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Kenya: MKU VC lauds digital learning as University welcomes new students

Africa/Kenya/15-11-2020/Autor(a): Hunja Macharia/Fuente:

Mount Kenya University has successfully embraced digital platforms to support online learning through innovative and collaborative technologies.

MKU Vice Chancellor Stanley Waudo says the decision was arrived at after the Government closed all learning institutions early in the year after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

“On-line learning is student-centered; it encourages students to take responsibility of their own learning through solving problems, practicing, progressing and has real-time feedback from educators. Undoubtedly, with the wider spread of technology, online learning has the potential of being a viable alternative mode of learning,” Waudo said.

The Vice Chancellor spoke during the orientation of new students who are joining the University to undertake various courses.

He said the purpose of student orientation is to equip new students with information that can facilitate adaption to an academic environment.

Waudo emphasized on the need for students to embrace online learning saying, “Digital transformation in Kenya and across the globe is a trend that has redefined learning through creating learning experiences that inspire lifelong learning.”

He called for student responsibility in online learning saying they must Overcome perceptions and preconceptions about online learning as well as avoid dependence on teachers.

Waudo said the University stands for innovation, excellence, integrity and unity of purpose and urged the new students to put a lot of emphasis on the values.

“I draw your attention to the four MKU core values which will enable each one of you to adapt positively within our environment,” He said.

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Chile, China look to further academic, research cooperation

South America/Chile/23-10-2020/Author and Source:

Chile and China are accelerating scientific and academic cooperation in areas such as astronomy, medicine, science, technology, and art.

«Collaboration with Chinese universities is extremely relevant. For our university, the relationship with Asia and particularly with China is of great importance and we have already developed areas of work that have been strengthened in the last 14 years,» Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC) Ignacio Sanchez said during a virtual conference on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, authorities from Chilean and Chinese universities participated in a panel that was part of a series of talks offered by UC’s Confucius Institute to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Chile and China.

On his visits to Chinese universities, Sanchez said that he was «greatly impressed by the development and work they have been doing,» such as Nanjing University, Fudan University and Tsinghua University, with whom UC has strong ties.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it possible to have remote interdisciplinary cooperation with China on health and crisis management, and it is one of UC’s priorities to move towards digitization.

«While COVID-19 continues to affect the world and universities … cooperation between China and Chile in medical and public health studies may be a very important and urgent area in the near future,» said Vice President of Fudan University Chen Zhimin.

He also said that Fudan University «is very willing to work with other universities» in Chile to achieve «collaboration of the highest level,» with an emphasis on scientific-academic research, the social sciences, environmental studies, as well as innovation and technology, among others.

Vice President of Nanjing University Wang Zhenlin said that the joint work between China and Latin America to promote «a comprehensive partnership for common development, based on equity and mutual benefit» has opened opportunities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation in many areas.

Wang pointed out that ties between China and Chile have made it possible in recent years to improve cooperation in science, technology, education, and culture, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, through which Nanjing University cooperate with 31 universities in 11 countries.

The panelists also discussed fruitful diplomatic relations between the two countries, which have made it possible to build bridges of understanding, bring language and cultures closer together, and strengthen ties at all levels between Chile and China. Enditem

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Kenya: President Kenyatta presides over KU Hospital opening

Africa/Kenya/13-09-2020/Author: Christine Muchira/Source:

President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to preside over the official opening of Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital.
The 650-bed capacity National Referral Hospital is well equipped to offer services in Oncology, Trauma and Orthopedics among other specialised areas.
The hospital has been built and equipped with the latest technology with global standards expected to ease the financial burden of Kenyans seeking medical care abroad.
It will also be used to carry out medical/scientific research to come up with innovative ways to address health issues in the country and the region.
The grand opening of the hospital is in line with the President’s Big Four Agenda which aims to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2022.
Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital is the first hospital in the country to operationalise the purely referral model which does not receive walk-in patients apart from emergency cases.
One of the hospital´s flagship projects is the Comprehensive Cancer Care Centre aimed at filling the cancer care gaps in the country in early screening, diagnosis and treatment.
Currently, the Cancer Centre can provide radiotherapy treatment to 60 patients a day, thereby reducing the waiting period experienced in the country today.
The hospital is also in the process of constructing and equipping the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre (IMIC) that will offer further Comprehensive Cancer Care.
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Kenya, COVID-19: Embu University rolls out virtual learning platform

Africa/Kenya/06-09-2020/Autor(a):Muraya Kamunde/Fuente:

La Universidad de Embu ha lanzado una plataforma de aprendizaje virtual en un intento por hacer terreno para la interrupción del aprendizaje en la universidad.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Daniel Mugendi says the university has already enrolled over 2,400 first-year students for the online classes set to begin Monday next week.

Embu University has conducted a virtual orientation for its 2,475 new students in readiness for online classes set to begin on Monday.

The university says it has chosen to go the digital way in a bid to solve the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Mugendi says the online classes will help the institution implement safe social distancing and minimize personal contact between the students.

The government said that schools will only reopen when it is safe to do so, though pressure continues to mount on the government to allow institutions of higher learning resume classes.

This comes as Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha said that the purpose of reopening schools was mainly because of equipping learners with actual and practical skills.

The Education CS spoke after touring the Meru National Polytechnic to assess the preparedness for reopening schools said as much as the government encourages virtual learning some skills were better achieved through actual classroom activities.

“For these institutions, it is of paramount importance for them to serve the country using their hands they also going virtual but they are not like universities where you can give and monitor a lot of content virtually,” he explained.

The CS has urged in technical and other higher learning institutions to expedite in attaining the minimum recommended Covid-19 health guidelines so that students can resume their classes as quickly as possible.

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Right-wing academics feel threatened & censored at UK universities, says think tank demanding change

Europe/United Kingdom/09-08-2020/Author and Source:

Academic freedom in the UK is in peril, with universities increasingly hostile to right-wing views, a new study claims. Complaints about campus bias and ‘cancel culture’ are 10 a penny, but this one carries more weight than most.

“Britain’s universities are world-leading. Yet there is growing concern that academic freedom in these institutions is being undermined.” opens a report

According to the report, one in four social sciences academics would be willing to support a dismissal campaign against a colleague who expresses right-wing views on multiculturalism, imperialism, parenting, or diversity in organizations. Right-leaning professors, outnumbered three to one by their left-wing colleagues, say that the climate in universities is hostile to their views. More than 60 percent of ‘very right’ professors perceive this hostility, compared to only 16 percent of those who identify as ‘very left.’

A third of all right-leaning academics say they’ve refrained from airing their views in teaching and research, compared to 15 percent of left-wingers.

Academics lean further left than the general population. While less than one in ten Britons want increased immigration to the UK, nearly a third of academics support an increased influx. Conversely, while more than half of the population wants immigration lowered, only 16 percent of academics support this policy.

However, the most divisive issue on campus appears to be Brexit. With only 17 percent of academics admitting that they voted leave, these leavers feel that the campus isn’t the place to air their views. In fact, just over half of all respondents said they’d feel comfortable sitting in a meeting or taking lunch with a leave voter. “[I’ve] been told leavers are fascists,” one leave voter who identifies as a “centrist”

Across the board, only three in ten academics think that a leave supporter would be comfortable expressing their views on campus. “I told someone I had voted leave and they called me a racist,” one such supporter said. “I voted leave but was scared to reveal this as my colleagues were so aggressive in their attitude,” another said.

Trans issues are a hot-button topic too, with only 37 percent of respondents saying they’d have lunch with someone who opposes admitting transsexuals to women’s refuge centers.

That a right-leaning think tank would highlight these issues is unsurprising. Opposition to ‘cancel culture’ has grown in recent months, even among prominent leftists. The so-called ‘Harper’s Letter’ is the most high-profile example of this opposition, having been signed by figures like JK Rowling and Noam Chomsky. However, the letter has been criticized for its limp stance, and its vague calls for “open debate.”

The Policy Exchange paper has some more concrete recommendations. It calls for the government to appoint a director for academic freedom to the Office for Students, to investigate violations of freedom of speech, and for violators of this freedom to face civil action. The Office of Students is instructed to fine universities for breaches of academic freedom, and universities are asked to adopt a commitment to freedom, along the lines of the Chicago Principles, signed by 72 universities in the US.

Policy Exchange has succeeded in influencing actual policy before. The government adopted one of its papers on reviving traditional architecture in 2019, and in 2016, the government took on board its advice that military personnel in combat zones be protected from lawsuits for all but the most serious breaches of humanitarian law.

The organization’s latest report has been backed by some prominent public figures. “It does the country no good if our educators, our academics, our scholars and, most importantly, our students feel that they can’t speak or engage without fear of retribution,” former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth wrote in its foreword.

In a statement to the media, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan added: “It is deeply concerning the extent to which students and academics with mainstream views are being silenced and discriminated against in our universities,” promising to “strengthen free speech and academic freedom.”

However, some of the more determined leftists are unlikely to be won over. “The idea that academic freedom is under threat is a myth,” University and College Union Secretary Jo Grady responded in a statement. “The main concern our members express is not with think-tank-inspired bogeymen, but with the current government’s wish to police what can and cannot be taught at university.”

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American university students are coddled, thin-skinned snowflakes, and social media is to blame

By: Robert Bridge

The explosion of ‘cancel culture’ and the social justice mindset on college campuses across the US was inspired by social media, where the idea of creating digital ‘safe spaces’ without ‘trolls’ has invaded the real world.

For those born around 1995, this column will likely be filed away under the heading: ‘Aging Generation X-er with No Clue Rails against Evils of Social Media.’ And I suppose there may be some truth to that claim. After all, the greater part of my life – like that of many other people – was spent without access to handheld technologies and the endless apps, add-ons and what-nots. The reason is not because I lived on an island, or was born among the Amish, but because such technologies were not around in my time. In other words, the youth of Generation X was more defined by Alexander Graham Bell than Steve Jobs.

Today, the ‘reality’ for those born after 1995 – the so-called ‘Generation Z’ – is radically different from those born just a decade earlier, since they have had an intimate relationship with the Internet practically since birth. It would be naïve to think this age demographic – many of whom were nurtured on social media – would reach adulthood with the same set of attitudes, values, and worldview as their predecessors. What’s shocking is just how different they really are.

Starting in 2014, just as Generation Z was entering college, a strange new phenomenon began surfacing on campuses across the country. Students, who are traditionally the staunchest defenders of free thought and the least likely to be prudes, began tossing around vague concepts carried over from the internet, such as ‘safe spaces,’ ‘microaggressions,’ and ‘getting triggered.’

A 2014 article in The New Republic shed an early light on this encroaching mentality: “What began as a way of moderating internet forums for the vulnerable and mentally ill now threatens to define public discussion both online and off,”wrote Jenny Jarvie. “The trigger … signals not only the growing precautionary approach to words and ideas in the university, but a wider cultural hypersensitivity to harm and paranoia about giving offense.”

But instead of adjusting their sails for the approaching tsunami of tears, universities broke with a thousand-year-old academic tradition, allowing the feelings and emotions of misguided adolescents to supersede the wisdom and reasoning of the educators. In fact, the world of academia not only failed to stop the flood, but, due to its own extreme liberal bent, helped to aggravate the strife by blaming the perceived ills of the world on some select bogeymen. More often than not these were dead white guys, members of a clan known as ‘the patriarchy’ that thrives today on its so-called ‘white privilege.’ Thus, college campuses are now riddled with angst and activism to the point that even the rules of English grammar and mathematics have become suspect.

Perhaps the greatest casualty from this radical makeover, however, is the trust that had been cultivated over the centuries between student and teacher. Professors today are hypersensitive to the grim fact that they may lose their job for doing or saying something ‘offensive’ that violates the rules of politically correctness. At the same time, many colleges are now extremely hesitant about inviting controversial speakers to their campus for fear of ‘triggering’ their students and inciting protests.

The intellectual bubble that now encapsulates the college campus mirrors the reality on social media, where users have a strong tendency to mingle with only those individuals who share their worldview. Whenever some annoying outsider with a different opinion attempts to ‘troll’ them, canceling that person and their alternative views is as easy as ‘unfriending’ them. Meanwhile, there is a certain status and feeling of moral superiority that comes from ‘canceling’ some heretic that has fallen afoul of political correctness.

In the 2018 book ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’, Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, argue that the digital constructs of ‘safe spaces’ have done far more harm than good.

“Social media has channeled partisan passions into the creation of a “callout culture,” Lukianoff and Haidt argue. “New-media platforms and outlets allow citizens to retreat into self-confirmatory bubbles, where their worst fears about the evils of the other side can be … amplified by extremists and cyber trolls intent on sowing discord and division.”

According to Lukianoff and Haidt, Generation Z’s fierce aversion to controversial and even shocking information means that college campuses have become “more ideologically uniform,” thereby hindering the ability of “scholars to seek truth, and of students to learn from a broad range of thinkers” as historically has been the case at university.

The problem with allowing cancel culture to take root on social media and the university in the first place is that American society is now confronted with a mammoth weed on its front lawn. And while most people agree it is a problem, at the very least an eyesore, those who propose solutions risk being canceled themselves.

Last month, for example, 150 public figures, including Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and JK Rowling attracted anger and ridicule after they signed a letter that called out ‘cancel culture.’ In part, the letter warned that the “restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.”

Not only were these left-leaning signatories extremely late to the game, they themselves have been accused of attempting to silence voices, mostly conservative ones, they did not agree with. Others, like Jennifer Finney Boylan, actually apologized to the mob for endorsing the milquetoast proposals put forward in the letter.

The tragic irony is that Western civilization, which was constructed on the free flow of ideas, is no longer capable of even pointing out problems without attracting scorn and derision. Such a repressive atmosphere, endorsed by ideologues that listen only to the voices inside their own heads, is severely threatening future progress. If this dangerous new tendency is not confronted head on and brought under control, it will be Western civilization itself that eventually finds itself ‘canceled’ due to its inability to evolve.

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India: Mixed reactions to new education policy

Asia/ India/ 04.08.2020/ Source:

Politicians and academics are divided in India about a new National Education Policy [NEP] 2020 that was approved last week and replaces a 34-year-old National Policy on Education (NPE).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet approved the policy Wednesday “making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors”.

The policy mentions teaching up to at least grade 5 in the mother tongue or regional language and a focus on “curriculum to integrate Indian culture and ethos at all levels.”

However, there are mixed reactions regarding the new policy.

“On the whole, my sense about the policy is actually it contains many sensible suggestions. The apprehensions like BJP is bringing this policy and it could be saffronisation of education … fortunately this policy is not all about that. I think it is a step forward because many sensible things are there. At the same time I remain deeply skeptical about its implementation by this regime,” Yogendra Yadav, a former academic and national president of political organization Swaraj India told Anadolu Agency, referring to earlier fears that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may bring some right-wing Hindu policies to education.

Professor Najma Akhtar, Vice Chancellor of New Delhi based Jamia Millia Islamia, termed the policy “ground-breaking.”

“The higher education in India will now be holistic and multidisciplinary with a shared focus on science, arts and humanities,” she said.

But Pankaj Kumar Garg, a teacher at a college affiliated with New Delhi University and also convenor of Indian National Teachers Congress, said there are many problems in the policy.

“They are encouraging foreign universities to come to India. You need to improve the ranking of local universities. By allowing foreign universities to operate in India on their own norms is permitted in FDIs [foreign direct investment] in education sector,” he said. “Use of technology in New Education Policy would deprive marginalized and economically poor sections from education as they don’t have proper resources required for online education.”

“The policy has advocated major reforms in education, but as always, the devil lies in the details, and we will see how to get the NEP 2020 translated to action on the ground, true to the spirit of the reforms envisaged to empower the students in the country, to discover and fully develop their unique potentials,” Rupamanjari Ghosh, Vice-Chancellor of Shiv Nadar University in Uttar Pradesh was quoted by local news agency Press Trust of India.

Indian ethos

According to the policy document, the NEP “envisions an education system rooted in Indian ethos that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society.”

“The Policy envisages that the curriculum and pedagogy of our institutions must develop among the students a deep sense of respect towards the Fundamental Duties and Constitutional values, bonding with one’s country, and a conscious awareness of one’s roles and responsibilities in a changing world,” it said.

Many organizations affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)- powerful Hindu far-right group and ideological inspiration for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have welcomed the NEP saying their suggestions were included, including remaining in India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Two such outfits are Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal (BSM) and Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas.

“Almost all the things which were suggested by Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal have found place in NEP. We have been demanding renaming the HRD [Human Resource Development] ministry to education ministry and cultural ministry. They have changed the name to the education ministry,” Shankaranand BR who is All India Joint Organising Secretary, BSM told Anadolu Agency. “The NEP – 2020 would prove itself an instrumental in making Bharat Aatmnirbhar. The political independence we got on 15th August 1947 but the academic independence we got on 29th July 2020”.

He said the inclusion of «Bharatiya knowledge system, thrust for language and culture, will imbibe the values of life, constitutional values and life skills in new generation.»

“We welcome the policy. There is an integrated approach in the policy and It has talked about the development of students from all sections of the society. It has stressed on local culture, local skills, and traditional arts. Local, state and national has been combined. It has been inculcated in this. The biggest demand of ours was to change the name of the ministry, which has been done. There is also focus about promotion of Indian languages,” Atul Kothari, national secretary of the Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas told Anadolu Agency

India’s Samajwadi Party (SP) claimed the objective of the new policy was to “implement the RSS agenda.”

«The objective of the new education policy announced by the centre is to implement the agenda of the RSS. According to this agenda, the curriculum will now be presented in a special colour to mould the new generations,” SP President Akhilesh Yadav said in a statement, according to the Press Trust of India.

Indian politician and Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said, “Bypassing Parliament, ignoring opinion of state governments and rubbishing opinions of all stakeholders, Modi government is unilaterally destroying our education system,” he said.

‘Shining example’

Modi said the framing of NEP 2020 will be remembered as a shining example of participative governance.

“I thank all those who have worked hard in the formulation of the NEP 2020. May education brighten our nation and lead it to prosperity,” he tweeted.

“Respecting the spirit ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’, the NEP 2020 includes systems to promote Indian languages, including Sanskrit. Many foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardised across the country.”

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