What went right in 2021: Our top good-news stories from the past year

·6-min read

The year 2021 had more than its fair share of bad news – a continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan, a major economic crisis in Lebanon, a brutal crackdown on protests in Colombia and devastating fires in Algeria. But at the FRANCE 24 Observers, we also covered some good-news stories of positive initiatives going on all over the world.

To mark the end of the year, we are revisiting seven of the best positive news stories we covered in 2021.

The Senegalese professor who carried his student’s baby during class, encouraging young mothers to keep up their studies

Labaly Touré, a professor at a Senegalese university, inspired adoration on Twitter after he posted two photos showing himself teaching … while carrying the baby of one of his students.

Our journalists contacted Touré, who said that he took the infant so his mother could focus on her classwork. He passionately encouraged young mothers to keep up their studies.

“What solutions can we offer to young women who come to university with their babies? These young mothers are in a difficult situation and it highlights a real issue in Senegal. Nurseries and nannies are expensive and aren’t options for a lot of people.”

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS : Senegalese professor holds pupil’s baby during class in show of support for student mothers

In Uganda, a coach gives street kids gymnastics classes

Starting last May, Yiga Mustafa, a 20-year-old gymnastics coach, has been organising gymnastics classes for street kids in a poor neighbourhood in a suburb of Kampala, the Ugandan capital. Every day, about 60 kids, between the age of three and 13, gather to do back flips, cartwheels and somersaults at the Kataka Gymnastics Club.

Mustafa, who was once a street child himself, told our team: “The children come from difficult backgrounds. But when they do gymnastics, they aren’t hanging out in the streets or taking drugs, for example. Practising gymnastics keeps them from falling into the wrong crowd.”

Mustafa’s goal is to make gymnastics more widespread in Uganda. He also wants to participate in local and international competitions.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS : Uganda: Coach Mustafa dreams of turning street children into champion gymnasts

In India, a teacher constructed a treehouse to get a better connection for his online classes

In India, schools were closed for months because of the Covid-19 pandemic – some still haven’t reopened. In order to keep giving online classes, C.S. Satheesha, a teacher at a primary school in the town of Mullur (in Karnataka state), built a classroom … in a treehouse.

Satheesha often had Internet issues at home, so he decided to build the treehouse to get a better internet connection by picking up the signals of nearby cell towers.

He told our team: “I looked up how to build a treehouse on Google and I did all the work myself. It wasn’t hard because I really wanted to have a good classroom. Now, we have a good Internet connection and the classes are going well.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Teacher in India builds treehouse classroom to ensure internet connection

In Japan, 'new generation Samurais' pick up litter

Even if Japan is known for its cleanliness, you can still find litter in the streets. For years, the “ "Gomihiroi Samurai" (“Samurai garbage men” in English) have been wandering the streets of Tokyo picking up garbage – doing good in the traditional garb of their heroes, the legendary medieval Japanese warriors.

The aim of this group, which is essentially made up of professional actors, is to encourage Japanese people to pick up litter. When contacted in July by our team, Nakagawara, the group manager, said: “People have actually told us that they stopped littering after showing our videos. Others say that they started picking up rubbish when they see it on the ground.”

According to him, the amount of litter in the streets in Japan has increased since the start of the pandemic because people have been using more disposable products for “health and safety reasons".

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: 'Littering is a growing global problem': Meet Japan’s Rubbish Collecting Samurai

In Malawi, a police officer built a youth sports complex all by himself

For the past ten years, Kanduwa Sande, a police officer in Machinga, a district in southern Malawi, has been working, all by himself, to build a sports complex on an empty lot. The complex includes a track, playing fields and a landing pit for the long jump.

Our team spoke to Sande in June. He said: “Sport is a catalyst for development because athletes have a healthier and more active lifestyle.”

Our team also spoke to Merry Kholpa, a consultant in primary school education, who commended Sande’s work, saying that most sports facilities in Malawi were reserved for the most privileged, like children who attend private school.

Some of the young people training at Sande’s sports complex have won medals in region and national competitions.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Policeman in poor district of Malawi builds a sports complex to 'change lives'

An Iraqi citizen in Germany helps stranded migrants using his Facebook page

Since 2016, Ihab al-Raoui, an Iraqi immigrant living in Germany, has been using his Facebook page "Consolidated Rescue Group" to rescue migrants who are stranded. When migrants contact him, he asks them for their GPS coordinates, which he then passes on to local humanitarian groups or the coastguard.

This work saves lives. When we interviewed al-Raoui, he said: “On October 8, we were contacted by migrants who were in a boat between Izmir, in Turkey, and the Greek island of Lesbos. They told us that the Greek coast guards had sabotaged the motor of their boat and left them to their fate. There were 22 people on board, including three children. We contacted the Turkish coastguards who rescued them.”

This year, al-Raoui also received a number of messages from migrants trapped on the border between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS : Iraqi activist in Germany rescues migrants using GPS coordinates

In Colombia, a 14-year-old highlights the work of farmers with his informational videos

From explaining the work required to grow tomatoes to giving advice on what to feed chickens to how to make compost – these are just a few of the topics covered in the videos that 14-year-old Carlos Alberto Díaz Colmenares and his big brother Juan have been making since 2020. They post videos on the Instagram account "La Granja del Borrego" ("The lamb’s farm" in English), which has more than 407,000 followers. Their goal is to highlight the work done by farmers, raise awareness about farmwork and provide information on protecting the environment.

Contacted by our team last October, Carlos Alberto Díaz Colmenares said: “In my opinion, the most important thing is to show that working in the country is hard, which we soon realised (...). For example, about three months after planting tomato seeds and working to grow them, our crop was destroyed by a fungus."

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS : How one Colombian teenager is using social media to highlight the work of farmers

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