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COVID-19: Education replaced by shuttered schools, violence, teenage pregnancy. World

World/06-08-2021/Author and Source:

A culture of “safety, friends and food” at school has been replaced by “anxiety, violence, and teenage pregnancy”, with remote learning out of reach for millions, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Tuesday.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “more than 600 million children in countries not on academic break are still affected by school closures”, James Elder, UNICEF spokesperson at a press conference at UN Geneva.

In countries such as Uganda, this has led to a “20 per cent spike in the last 15 months in teen pregnancies, or pregnancies of 10-24-year-old girls, who were seeking antenatal care. Across the globe in all continents we’ve seen child helplines, a good precursor to understanding kids who are reporting violence, seeing often triple-digit increases,” said Elder.

COVID-19 school closures

In nearly half of countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been closed for around 200 days. Latin America and the Caribbean have seen some of the longest closures ever with 18 countries and territories affected by either full or partial closures.

As of today, the UN agency estimates in Eastern and Southern Africa that 40 per cent of all children aged 5 to 18, are currently out of school.

Elder added that if these figures “did not resonate with those in power, then a World Bank report estimates a loss of $10 trillion in earnings over time”, for this generation of students.

Remote learning ‘out of reach’

A teenage student studies at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda.
© UNICEF/Francis Emorut
A teenage student studies at home during the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda.

Equally alarming is the fact that the solution of remote learning is “simply out of reach” for at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren, the UNICEF spokesperson continued. In East Asia and the Pacific, “80 million children have no access whatsoever to any remote learning.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, Uganda school children have gone more than 300 days out of school, while home internet connectivity “is the lowest on the planet there at about 0.3%”.

‘Situation cannot go on’

In a call for action, UNICEF appealed for five main steps: Schools should reopen as soon as possible; governments and donors must protect the education budget; enrolment should be extended to children who were already out of school pre‑COVID‑19 – by removing financial barriers and loosening registration requirements – and cash transfers to the most vulnerable, must be increased.

“Everything needs to be done to bring an end to the pandemic,” Mr. Elder said, starting with making vaccines available everywhere by sharing excess doses and financing to support the roll-out of vaccines.

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World: UN Women calls on countries to accelerate progress in women assuming decision- making roles

World/05-02-2021/Author: Beth Nyaga/Source:

New analysis from UN Women shows that despite women’s increased engagement in public life, equality remains far off. For example, women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 21 countries and 119 countries have never had a woman leader; at the current rate, parity will not be reached for another 130 years.

Additionally, just 14 countries have achieved 50 per cent or more women in Cabinets.

The data, prepared for a UN Secretary-General’s report in advance of the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women, demonstrates global trends, persistent barriers and opportunities for women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life.

“These data really brings home the handicap so many countries are struggling with when they don’t have a balanced decision-making process. We’ve seen all too clearly how the lack of women in the public sector leaves governments desperately ill-equipped to respond to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka.

When more women are elected and appointed to office, policymaking is better able to meet the needs of society as a whole.

Underrepresented groups such as rural women, women with disabilities and indigenous women are also better served when they are in decision making positions.

According to Mlambo-Ngcuka, transforming the balance of power is essential for solving the urgent challenges of our age, from deepening inequalities and polarization, poverty, the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, violence against women in public life is being used as a deterrent to keep more women from gaining access to power.

Cyber violence is increasingly common and is being used to silence women in government, as well as women rights defenders and members of feminist groups.

More than 80 per cent of women parliamentarians surveyed globally experienced on-the-job psychological violence; 1 in 3 economic violence; 1 in 4 physical violence; and 1 in 5 sexual violence.

Women parliamentarians recently reported experiencing nearly twice as much exposure to ill-treatment and acts of violence compared to men, with the COVID-19 pandemic potentially exacerbating violent threats.

The analysis and the recommendations for action in the report are part of UN Women’s commitment to responding to the complex problems of gender equality.


This also includes the Generation Equality Forum that aims to accelerate gender equality actions and enable the participation of all groups of women, especially young women.

The Generation Equality Forum is hosted by UN Women, along with the governments of Mexico and France, and in partnership with civil society.

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World: WHO, UNICEF urge safe school reopening in Africa

World/Africa/23-08-2020/Author and Source:

The unprecedented and prolonged school closures aimed at keeping students safe from COVID-19 are harming them in other ways, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF said Thursday, urging governments in Africa to promote the safe reopening of schools while taking measures to limit the spread of the virus.

A WHO survey of 39 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that schools are fully open in only six countries. They are closed in 14 countries and partially open (exam classes) in 19 others. Around a dozen countries are planning to resume classroom learning in September, which is the start of the academic year in some countries.

However, the impact of extended education disruption is significant. It includes among others: poor nutrition, stress, increased exposure to violence and exploitation, childhood pregnancies, and overall challenges in mental development of children due to reduced interaction related to school closures.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF finds that violence rates against children are up, while nutrition rates are down with more than 10 million children missing school meals. For girls, especially those who are displaced or living in low-income households, the risks are even higher. For example, following school closures triggered by the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, pregnancy rates among teenagers in Sierra Leone doubled and many girls were unable to continue their education when schools reopened.

The long-term social and economic impact of extended school shutdown is also concerning. According to a World Bank modelling, school closures in sub-Saharan Africa could result in lifetime earning losses of US$ 4500 per child.

This may also be worsened by reduced earning of the parents who are forced to stay at home to take care of the children especially in households that cannot afford child care services.

“Schools have paved the way to success for many Africans. They also provide a safe haven for many children in challenging circumstances to develop and thrive,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “We must not be blind-sided by our efforts to contain COVID-19 and end up with a lost generation. Just as countries are opening businesses safely, we can reopen schools. This decision must be guided by a thorough risk analysis to ensure the safety of children, teachers and parents and with key measures like physical distancing put in place.”

WHO, UNICEF and the International Federation of Red Cross have issued guidance on COVID-19 prevention and control in schools. The guidance includes recommendations for physical distancing measures such as staggering the beginning and end of the school day, cancelling school events that create crowding, spacing desks when possible, providing handwashing facilities, wearing masks, discouraging unnecessary touching and ensuring that sick students and teachers stay at home.

“The long-term impact of extending the school shutdown risks ever greater harm to children, their future and their communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern & Southern Africa, Mohamed M. Malick Fall. “When we balance the harm being done to children locked out of schools, and if we follow the evidence, it leads children back into the classroom.”

WHO and UNICEF also recommend a range of hygiene and disinfection measures for schools to reopen and operate safely, including regular handwashing, daily disinfection and cleaning of surfaces, basic water, sanitation and waste management facilities, and environmental cleaning and decontamination.

However, millions of children attend schools that lack water, sanitation and hygiene services. In sub-Saharan Africa, only a quarter of schools have basic hygiene services, 44% of them have basic drinking water and 47% cent have basic sanitation services, according to a WHO and UNICEF report assessing progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools between 2000 and 2019.

As such, this is the moment to take an opportunity from a crisis, and for investment and innovative thinking. As we seek to get children back into school, WHO and UNICEF stress that there are quick solutions to handwashing in schools, such as a tap, bucket and soap.

Source WHO 

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New Zealand: Sexual violence, racism and exploitation, the sad state of student housing

Oceania/ New Zealand/ 07.07.2020/ Source:

Sexual violence, racism and exploitation are all prevalent in the halls of residence at Victoria University, according to the university’s student association.

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) has released its submission to the inquiry into student accommodation with students detailing horror stories they have faced while living in halls of residence.

It is part of a national discussion on New Zealand’s under-regulated student accommodation sector.

One student living at Stafford House in 2019, said their bond was withheld because a flatmate left soap and a few food packets in the flat.

The students had a flat inspection before leaving, but one person was allowed to stay on an extra week, and left the items behind.

“As a result of this, the staff decided this meant our rooms were not spotless and thus they refused to give my sister and I our bonds back.”.

They emailed Stafford House in February this year but it was not until June they were told they would receive their bonds back, and as of June 29 were still waiting for their money.

Stafford House is managed by accommodation provider UniLodge, on behalf of more than 80 apartment owners.

Another student told of being sexually assaulted while living in a hall of residence.

“Myself and other girls were sexually assaulted in the hall and … after over three months of going through Vic Uni complaint process, I lost.

“He moved out on his own accord, but he has faced no repercussions.”

VUWSA’s submission claimed there was a lack of clarity for students when disclosing experiences of sexual violence, and limited support for victims, which fell to friends or residential assistants (RAs), who were typically older students.

One RA recalled having to deal with the brunt of sexual assault complaints along with two female colleagues, as the senior management team were all men.

The submission also claims staff in student accommodation struggled to handle issues of racism and other forms of discrimination.

Victoria University vice-chancellor Grant Guilford speaks at the May 5 Epidemic Response Committee meeting.

One student recalled being told to apologise when calling out other students for making fun of their culture.

VUWSA was calling for legislation to mandate a standard of care in student accommodation.

However, a University spokeswoman said there were inaccuracies and misinformation in VUWSA’s submission which was «very disappointing”.

The inaccuracies included things such as how the university educated students about consent, bystander intervention and their options when disclosing sexual harmful behaviour, she said.

The university provided “extensive” training to hall staff and RAs on these problems, and how to recognise and respond to students in distress.

The spokeswoman also said there were inaccuracies over the communication of information to students in halls of residence, the level of pastoral care given to those students, the role of RAs and the support provided to them and the University’s response to requests for information from VUWSA and its response to Covid-19.

“Universities New Zealand has contributed a submission to the inquiry into student accommodation, on behalf of all New Zealand universities.”

What is the student accommodation inquiry

The inquiry into student accommodation was called after the Covid-19 lockdown exposed the sector as being under-regulated and unfit for purpose.

It follows Interim Pastoral Care Code for domestic students, which Parliament passed in 2019 after the death of University of Canterbury student Mason Pendrous.

The Residential Tenancies Act does not apply to student accommodation, meaning students have fewer consumer protections than other renters.

The inquiry is being heard by the Education and Workforce Select Committee.

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Slavoj Zizek: Politically correct white people who practise self-contempt are contributing NOTHING in the fight to end racism

By: Slavoj Zizek

Smashing up monuments and disowning the past isn’t the way to address racism and show respect to black people. Feeling guilty patronizes the victims and achieves little.

It was widely reported in the media how on June 21, German authorities were shocked by a rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the centre of Stuttgart: between 400 and 500 partygoers ran riot overnight, smashing shop windows, plundering stores and attacking police.

The police – who needed four and a half hours to quell the violence – ruled out any political motives for the “civil war-like scenes,” describing the perpetrators as people from the “party scene or events scene.” There were, of course, no bars or clubs for them to visit, because of social distancing – hence they were out on the streets.

Such civil disobedience has not been limited to Germany. On June 25, thousands packed out England’s beaches, ignoring social distancing. In Bournemouth, on the south coast, it was reported: “The area was overrun with cars and sunbathers, leading to gridlock. Rubbish crews also suffered abuse and intimidation as they tried to remove mountains of waste from the seafront, and there were a number of incidents involving excessive alcohol and fighting.”

One can blame these violent outbreaks on the immobility imposed by social distancing and quarantine, and it is reasonable to expect that we’ll see similar incidents across the world. You could argue that the recent wave of anti-racist protests follows a similar logic, too: people are relieved to deal with something they believe in to take their focus away from coronavirus.

We are, of course, dealing with very different types of violence here. On the beach, people simply wanted to enjoy their usual summer vacation, and reacted angrily against those who wanted to prevent it.

In Stuttgart, the enjoyment was generated by looting and destruction – by violence itself. But what we saw there was a violent carnival at its worst, an explosion of blind rage (although, as expected, some leftists tried to interpret it as a protest against consumerism and police control). The (largely non-violent) anti-racist protests simply ignored the orders of the authorities in pursuit of a noble cause.

Of course, these types of violence predominate in developed Western societies – we’re ignoring here the more extreme violence which is already happening and will for sure explode in countries like Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. “This summer will usher in some of the worst catastrophes the world has ever seen if the pandemic is allowed to spread rapidly across countries already convulsed by growing violence, deepening poverty and the spectre of famine,” reported the Guardian earlier this week.

There is a key feature shared by the three types of violence in spite of their differences: none of them expresses a consistent socio-political program. The anti-racist protests might appear to, but they fail in so much as they are dominated by the politically correct passion to erase traces of racism and sexism – a passion which gets all too close to its opposite, neo-conservative thought-control.

The law approved on June 16 by Romanian lawmakers prohibits all educational institutions from “propagating theories and opinion on gender identity according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” Even Vlad Alexandrescu, a centre-right senator and university professor, noted that with this law, “Romania is aligning itself with positions promoted by Hungary and Poland and becoming a regime introducing thought policing.

Directly prohibiting gender theory is, of course, part of the program of the populist new right, but now it has been given a new push by the pandemic. A typical new right populist reaction to the pandemic is that its outbreak is ultimately the result of our global society, where multicultural mixtures predominate. So the way to fight it is to make our societies more nationalist, rooted in a particular culture with firm, traditional values.

Let’s leave aside the obvious counter-argument that fundamentalist countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are being ravaged, and focus on the procedure of “thought policing,” whose ultimate expression was the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books), a collection of publications deemed heretical or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, so that Catholics were forbidden from reading them without permission.

This list was operative (and regularly updated) from early modernity until 1966, and everybody who counted in European culture was included at some point. As my friend Mladen Dolar noted some years ago, if you imagine European culture without all the books and authors who were at some point on the list, what remains is pure wasteland…

The reason I mention this is that I think the recent urge to cleanse our culture of all traces of racism and sexism courts the danger of falling into the same trap as the Catholic Church’s index. What remains if we discard all authors in whom we find some traces of racism and anti-feminism? Quite literally all the great philosophers and writers disappear.

Let’s take Descartes, who at one point was on the Catholic index, but is also regarded today by many as the philosophical originator of Western hegemony, which is eminently racist and sexist.

We should not forget that the grounding experience of Descartes’ position of universal doubt is precisely a ‘multicultural’ experience of how one’s own tradition is no better than what appears to us as the ‘eccentric’ traditions of others. As he wrote in his ‘Discourse on Method’, he recognized in the course of his travels that traditions and customs that “are very contrary to ours are yet not necessarily barbarians or savages, but may be possessed of reason in as great or even a greater degree than ourselves.”

This is why, for a Cartesian philosopher, ethnic roots and national identity are simply not a category of truth. This is also why Descartes was immediately popular among women: as one of his early readers put it, cogito – the subject of pure thinking – has no sex.

Today’s claims that sexual identities are socially constructed and not biologically determined are only possible against the background of Cartesian tradition; there is no modern feminism and anti-racism without Descartes’ thought.

So, in spite of his occasional lapses into racism and sexism, Descartes deserves to be celebrated, and we should apply the same criterion to all great names from our philosophical past: from Plato and Epicurus to Kant and Hegel, Marx and Kierkegaard… Modern feminism and anti-racism emerged out of this long emancipatory tradition, and it would be sheer madness to leave this noble tradition to obscene populists and conservatives.

And the same goes for many disputed political figures. Yes, Thomas Jefferson had slaves and opposed the Haiti revolution – but he laid the politico-ideological foundations for later black liberation. And yes, in invading the Americas, Western Europe did cause maybe the greatest genocide in world history. But European thought laid the politico-ideological foundation for us today to see the full scope of this horror.

And it’s not just about Europe: yes, while the young Gandhi fought in South Africa for equal rights for Indians, he ignored the predicament of the blacks. But he nonetheless successfully led the biggest anti-colonial movement.

So while we should be ruthlessly critical about our past (and especially the past which continues in our present), we should not succumb to self-contempt – respect for others based on self-contempt is always, and by definition, false.

The paradox is that in our societies, the white people who participate in anti-racist protests are mostly the upper-middle class white people who hypocritically enjoy their guilt. Perhaps these protesters should learn the lesson of Frantz Fanon, who certainly cannot be accused of not being radical enough:

Every time a man has contributed to the victory of the dignity of the spirit, every time a man has said no to an attempt to subjugate his fellows, I have felt solidarity with his act. In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color. /…/ My black skin is not a repository for specific values. /…/ I as a man of color do not have the right to hope that in the white man there will be a crystallization of guilt toward the past of my race. I as a man of color do not have the right to seek ways of stamping down the pride of my former master. I have neither the right nor the duty to demand reparations for my subjugated ancestors. There is no black mission; there is no white burden. /…/ Am I going to ask today’s white men to answer for the slave traders of the seventeenth century? Am I going to try by every means available to cause guilt to burgeon in their souls? /…/ I am not a slave to slavery that dehumanized my ancestors.”

The opposite of guilt (of the white men) is not tolerance for their continued politically correct racism, most famously demonstrated in the notorious Amy Cooper video that was filmed in New York’s Central Park.

In a conversation with academic Russell Sbriglia, he pointed out to me that “the strangest, most jarring part of the video is that she specifically says – both to the black man himself before she calls 911 and to the police dispatcher once she’s on the phone with them – that ‘an African American man’ is threatening her life.  It’s almost as if, having mastered the proper, politically correct jargon (‘African American,’ not ‘black’), what she’s doing couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Instead of perversely enjoying our guilt (and thereby patronizing the true victims), we need active solidarity: guilt and victimhood immobilize us. Only all of us together, treating ourselves and each other as responsible adults, can beat racism and sexism.

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French demonstrators & police CLASH as protests turn to riots (VIDEOS)

Europe/France/08-12-2019/Author (a) and Source:

Riot police and demonstrators have clashed in France amid the ongoing general strike by labor unions against proposed pension reforms. Dozens have been arrested in Paris alone as over a million people marched across the country.

Footage from Paris shows protesters hurling objects at police, and riot-geared officers charging in response.



Flares, clashes as protests turn into night riots

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As flares light up the night, stun grenades can be heard exploding. There is also what appears to be tear gas.


Affrontements violents à nation après ceux de . Regardez le nombre d’explosions : les grenades de desencerclement semblent remplacer les lacrymogènes dans la doctrine du maintien de l’ordre.

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Jonathan Moadab@MoadabJ

La police tente une charge mais est vite repoussée à Nation

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Reports from across France during the day spoke of sporadic violence on the sidelines of the protests, including the smashing of shop windows and security cameras and setting fire to bicycles and effigies.
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Huge crowds turned out on Thursday to protest against the proposal by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to reform the French pension system.

The CGT union said around 1.5 million people marched in support of the protest, while the interior ministry estimates spoke of 700,000. Either way, the protest easily dwarfed the weekly ‘Yellow Vests’ demonstrations that have been happening every Saturday for over a year now.

The widespread protest crippled public transportation services across the country, and is expected to continue until Monday. It is the largest general strike in France in decades.


Image: Fajrul Falah en Pixabay

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Violence against women on the rise in Pakistan

Asia/ Pakistan/ Fuente:

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women, with cases of sexual crimes and domestic violence recording a rapid rise. Activists blame society’s patriarchal attitudes for the problem.

40-year-old Shazia S. was busy talking to her daughter at her parents-in-law’s house in Lahore. The mother of six barely had any idea what awaited her. Her husband Sajjad R., a mason by profession, suddenly turned up and asked her to accompany him. She was surprised, but went with him nonetheless.

«He grabbed me firmly, shoving me against the wall and unleashing a barrage of kicks and slaps,» Shazia told DW. «Then he picked up a metal pipe and started hitting me mercilessly,» she added. Shazia’s husband suspected that his wife was having an extramarital relationship. He kept asking about it while hitting me and wouldn’t listen to me even though I stressed that I wasn’t having any extramarital affair, she said.

Sajjad even threatened to kill her and used his knife to cut off her nose, Shazia said. «No one could hear my cries because he had tightly locked the door. He also inflicted wounds on other parts of my body, including my neck, and then fled. He left me bleeding and crying for help,» she recollected.

After the ordeal, Shazia’s neighbors took her to a hospital, where she was treated. The doctors said they couldn’t fix her nose with plastic surgery, but that she could try and get some treatment abroad.

Amjad Ali, an investigating officer in the case, told DW that the police raided various locations to nab the accused, but could not find him. Shazia’s husband has now received bail and the court hearings of the case are set to take place in the coming weeks.

«The police failed to arrest my husband, who managed to get bail even before his arrest,» Shazia said. «He came back to our area just the other day and told one of the residents that he chopped off my nose to teach me a lesson and save his honor, because he suspected me of meeting another man.»

Shazia, who is now living with her mother in Lahore, fears for her life. Her husband wants her to withdraw the case against him. But she says she cannot imagine living together with a person who has ruined her life. She is also afraid that her father-in-law, a retired police official, might influence the authorities and seek to compromise the legal case against his son. Shazia stressed that she would not let her husband go scot-free.

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