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Sexual violence blamed for new HIV infections, unwanted pregnancies

Africa/Kenya/26-07-2020/Author: Christine Muchira/Judith Akolo/Source:

New HIV infections and unwanted pregnancies are some of the issues that have emerged as a result of violence witnessed across the country.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 press briefings, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr. Mercy Mwangangi noted that over 5000 recoveries have been recorded that resulted from Gender Based Violence meted out on victims during the pandemic period.

The Country has witnessed a 7% increase in the number of all forms of violence incidents, from March to June compared to a similar period last year.

CAS Mwangangi said, “Close to 5,000 rape survivors have received medical treatment in health facilities during this period of the Pandemic. Children below 18 years bear the greatest burden, as they comprise 70% of these survivors with 5% of these survivors being male.”

The CAS said that the inception of the measure that included the dawn to dusk curfew as well as partial lockdown of some counties could have resulted into the violence and had an impact on the mental health of the victims.

“We have noted with concern that some counties, particularly Wajir, Turkana, Kisii, Nandir Lamur Homabay and Kisumu, have recorded a 30% increase in cases of violence, since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr Mwangangi.

She noted that during the confinement measures put in place by the government, many cases of rape, have been recorded that resulted into transmission of HIV and resulted into pregnancies leaving a trail of suffering among the vulnerable members of the society especially women and children.

The CAS appealed to those affected by gender based violence were not seeking treatment at medical facilities due to unfounded fears that they could be infected with COVID-19.

She said that the Ministry of Health is establishing a toll free line to enable those affected to be able to report any form of violence or abuse and ensure that vulnerable members of the community are protected.

“The National Prevention and Response Plan on Violence Against Children 2019-2023, launched last week by the State Department of Social Protection, is quite timely.” Said Mwangangi.

Adding that: “The document addresses issues related to violence against children, including strengthening the toll free reporting line 116. Psycho-social support and counselling is available using the toll free number 1190.”

Dr. Mwangangi urged the communities to re-establish their social networks including religious institutions to intervene to be able to prevent the escalation of gender based violence.

This comes even as the country records 796 new COVID -19 infections in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of cases to 15,601.

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Egypt’s Mama Maggie nominated for 2020 Nobel Prize

Africa/ Egypt/ 18.02.2020/ Source:

Several national and international institutions and bodies, including the Canadian Parliament, have nominated Egypt’s Magda Gobran, better known as Mama Maggie, for the 2020 Nobel Prize, according to an official announcement made by the Egyptian Ministry of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Affairs, on Thursday, February 13.

Canadian MP Garnett Genuis nominated Mama Maggie in recognition of her constant commitment and dedication to serving illiterate and poor women throughout Egypt.

She was previously nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

Mama Maggie has been honored for her humanitarian work by many prestigious organizations and international officials.

In March 2019, First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo honored her among ten women at the International Women of Courage Awards ceremony in Washington, DC. The ceremony was held to celebrate ten women from various countries who have shown exceptional courage and strength while driving noticeable change in their societies in the realms of social justice, human rights, peace, women’s empowerment, and gender equality, according to a statement.

Moreover, Mama Maggie is the only Egyptian to have received the Arab Hope Makers award granted by Emirates Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Known as the “Egyptian Mother Theresa,” Mama Maggie is a Coptic Orthodox Christian who left her career as a professor at The American University in Cairo for a life of devotion working as a servant of Egypt’s Coptic church to improve the lives of underprivileged Egyptians, especially those of women and children.

Known as the founder of the charitable organization “Stephen’s Children,” Mama Maggie began her journey visiting the slums of Hay El Zabaleen in Moqattam during Easter to distribute food and clothes among the families there. Raised by a middle-class family, Gobran was shocked by the misery she saw.

She decided to establish the non-governmental organization Stephen’s Children with a clear vision: “To help save lives, bring hope, and restore dignity to underprivileged children and young people,” according to the organization’s official website.

The organization’s efforts are mainly concentrated within Egyptian slums with the aim of building strong relationships with the people who live there.

One of the organization’s main purposes is to help children by providing young people with early, elementary, and secondary education along with necessary vocational skills.

Stephen’s Children has a branch in nearly every Egyptian governorate. At each branch, well-trained volunteers facilitate the delivery of blankets, meals, medical supplies and other necessities. The organization also offers high-quality support services and counseling to disadvantaged people across Egypt’s governorates.

The organization has successfully launched nearly 100 community education centers where basic education and literacy classes are available for all ages.

In the more than 100 community education centers founded by Stephen’s Children, children receive free basic education and adults attend literacy classes. These resources aim to provide them the tools they need to earn a living wage and lift themselves out of poverty.

In 2017, Egypt’s illiteracy rate stood at 25.7 percent, according to figures from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), with women making up the majority.

According to the 2017 figures, the rate of illiteracy among young people (15-24 years) was only 6.9 percent, compared to a much higher 63.4 percent recorded among the elderly (60 years or older). Upper Egypt has recorded the highest illiteracy rates in recent years, with around 30 percent of the population of Beni Suez governorate illiterate as of 2017.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) announced in November 2019 that the percentage of Egyptians living below the poverty line increased during the 2017/2018 fiscal year to 32.5 percent, compared to 27.8 percent in 2015: an increase of 4.7 percent.

According to a CAPMAS survey addressing income and expenditures in 2017/2018, the average total expenditure of families increased to LE51,000 annually, compared with LE36,000 in 2015.

In a 2015 survey, about 27.8 percent of the Egyptian population was living below the poverty line, an income of LE5,787.9 annually and LE482 monthly.

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Kenya school collapse kills several children

Africa/ Kenya/ 03.02.2020/ Source:

A school building has collapsed in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, killing at least seven children. Scores were also injured in the accident, which residents and others blame on shoddy construction.

A two-story school building made of corrugated metal and wood collapsed in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, early on Monday, with at least seven of the school’s roughly 800 pupils killed by falling debris.

Two of the 64 children injured remain in critical condition. The disaster occurred shortly after lessons at the privately run school, The Precious Talent Top School, had begun for the day.

Many residents of the suburb of Dagoretti, where the collapse took place, blamed bad building methods for the accident.

«You can easily break it with your own hands, as easy as that,» said one resident, Peter Ouko. «This is chicken wire, not a construction material, and someone had the guts to use this to build a construction for our kids. I think this is basically premeditated murder.»

Two soldiers near collapsed school building (Reuters/N. Mwangi)The school will be closed for the next four days, according to the Kenyan education minister

Lack of regulation

The MP for Dagoretti, John Kiarie, told KTN television the accident demonstrated that there was no proper «regulation of educational institutions, especially those in informal settlements … regulations that pertain to the construction and stability of educational institutions.»

Numerous buildings in Nairobi and other cities have collapsed in recent years, often causing deaths. Kenya has experienced a booming construction industry in the past few years, but corruption is rampant, allowing contractors to ignore regulations and safety standards.

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Finland: Education Minister warns of school consequences of population decline

Europa/ Finland/ 27.01.2020/ Source:

Minister of Education Li Andersson (Left) is warning that declining population in some parts of the country might mean there’s not enough children for each municipality to have its own schools in the future.

She made the comments to Iltalehti newspaper, and attributes the problem to Finland’s falling birth rate. One answer the minister suggests is to share resources. “Sharing an elementary school among several municipalities is something that I consider a possible outcome in some parts of Finland” she says.

Finland has one of the lowest birth rates in the western world, although the overall population of the country is increasing thanks to inward migration.

The number of children born in 2019 for example (45,597) is the lowest recorded annual figure since the famine years of the 19th century.

According to the latest figures from Statistics Finland 45,597 children were born during 2019 which is 1,980 fewer births than the year before.

Li Andersson says this will have an impact on education as well.

“Obviously, if these population projections come true, it will be visible on the school and education side. The first, of course, is immediately apparent in early childhood education. Therefore, we intend to bring this big issue to the forefront of education policy” she says.

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50,000 children missing from school: Australia’s ‘hidden disaster’ revealed

Oceania/ Australia/ 03.12.2019/ By: Fergus Hunter /Fuente:

At least 50,000 Australian children are completely detached from formal education at any one time, a new report has found, challenging schools and governments to face up to a «hidden disaster» that is structurally entrenched and poorly understood.

The research from the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education has sounded the alarm on children disappearing through «trap doors» in education systems that are failing to accommodate young people’s needs and embrace those who are struggling.

«Australia has a very serious educational problem that we seemingly do not want to acknowledge,» the researchers, Jim Watterston and Megan O’Connell, concluded. «It is an issue that needs to be brought out into the open and receive urgent attention.»

Through modelling based on internal education department data and statistics from multiple other sources, the report concluded 50,000 was a conservative estimate of the number of unaccounted school-age children who are completely disconnected from any form of education.

Some of the detached children may never have been enrolled in school while others fell out of the system along the way, having been expelled, dropped out, or moved home. The research emphasised this group of detached young people as distinct from students who are sporadically engaged at school.

«They’re not absent from school; they simply aren’t in one. We’ve allowed them to opt out and disappear through a range of different ‘trap doors’,» declared Dr Watterston, the dean of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and a former teacher, principal and head of the Queensland and ACT education departments.

In the report – titled «Those who disappear: The Australian education problem nobody wants to talk about» – Dr Watterston and Ms O’Connell identified a number of drivers of detachment, including mental health issues, dysfunctional home lives, disabilities, behavioural disorders, bullying, and discrimination.

«These students either disappear or, worse still, are silently ushered out of the ‘back door’ by school leaders concerned about the reputational impact of these students on potentially lowered NAPLAN and ATAR scores or due to community concerns about their behaviour or ‘fit’,» the report found.

It lashed mainstream school systems for exhibiting hostility to students seen as problematic, who become «collateral damage» in a competitive school market focused on academic achievement.

The researchers have put forward a series of recommendations to tackle the issue. They called for a national approach led by the federal government, including early intervention and boosted support for accessible education programs and alternative environments to mainstream schools.

One student who has experienced disengagement and detachment from education, Eddie Wilkins, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald schools had failed to manage his personal circumstances.

Eddie, 16, has come from a difficult background and dealt with a number of behavioural issues. Having grown up in Bayswater in Melbourne’s east, he was excluded from the classroom for all of year 5, missed all of year 8 following surgery, only attended six hours a week in year 9 and was expelled in year 10.

«From my point of view, it was pretty unfair,» he said.

He said his teachers had been hostile to him because of his record and dismissive of his issues, including a sensory disorder that makes him sensitive to certain clothing.

«They’re pushing kids for better results – and I guess that’s a good thing – but the kids who aren’t getting good results are just ignored,» he said.

Eddie eventually ended up at Lynall Hall Community School in Richmond, an alternative setting that is significantly more accommodating to his needs. He is now more motivated to attend class.

«These kids exist right through the system,» said Dr Watterston. «It is time to take serious coordinated action to prevent our most vulnerable young people from falling through the cracks.

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High stake exams for children

Issuing a suo moto rule on November 20, the High Court questioned the legality of the expulsion of children from Primary Education Completion Examination (PECE) and its madrasa equivalent Ebtedayee terminal examinations. The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman issued the rule following a report published in a Bangla daily. The daily reported that around 15 students had been expelled from PEC and Ebtedayee terminal examinations which had started on November 17. The hearing has been set for December 10.

The court will consider the circumstances and justification of children being expelled from the exam. According to some reports, the expelled children were proxy examinees on behalf of other children, an offense, if true, that cannot be tolerated. The larger and more serious concern is how a primary school exam has such high stake that children, their parents, and perhaps teachers find it necessary to collude to commit a crime.

This is the question, we hope, the HC will consider. The education authorities have failed to address this question. It has been raised persistently by education researchers, child development experts, and parents ever since the nationwide public examination at the end of class 5 was introduced in 2010.

Until 2010, school-based assessment of students in primary school was the common practice. A small number of students of class 5, aspiring for a government scholarship, sat for a centrally administered test. The rest went on to secondary school after obtaining a certificate from their school.

Since then, highly competitive, high-stake, national, centrally administered public examinations at the end of grades 5 and 8, were added to the already existing SSC and HSC exams at the end of grade 10 and 12. The intention was to put teachers and schools under scrutiny, set some common standards of performance, and satisfy over-anxious parents.

The potential effect on children and teaching-learning in school from frequent public exams was forgotten. Education experts were sceptical about this move. But there was a great hype about the virtues of frequent examinations by politicians and officials, always on the lookout for quick-fixes. A dispassionate look was not taken at the consequences of making students totally pre-occupied with preparing for and taking tests, instead of engaging in and enjoying learning. Frequent exams became the remedy for the perceived decline in students’ learning outcome.

The counter-productive and perverse consequences of too many public exams since 2010 have been well documented. These included a surge of private coaching, commercial guidebooks, rote memorisation, desperation for guessing questions, cheating in exams, question leaks, incentive for authorities to show high pass rates and so on. (Education Watch Report 2014, Whither Grade 5 Examination, CAMPE.)

Evidence collected by researchers and CAMPE led to the recommendation to the government in 2016 to drop the grade 5 public exam and rethink student assessment. The then Minister of State for Primary and Mass Education, Mr Mostafizur Rahman, MP accepted the recommendation, but was not able to persuade his cabinet colleagues to change the status quo. Exams continue to reign supreme—and learning a lesser priority.

A Bangla daily, under a banner headline, “A Primary Education Board in the Offing,” reported that establishment of a new education board along the line of secondary education boards, is under consideration to conduct the nationwide PECE. An institutional structure, it is argued, is needed to administer the exam for over three million examinees at the end of class 5. The parliamentary committee on primary and mass education apparently has suggested such a step.

This move would be wrong on at least three counts. First, with grave doubts and ongoing debate about the PECE, it is not right to double down to take measures for institutionalising this exam. Secondly, it is necessary to get beyond the past fragmentation of school education management into primary and secondary and start thinking about curriculum, learning assessment and quality improvement for school education, pre-primary to grade 12, as a whole; universal quality primary and secondary education is the SDG 2030 goal which is also a pledge of Bangladesh’s. Thirdly, we need a technical body for learning assessment research, development and application, rather than an examination board of the type that exists today at the secondary level.

It is not that all exams and student assessment should be ditched. The value of traditional school-based annual exams needs to be restored. Public assessment at key stages should be for assessing basic competencies in language, math and science rather than using these as a substitute for the annual school-based exams. Schools, teachers, parents and the education authorities need to prioritise teaching and learning, rather than preparing for and taking public exams.

The example of Singapore or Finland having primary level public exam is sometimes mentioned in justifying our primary completion examination. This is based on a misunderstanding of student assessment in advanced systems. Singapore has a Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at the end of grade 6, which, among other things, determines school choice for students. It is held over four days in October, about two hours each day, on students’ skills in English, mother tongue, math and science, rather than on all school subjects and is not linked to textbooks. Elimination of even this form of PSLE is under consideration, to be replaced by an assessment approach in line with the “learning for life” goals (“Testing and Learning – How Singapore Does It,” The Daily Star, October 5, 2018).

In Finland, a grade 6 external exam is optional for students, and is used to assess schools and the system rather than individual students who are not given a specific mark or grade based on the exam.

Moreover, the learning resources and teacher skills and competencies are very different in Singapore and Finland and similar advanced systems. Assuring the quality of teaching-learning is the priority there; assessment in school and external ones are a secondary means to this end.

The original introduction of PECE and class 8 public exam (JCE/JDE) and the prospective exam board are examples of how decisions affecting millions of children should not be taken. It is a closed and bureaucracy-dominated approach without due consideration of all the consequences and lessons from research. Could the Parliamentary Committees for Primary and Mass Education and for Education hold a joint public hearing inviting experts and stakeholders on these issues?

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Asylum seekers have a right to higher education and academics can be powerful advocates

Oceania/ Australia/ 15.10.2019/ Source:


Australia’s refugee policy has led to a two-track education system. Those processed offshore, and deemed refugees by the time they have arrived in Australia, are entitled to fee support for university. But the almost 30,000 boat arrivals, considered illegal entrants, can only access temporary visas. This means a degree has to be paid in full, making it the impossible dream for most.

Policies limiting education follow a political narrative that labels boat arrivals “illegal”. This narrative is difficult to change without widespread community support.

Groups like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are training members of the public in how to talk about people who escape harm, rather than debating the legalities of seeking asylum (“It’s not illegal to seek asylum”). These efforts require a range of community leaders, not just stereotypical activists, to rewrite the narrative.

My PhD research on advocacy communications indicated many academics are unsure of how to support people seeking asylum. Advocacy is often seen as an activity for seasoned activists. But like the campaign to get kids off Nauru, led by Australian doctors, academics can play an important role as thought leaders who can influence the hearts and minds of a younger generation.

The right to education

Education is often interrupted for children in conflict situations and when escaping harm such as war or ethnic persecution.

Children who have arrived by boat and sought asylum in Australia will have experienced even longer periods of education disruption in detention centres. In terms of education, these are suitable only as transitory environments, as they lack adequate teaching staff or resources for longer-term schooling.

Children’s education is interrupted when they flee conflict and spend long periods in detention. Eoin Blackwell/AAP

Australia has no law specifying how long children may be kept in detention. One report estimated this was an average of eight months in 2014, though it can be as long as two to three years.

The Research Council of Australia commissioned research in 2015 to capture the human cost of disrupted and limited education for these children. One Iraqi teen said:

I lost my dad, I lost my brother and I couldn’t stay anymore. I came to be safe here. I came here in 2012. I’m not allowed to work, there are no funds for me to study. When I arrived I was 17. Imagine if you are 17 and you are not allowed to go to school. There are not funds for you to go to school. Now I’m almost 20 […] When can I go to school? When can I go to college? When can I have an education?

An estimated 4,000 children recognised as asylum seekers were in Australian schools in 2015. Under current legislation, they would be denied fee support for university.

Asylum seekers are only entitled to temporary three-to-five-year visas, which require them to pay A$30,000 on average for a degree. This is because Commonwealth-supported degrees are given to citizens or permanent visa holders only.

Improving access to higher education can improve social inclusion and resilience, and help people seeking asylum make a positive contribution to society.

Working migrants are thought to balance an ageing Australian population and shrinking tax base. This is particularly true for recent arrivals from Africa and the Middle East with a high number of children, or second-generation refugees, who will be schooled in Australia.

One study found 80% of these children would be employed in white-collar professions if they earned a bachelor degree or higher. They would also be twice as likely to be employed than if they had only a diploma.

Academics can be activists

Several Australian universities clearly support people seeking asylum. For example, there are 21 full-fee-paying scholarships available to asylum seekers to offset the otherwise impossible costs of a university education.

Other initiatives include Academics for Refugees, with representatives from a number of universities, who want to add their voice to campaign issues. Many academics are using research and teaching to question assumptions and influence students as well as decision-makers.

Academics may not feel confident being advocates, but the potential of a professional voice is clear. #KidsOffNauru was initiated by a group of doctors with access to children in detention. They called on the government to release children on the grounds that long periods of detention were detrimental to their health.

The campaign to get kids off Nauru started with an open letter written by over 5,000 Australian doctors. Lukas Coch/AAP

Medics may be unlikely lobbyists, but they added a credible voice on childrens’ physical and mental safety. Advocacy groups credited the campaign with the release of more than 100 children from detention in 2018, though the Australian government claimed it had already been reducing these numbers.


Universities have championed significant improvements for migrants in the past through narratives that challenged dominant political discourse. For example, the 1960s DREAMers movement led to the tabling of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. This would have granted legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children and went to school there.

These teens had grown up in the US without permanency. They told stories about their American dream and initiated sit-ins and pray-ins across college campuses. The DREAMers campaign transformed the immigration debate in the US, keeping the plight of undocumented migrant youth on the radar.

There are clear parallels between the Australian and US debates around who deserves a permanent visa, with the education rights that come with it. However, an Australian narrative around the ethics of education access is yet to emerge.

Australian academics can help write this narrative through coordinated advocacy and existing research networks, or creative campus initiatives that give a voice to students impacted by immigration policy.

Academics are well placed to shine a spotlight on the human and economic costs of limiting higher education pathways for people seeking asylum.

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