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A chess club which not only inspired many, but also gave birth to a prodigy

The inspiring story of a chess club founder, that led to the rise of a prodigy, turns into a Disney movie

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Katwe, Uganda, Mar 21, 2017: Fourteen years ago, Robert Katende started a chess club for the disadvantaged children in the slums of Kampala. Today, the program attracts hundreds of kids in three hundred locations across Uganda.

In an interview with the VOA, Katende said, “I had never imagined what it has turned out to be because all that i was doing was looking out to how best i can empower these kids, and help the realise their full potential.”

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Disney’s new movie, “Queen of Katwe” tells the story of these chess clubs and the Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, a young girl who became a World Chess Champion, despite her background.

The film is set in the slums of Katwe in the capital of Uganda and how these chess clubs became an inspiration for many.

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Katende originally wanted to start a football club for the disabled children. However, when he noticed that they were not too keen about sports, he decided to teach them chess instead.

Katende started out with a group of five boys and called them the Pioneers. Phiona Mutesi joined the club sometime later and soon, the team was travelling around the Globe representing Uganda in international competitions.

Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi, Source: VOA

Richard Tugume, one of the original pioneers thinks that the film will actually touch a lot of lives in Uganda. He said, “personally, i believe now that it doesn’t matter wherever you come from, as people here come from slums. But whoever will watch that movie would be able to know that there is life outside Katwe.”

In the movie, local actors shared stage with stars like British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo who plays Katende.

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Oyelowo said, “it was invaluable shooting in Katwe.”

Many Ugandan actors who star in the movie are themselves familiar with poverty. Thus, the actors too felt a strong connection to the script.

The movie too, true to its word, tells an amazing story of believing in yourself.

-Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Brian Gitta: A Malaria Test That Would Not Need Blood Samples

The new malaria test kit works by shining a red beam of light onto a finger

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A health service worker takes a blood sample for a malaria test in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti, Oct. 6, 2009. A test that doesn't require a needle or blood has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation
A health service worker takes a blood sample for a malaria test in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti, Oct. 6, 2009. A test that doesn't require a needle or blood has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, VOA

Languishing with fever and frustrated by delays in diagnosing his illness, Brian Gitta came up with a bright idea: a malaria test that would not need blood samples or specialized laboratory technicians.

That inspiration has won the 25-year-old Ugandan computer scientist a prestigious engineering prize for a noninvasive malaria test kit that he hopes will be widely used across Africa.

For developing the reusable test kit known as Matibabu, Gitta this month was awarded the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The award by the Royal Academy of Engineering in Britain comes with $32,940.

Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa, and the sub-Saharan region accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s malaria cases and deaths. Cases rose to 216 million in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015, according to the latest World Malaria Report, released late last year. Malaria deaths fell by 1,000, to 445,000.

The mosquito-borne disease is a challenge to prevent, with increasing resistance reported to both drugs and insecticides.

No needles

The new malaria test kit works by shining a red beam of light onto a finger to detect changes in the shape, color and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. The results are sent within a minute to a computer or mobile phone linked to the device.

A Portugal-based firm has been contracted to produce the components for Matibabu, the Swahili word for “treatment.”

“It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development, in this case by improving health care,” Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge, said in a statement. “Matibabu is simply a game changer.”

A woman carrying a baby holds a treated mosquito net during a malaria prevention action at Ajah in Eti Osa East district of Lagos, Nigeria, April 21, 2016.
A woman carrying a baby holds a treated mosquito net during a malaria prevention action at Ajah in Eti Osa East district of Lagos, Nigeria, April 21, 2016. VOA

Gitta and five colleagues, all trained in computer science or engineering, developed an affordable, bloodless test that does not need a specialist to operate. The new test will be suitable for use in Africa’s rural areas, where most cases of malaria occur, because it will not depend on sending blood samples to a distant laboratory.

Others are also working to fill the need for quicker, easier malaria tests. There are more than 200 rapid diagnostic test products for malaria on the market, according to the WHO.

80 percent accurate now

The fifth-generation prototype of Matibabu, with an accuracy rate of 80 percent, is still a work in process. Gitta and his group aim to refine the device until it achieves an accuracy rate exceeding 90 percent.

Matibabu has yet to be formally subjected to all the necessary clinical trials under Ugandan safety and ethics regulations.

“It excites me as a clinician,” said Medard Bitekyerezo, a Ugandan physician who chairs the National Drug Authority. “I think the National Drug Authority will approve it.”

The government should invest in the project so that its developers don’t struggle financially, he added. The unit cost of the latest prototype is about $100.

Despite the optimism, Gitta has found a hurdle he didn’t anticipate: Some patients are skeptical of unfamiliar technology.

“The doctors will tell you that some people will not leave the hospital until their children have been pricked, and until they have been given anti-malaria drugs and painkillers, even if the kid is not sick,” he said.

Also read: From Radio Signals A Pill Could Tell About Gut Health And Help Doctors

“We think we are developing for hospitals first, so that people can first get attached to the brand, and gain the trust of patients over time.” (VOA)