and child labor as a result.
With no income to speak of, some schools have shut down for good, rebranding themselves as hotels or restaurants. Others have defaulted on loans as interest piles up, putting their future in doubt and adding to the uncertainty faced by out-of-work teachers.
“If I was given an option between teaching and carpentry, I would take the latter because it is ready cash,” Godfrey Mutyaba told AFP as his colleagues shuffled around for pieces of timber to put the final touches on a coffin.
“I liked teaching but due to poor pay, I won’t go back,” the father-of-two said.
On average, teachers working at private schools in Bugobi earn between $100 to $250 per month.
Despite strong sales, the newly-minted coffin makers have struggled to raise capital to buy equipment like electric saws, and are now confronting a new challenge as the pandemic begins to ease after death rates soared in June and July.
Nevertheless, even as coffin sales fall, Musaala has no plans to return to his old job and is turning his attention to making furniture instead.
“Covid-19 has taught me there is life beyond teaching,” the father-of-two said.


Man asks Italian police to jail him to escape wife at home

Man asks Italian police to jail him to escape wife at home
Updated 24 October 2021

Man asks Italian police to jail him to escape wife at home

Man asks Italian police to jail him to escape wife at home
  • The man was already under house arrest when he made his plea

Rome: For some people, going to prison can feel like escaping to freedom.
A man under house arrest in Italy showed up at a police barracks asking to be put behind bars because life with his wife at home was unbearable, police said Sunday.
The 30-year-old Albanian citizen living in Guidonia Montecelio, outside Rome, “was no longer able to cope with the forced cohabitation with his wife,” Carabinieri police from nearby Tivoli said in a statement.
“Exasperated by the situation, he preferred to escape, spontaneously presenting himself to the Carabinieri to ask to serve his sentence behind bars,” they wrote.
The man had been under house arrest for drug crimes for several months and had a few years left to serve, Captain Francesco Giacomo Ferrante of the Tivoli Carabinieri told AFP.
“He lived at home with his wife and family. It wasn’t going well anymore,” Ferrante said.
“He said, ‘Listen, my domestic life has become hell, I can’t do it anymore, I want to go to jail.”
The man was promptly arrested for violating his house arrest and judicial authorities ordered his transfer to prison.


Police: Burglar gets new keys before she’s locked up

Police: Burglar gets new keys before she’s locked up
Updated 23 October 2021

Police: Burglar gets new keys before she’s locked up

Police: Burglar gets new keys before she’s locked up

CORONADO, California: A woman pretended she owned a Southern California home so a locksmith would make her new keys. Then police locked her up.
Officers arrested a 43-year-old woman on suspicion of burglary Thursday night in Coronado, a resort city across the bay from San Diego.
The brazen burglary was foiled when the real homeowner called Coronado police and said her neighbor noticed suspicious activity at the home. The homeowner was out of town, yet the neighbor saw the home’s lights being turned on and off.
Officers arrived and the neighbor — a relative of the homeowner’s — gave them a spare key. But it didn’t fit the front door’s lock, and metal shavings and pieces of an old lock were on the ground nearby.
As police walked around the home, they saw back doors open and a fireplace turned on as music played inside. After calling for a helicopter and a K-9 unit, officers saw someone moving around on the second floor in what was supposed to be an empty house with only one spare key.
Police called out to the person inside, who came out a few minutes later and was arrested. The woman claimed there were two kids in the house, but a police search turned up empty.
The woman told police the home was hers and said she’d called a locksmith earlier to change the front door’s locks.
No word if the burglar gave anyone a spare key.


Endangered orangutan in New Orleans expecting twins

Endangered orangutan in New Orleans expecting twins
Updated 21 October 2021

Endangered orangutan in New Orleans expecting twins

Endangered orangutan in New Orleans expecting twins
  • “We are very excited about this pregnancy,” Bob MacLean, senior veterinarian at the Audubon Zoo, said
  • The births in December or January will be the first for Menari, 12, but the third and fourth sired by Jambi

NEW ORLEANS: A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan in New Orleans is pregnant with twins, the zoo in New Orleans announced Thursday.
“We are very excited about this pregnancy,” Bob MacLean, senior veterinarian at the Audubon Zoo, said in a news release. “Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans — there is only about a 1 percent chance of this happening.”
The births in December or January will be the first for Menari, 12, but the third and fourth sired by Jambi, a male brought to New Orleans in late 2018 from a zoo in Germany.
It may be six years or more before the group’s next babies.
Sumatran orangutans wean their offspring at about 7 years old and have the longest period between births of any mammals — 8.2 to 9.3 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The great apes named for their long red hair have been decimated by hunting as well as the destruction of the forests and peat swamps where they spend nearly all their time up in trees.
About 13,500 are believed to exist in sustainable wild populations, and “overall numbers continue to decline dramatically,” according to the IUCN.
Watching matriarch Feliz and Reese, who came to New Orleans in 2018 from ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, give birth to and bring up their daughters has helped prepare hand-raised Menari for motherhood, officials said.
Bulan was born in July 2019 to Feliz, who also is Menari’s mother. Reese’s daughter Madu was born in February.
The zoo said keepers and veterinarians are giving Menari daily training and enrichment sessions to prepare her for motherhood and the possibility that she might need help raising one or both.
If all goes well, the orangutan twins will be the second pair born at Audubon.
Bon Temps and Lagniappe, nicknamed Bonnie and Lana, were hand-raised after their birth in 1985 to an orangutan named Sarah. Bonnie died in 2016 at Zoo Miami; Lana, 36, is in Greenville Zoo in South Carolina.


‘Mo, meet Mo’: Salah introduced to Madame Tussauds waxwork for first time

Mohamed Salah meeting his waxwork doppelgänger during a private viewing at London’s Madame Tussauds. (Supplied)
Mohamed Salah meeting his waxwork doppelgänger during a private viewing at London’s Madame Tussauds. (Supplied)
Updated 21 October 2021

‘Mo, meet Mo’: Salah introduced to Madame Tussauds waxwork for first time

Mohamed Salah meeting his waxwork doppelgänger during a private viewing at London’s Madame Tussauds. (Supplied)
  • Star striker said it was “a blessing” to be included in lineup of stars at famous London attraction

LONDON: Liverpool and Egypt superstar Mohamed Salah was introduced to his waxwork doppelgänger during a private viewing at London’s Madame Tussauds museum on Thursday.

Though he can count Premier League and Champions League titles and playing for Egypt at a World Cup among his achievements, now Salah has achieved a genuine celebrity milestone.

Coming face to face with his waxy likeness for the first time since a measurement sitting with the Madame Tussauds artists, the striker said it was “a blessing” to be included in the lineup of stars at the famous attraction.

“It’s a blessing to be recognized and immortalized in this way,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when I stood alongside ‘me,’ it’s like looking at my own reflection in a mirror! I can’t wait to see what the fans think.”

While Salah is instantly recognizable the world over wearing the red kit of Liverpool, his figure in the museum dons a cream suit, like the real Salah wore on the front cover of GQ Middle East magazine.

His figure also has fingers pointing upwards in his classic red carpet pose and goalscoring celebration. 

The statue will be viewable for the public from Oct. 22 and can be found alongside other A-listers, including members of the British royal family, David and Victoria Beckham, Dwayne Johnson, Dame Helen Mirren, Brad Pitt and Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Salah’s two goals on Tuesday against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, meanwhile, saw him become the first player in Liverpool’s history to find the net in nine consecutive appearances in all competitions.


Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition

Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition
Updated 21 October 2021

Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition

Canadian wins 18th Chopin international piano competition
  • Japan’s Kyohei Sorita came joint-second with Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev. Spain’s Martin Garcia Garcia came third

WARSAW, Poland: Canadian pianist Bruce Xiaoyu Liu was awarded first prize in the Chopin piano competition in Warsaw on Thursday, clinching one of the world’s most prestigious music awards.
“Being able to play Chopin in Warsaw is one of the best things you can imagine,” 24-year-old Liu said as the jury announced their decision at the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall.

The first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition comes with a 40,000-euro ($45,000) award.

Japan’s Kyohei Sorita, 27, came joint-second with 26-year-old Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev.
Spain’s Martin Garcia Garcia, 24, came third.

The winner will receive a gold medal and the financial prize funded by the office of Poland’s president, as well as prestigious recording and concert contracts.
The second prize is worth 30,000 euros ($35,000,) third prize is 20,000 euros ($23,000,) and the fourth is 15,000 euros ($17,000.) There are also prizes for the fifth, sixth and seventh place as well as other awards for the finalists, funded by Poland’s government, music institutions and by private donors.
Held every five years since 1927, the Chopin competition would normally have been held last year, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic — a first since World War II.
“It was challenging to get all the competitors into Poland,” Artur Szklener, director of the National Institute of Frederic Chopin, which organizes the competition, had told AFP.
But one of the 17 jury members, Argentinian concert pianist Nelson Goerner, said that pandemic-related lockdowns helped raise the standard of this year’s competition.
“The level this year is remarkable,” Goerner told AFP earlier in the competition.
“The pianists have had more time to prepare and I think the pandemic has awakened in all of us a desire to go further, to surpass ourselves,” he said.
“You can hear it in how these young pianists are playing.”

Born in Paris, Liu graduated from Montreal Conservatoire.
He has performed with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and has been on two tours in China.
“The pandemic actually made this kind of meeting for me more special,” Liu said after his victory.
Liu said he had to be “really careful all the time” during the coronavirus crisis, so as to be able to keep up his competition and concert schedule, and as a result had “not met many people” in the past two years.
He also said he hoped the competition would be “just a start” in his musical journey.
“It’s hard to keep the freshness, to continuously find new ideas so I hope this is not the last point,” he told reporters.
He added that he was looking forward “to be finally able to sleep and party.”
This year’s event drew 87 pianists from across the globe, including 22 from China, 16 from Poland and 14 from Japan.
Broadcast live on YouTube and via a bespoke mobile app, the contest attracted record online interest.
Some 70,000 people watched the result streamed online.
Among previous winners are Maurizio Pollini of Italy, Argentina’s Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson from the United States, Poland’s Krystian Zimerman and Artur Blechacz, and Seong-Jin Cho of South Korea.
Chopin, Poland’s best known and beloved classical music composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at 19 to broaden his musical education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composing, giving concerts and teaching the piano. He died on Oct. 17, 1849, in Paris and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His heart is at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.
The auditions can be followed live on the Chopin Institute YouTube channel and on Polish state radio.