Ubuntu Puppets uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues affecting children who do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.Ubuntu Puppets uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues affecting children who do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.Ray MaotaPuppetry is being used as a therapy, to help empower victims and as a violence prevention intervention, all of which help young people to deal better with situations that affect them negatively.Lawrence “Lonny” Mongalo, the man behind Ubuntu Puppets, was a volunteer telephone counsellor with Childline Free State, screening calls and providing counselling on its 24-hour crisis line.This experience drove him to start bereavement and grief support groups as well as therapy sessions for orphaned and vulnerable children using adventure-based therapy.Later, he started a drug abuse support group to help young people faced with issues such as teen sexuality, HIV/Aids, cyber safety, sexual exploitation, peer pressure, substance abuse and bullying.In 2014, Mongalo set up Ubuntu Puppets, which uses puppetry and storytelling to address social issues that affect children. He started in his hometown of Mangaung, Bloemfontein in the Free State.He said: “The problem is that most children don’t even know they are experiencing abuse, because the same person abusing them could be the person they trust.”Making and selling puppetsMongalo uses his work to advocate for children’s rights and the values of ubuntu, which means having compassion and empathy for all humans.He not only makes a living by performing at schools, but he also sells the puppets to the schools and trains the teachers how to use them.When he came second last year in the Engine Pitch and Polish competition, a national workshop and competition programme that teaches entrepreneurs how to pitch their business ideas, he injected the money back into the business so he could create more puppets.“I used that money to buy the machinery to make the puppets, and it made it easier for me to make diverse puppets for different lessons and in turn make my shows more interesting,” said Mongalo.In need of fundingMongalo’s goal is to take his puppetry to schools in rural and marginalised areas where many children do not have easy access to professional support and counselling.But to do this, he wants to raise R100 000 towards buying a small vehicle and sound equipment to use when he speaks at community gatherings.He has started a Thundafund crowdfunding campaign to get people to donate money towards this dream. Each donor will be rewarded for their contribution.For the first donation over R5 000, Mongalo will make a puppet named after the donor and use this in his upcoming shows. For the second, he will hold a special performance at a school of their choosing in the Free State and provide a letter signed by the children thanking them for their contribution.Others contributing over R5 000 will get a replica of his Mongalo’s Uhuru puppet.Those donating between R1 000 and R4 999 will get a set of mini-puppets and a special mention in his shows this year as a thank you. Donors giving less than R1 000 will get a small puppet and a thank you letter with illustrations of all the show characters.
It appears bureaucrats in the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP), under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, are more powerful than the country’s Parliament. They can simply disregard orders of the Lok Sabha Speaker as well as chairman of Rajya Sabha.This is what the bureaucracy has done while constituting the board of governors of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in Mohali.The NIPER Act stipulates inclusion of three members of Parliament – two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha – but DoP decided to constitute the Board without public representatives despite nominations received from the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Chairman.According to information available on Parliament website, three MPs – Paramjit Kaur Gulshan (Akali Dal) Dr G. Vivekanand (Congress) and Dr V. Maitreyan (AIADMK) – were nominated to the Board of NIPER by respective presiding officers of the two houses. But the three names did not figure in the new Board notified by DoP in June 2011. This violates the law governing NIPER.Documents obtained under RTI show that it is not a case of simple oversight but a deliberate act to keep away MPs and public figures from the decision making body of the NIPER, which has been facing a barrage of charges relating to financial irregularities and corruption. The issue of financial bungling in the institute was raised in the Parliament following expose by Mail Today in March 2012.Internal papers relating to the appointment of the new Board in June 2011 reveal that it was the DoP which requested the two presiding officers to nominate MPs as required under the NIPER Act. But when the nominations were received, senior officials sought to create confusion that the office of the governor of NIPER was an ‘office of profit’ because members of the board are paid a ‘sitting fee’ of Rs 1,000 whenever they attend the board meeting.advertisementA director level official pointed to the amendment carried out in August 2006 to Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act 1959, which clearly states that “if any MP holds the office of chairman, director or member of any statutory nonstatutory body and is not in receipt of any remuneration other than compensatory allowance “he or she shall not disqualify from being an MP. The officer suggested that Rs 1,000 fee could be treated as compensatory allowance and not ‘sitting fee’. But his advice was overlooked and a notification was issued dropping the names of three MPs from the Board.The NIPER Act also provides for making eminent public persons or social workers members of the board. Several names, including that of environmentalist Vandana Shiva, included in the final list.The institute has been functioning without a full-time director since December 2009 when the then director had to leave under adverse circumstances. Not just this, DoP also delayed constitution of a new board.The present board, chaired by Dr V.M. Katoch, has not been responding to charges of corruption and mismanagement raised by institute faculty and some board members.