LA STAMPA
La Stampa ("The Press") is a top Italian daily founded in 1867 under the name Gazzetta Piemontese. Based in Turin, La Stampa is owned by the Fiat Group and distributed in many other European countries.
The national demonstration organized by the feminist movement Non Una Di Meno on the occasion of the International day against male violence against women.
Ideas
Dacia Maraini

Why Italy's Next President Should Be A Woman — And Not Just Any Woman

Italy's head of state is being elected next week, amid a flood of attention of the candidacy of infamously misogynous former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Having a woman in the presidency, argues Italian writer and intellectual Dacia Maraini, may finally help steer the country in a better direction.

Italy is a parliamentary democracy led by a prime minister. The functions of the President of the Republic are more honorary than operational, yet can be crucial in moments of political or constitutional crisis. Next week the votes among members of the Parliament and Senate will decide who replaces outgoing President Sergio Mattarella. With most attention focused on the names of current Prime Minister Mario Draghi and controversial former four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, calls have been sounded that Italy is long overdue for having a female president.

-Op-Ed-

Many Italians, including some women, have criticized those calling for the election of a woman as Italy's next head of state — as if these calls were saying that being a woman is enough to govern well. To attribute such naive and clumsy thoughts to the people pushing for a woman president is an insult — we are taking instead about a question of principle.

"If the Constitution declares," as Sabino Cassese, a former Constitutional Court judge, wisely recalls, "that citizens are equal before the law, without distinction of sex, why has there not even been one woman among Italy's 12 presidents of the republic?"

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Novak Djokovic Could Wind Up As A Puppet Of Serbia's Nationalists
Ideas
Tatjana Đorđević Simić

Novak Djokovic Could Wind Up As A Puppet Of Serbia's Nationalists

The Serbian tennis star is neither a victim nor a heavy, writes Serbian journalist Tatjana Đorđević Simić. But back home in Serbia, he is a hero who risks to turn in to a puppet of Serbia's nationalistic government.

In a video circulating from Serbia's public broadcaster RTS, a young Novak Djokovic is asked by an interviewer what his dream in life is. He doesn't hesitate: to become No. 1 tennis player in the world. Djokovic was only seven years old at the time.

"As a boy I often dreamed of playing at Wimbledon," Djokovic once said. He has played it, and won it six times. In his career so far, he has won all the other major tournaments, 20 Grand Slams in total.

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Climate To Costa Concordia: How Humans Are Wired For Denial
Society
Guido Maria Brera

Climate To Costa Concordia: How Humans Are Wired For Denial

In 2012, the same year the Costa Concordia cruise ship sank off of Giglio Island, David Quammen published his book Spillover, which predicted that somewhere in Asia a virus would be attacking the human respiratory tract on its way to becoming a global pandemic. And so it was. This terrible shipwreck, which the world watched in slow-motion exactly ten years ago on January 13, 2012, now appears to us — just like the COVID-19 pandemic, like the trailer of a horror film we are now all living for real.

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COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World
Coronavirus
Irene Caselli and Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World

Teachers, students, parents and society as a whole have suffered through the various attempts at educating through the pandemic. Here’s how it looks now: from teacher strikes in France to rising drop-out rates in Argentina to Uganda finally ending the world’s longest shutdown.

School, they say, is where the future is built. The next generation’s classroom learning is crucial, but schools also represent an opportunity for children to socialize, get help for special needs … and in some villages and neighborhoods, get their one decent meal a day.

COVID-19 has of course put all of that at risk. At the peak of the pandemic, classrooms were closed for 1.6 billion schoolchildren worldwide, with the crisis forcing many to experiment on the fly for the first time in remote learning, and shutting down learning completely for many millions more — exacerbating worldwide inequality in education.

The decisions to close schools have been some of the toughest choices made during the pandemic. It’s universally acknowledged that children most succeed with in-person classes, but the question still remains whether the health risk to students and those around them is worth it.

The Omicron wave has only caused this debate to heighten, with teacher strikes in France, rising drop-out rates in Argentina and staff shortages in South Africa. But there are signs of hope: Uganda has finally reopened schools this week, ending the world’s longest shutdown nearly 20 months later. Elsewhere, countries struggle in myriad ways to face the challenge of educating and caring for our youth through COVID:

ARGENTINA — Drop-outs and long hair

Argentina had one of the longest disruptions to school activities, according to data by Unicef, with 79 weeks of closure. Officials blame the lockdown for many of the more than 600,000 students who dropped out permanently from classes — a number six times higher than the year before the pandemic, reports La Nación newspaper.

Even for those who did go back to class, the pandemic created huge disruption. In this photo essay, photographer Irina Werning documented the life of a girl in the province of Buenos Aires, and her decision to cut her hair only when she got back to school after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

UGANDA — The world’s longest shutdown

Uganda reopened its schools on Monday after the longest pandemic-prompted shutdown in the world started in March 2020. Child rights groups had criticized Uganda’s decision to keep schools fully or partially shuttered for 83 weeks, leaving 15 million students without education amid mostly failed attempts at switching to a remote learning model.

Barred from school, many boys entered work in mining, street vending and sugarcane planting. According to the National Planning Authority, up to one-third of students are not expected to return to the classroom due to teen pregnancy, early marriage and child labor.

SOUTH AFRICA — Teacher shortages

In South Africa, one of the African countries hardest hit by the pandemic, 70% of students starting third grade this year haven’t learned to read, having missed out on 50% schooling during the last two years. As such, the Department of Basic Education plans a return to a normal school timetable in 2022, despite the country battling a fourth wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant.

But as five inland provinces — the Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the North West — started their academic year on January 12, the country’s schools still struggle to work around the persistent shortage of teachers, the Mail & Guardian reports. In April 2021, there were 24,000 vacancies spread across schools in all provinces and according to TimesLIVE, some educators are already teaching classes of more than 50 children.

Taking a child's temperature before going to school in Madrid, Spain

Isabel Infantes/Contacto via ZUMA

PHILIPPINES — Learning online with bad Internet

The Philippines also recorded one of the world’s longest education lockdowns. Schools closed completely in March 2020, and only reopened face-to-face classes in December for an experimental two-month trial that involved 287 public and private schools, according to the newssite Rappler.

But as Omicron cases surged, on Jan. 2, the Department of Education put a halt to the expansion phase of face-to-face classes and announced the suspension of in-person classes in areas under a higher infection level, including the metropolitan area of Manila. Online classes have only been accessible to a small portion of the population, because Internet access is not widespread, especially in rural areas that account for more than half of the school population, creating a further gap in education.

UNITED STATES — Homeschooling boom

With waves of school closures around the United States during COVID-19 surges, many parents have taken their children's education into their own hands. The national homeschooling rate increased from 3.3% before the pandemic to 11.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some parents wanted to better cater to students with special needs or provide religious-based education, while others felt local schooling options were inadequate.

The boom has particularly striking in the state of Virginia, where home-schooled students are up by 40% compared to 2019, according to the Virginia Department of Education data, now making up to 5% of the total public school enrollment.

Home-schoolers are especially concentrated in conservative rural areas, where they represent up to 20% of students in some counties. Many families opted for homeschooling as a result of the COVID-19 school restrictions and classes going online, with parents fighting against mask mandates, but also to the decision by schools to teach critical race theory.

ITALY — Government flip-flops

Prime Minister Mario Draghi made it a priority to keep schools open despite an upsurge of COVID-19 cases in Italy, with updated restrictions to help contain the spread of the virus. But Vincenzo De Luca, the outspoken governor of the southern region of Campania, issued a decree to delay school opening after the Christmas break. The central government successfully challenged De Luca’s decision in court this week, creating last-minute chaos among school personnel and families. Still, in some towns around the region, mayors decided to keep the structures closed.

This precarious situation has led commentators, like sociologist Chiara Saraceno in this editorial for La Stampa daily to lament not only the missed lessons of the two years, but the last-minute nature of decisions that leave no time to families to get organized. The pandemic has taught us the benefits of flexibility rather than constant crisis mode. Saraceno writes: “We need to break the tabu of the untouchable school calendar.”

SWEDEN — Always open

As the pandemic struck and countries around the world went into lockdown, Sweden became one of the last outposts for refusing curfews and instead relying on health agency recommendations for how to curb the spread — and primary schools were no exception.

But while Swedish kids may have missed out on less hours in class, a 2021 study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology shows that Swedish high school students experienced more frustration and anger than their Norwegian counterparts. The researchers suggest that while social interactions have been more frequent for Swedish students, the higher levels of national contagion may have resulted in an overall greater strain on their mental health, Skolvärlden newspaper reports.

At the peak of the pandemic, classrooms were closed for 1.6 billion schoolchildren worldwide

Rober Solsona/Contacto via ZUMA

SPAIN — Where are the tests?

As Spanish students returned to classes after the Christmas break, a debate has flared up between the government and teachers, who have demanded routine testing, El Pais reports.

With the number of students expected to return to pre-pandemic levels, the Education Ministry has nonetheless decided that in classes with children under 12 years old, only more than four infections — or 20% — will demand a group quarantine. Teachers have lashed out against the decision on social media, pointing to Germany where frequent rapid tests are carried out on all students, as well as Italy, where the army has been deployed to carry out mass testing on students.

FRANCE — Mass teachers strike

Keeping French classrooms open has been a priority during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases for President Emmanuel Macron, who faces a reelection campaign this spring. But there was backlash from teachers who shut down many of the nation’s schools Thursday with a mass strike in protest against the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, reports Libération daily.

Teachers cited confusing and constantly changing COVID rules that have left them exhausted and frustrated. As coronavirus infections have surged since the beginning of January, the government this week eased rules on COVID checks for students to reduce the massive pressure on testing capacity. But the relaxation has caused safety concerns for teachers as France reported a record 332,476 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday — with teachers protesting that the government's lack of communication, frequent changes to testing, and insufficient protection against COVID has left them unable to do their job.

AUSTRALIA — Last to close

Thirty-five of Australia's top academics, doctors and community leaders have made a call for the country’s authorities to allow schools to fully open for face-to-face learning. The open letter, published in The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, urges governments to follow WHO and UN advice that "schools must be the last to close and the first to open."

The signatories make three main arguments for full school reopenings. First, that a delay to returning to in-person learning ignores the obligation to deliver the best education possible to children; second, that it puts children’s mental health at risk; and third, that there’s no medical case for face-to-face learning to be suspended awaiting the vaccination of 5 to 11-year-old children, as COVID-19 is a "mild disease" for children with an overwhelming majority recovering without any adverse effect.

photo of a white high-rise apartment building
Society
Francesca Mannocchi

The Streets Of Rome, How COVID Has Deepened An Eternal Wealth Divide

The pandemic has exposed longstanding inequalities and brought more people into a cycle of hunger and precariousness,

ROME — One evening Alessia answered the intercom in her apartment. It was a man shouting at her to give him 1,000 euros, or he would come up to her apartment with a crowbar and beat her and her son. The man buzzed again: one more day, he told her, but only one day. When he left, Alessia started packing — but it was hardly the first time.

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Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World
Society
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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Mamma, The Last To Know: On My Trans Son's Coming Out
LGBTQ Plus
Lia Celi

Mamma, The Last To Know: On My Trans Son's Coming Out

Italian writer Lia Celi has her would-be mother's "sixth sense" put to the test.

-Essay-

RIMINI — Vienna, city of the Habsburgs and the waltz, Sachertorte and Secession. To me, as of 2018, Vienna also became the city of shocks. It was in the Austrian capital, at a restaurant table, that my 18-year-old son announced to me, in all seriousness: "I'm trans." First shock, followed by the second: "My siblings have known for a while now."

That's the theory of moms' sixth sense settled. Everyone in the family knew, it was just me who didn't have a clue. I'm far from a absent mom — I've always worked from home — and haven't missed a minute of raising my four children. And yet...

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Can We Still Say "Merry Christmas"? An Italian Take On The Inclusive Language Debate
Ideas
Michela Marzano

Can We Still Say "Merry Christmas"? An Italian Take On The Inclusive Language Debate

The European Commission's efforts to push for more inclusive language are important. But we should be careful and make sure we make room for differences.

-OpEd-

ROME — In Italian, it's Buone feste or Buon Natale? "Happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas"? The controversy triggered over the European Commission's Union of Equality guidelines makes very little sense.

The EU does not prohibit anyone from using the word "Christmas." Such guidelines only serve to highlight the importance of language in preventing inequalities from being perpetuated or worsened.

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Headstone of Adriano Trevisan in Vo's cemetery
Coronavirus
Francesco Moscatelli

The Vo' Paradox: Home Of Italy's First COVID Death Is No-Vax Stronghold

This small Italian town is remembered well for being on the front line in the fight against COVID-19. Now it faces vaccine hesitancy.

VO' — Out of 101 municipalities in the province of Padua, it ranks 100th. This northeastern Italian town is the "weakest link," where the percentage of citizens "not vaccinated-not registered," or the No-Vax as health officials call them, is 18.7%, six points higher than the national average.

The other statistic about Vo' worth noting: as of last week, this town of 3,277 residents ranks the 18th highest number of cases in the Padua region, says Dr. Piero Realdon, coordinator of the Ulss 6 Euganea company. The paradox of the town is all in these numbers. Italians remember it well, with the small town on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 when Italy became the first country in the West hit by the pandemic in February 2020.

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A sheet at a protest that says VAXXED
Coronavirus
Irene Caselli

Merkel’s Husband Calls German No-Vaxxers “Lazy” And “Irrational”

The unusual public remarks by Germany's First Husband comes as the country faces a new wave of COVID-19 infections and trails European neighbors in vaccination rates.

TURIN — As Germany faces a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Angela Merkel has warned of a "highly dramatic" situation "that will surpass anything we have had before."

The sense of urgency of the German leader, who remains the country's Chancellor for a few more weeks, is apparently shared at home: In highly unusual public remarks, Merkel's husband, the acclaimed scientist Joachim Sauer, has lashed out at his fellow Germans who have refused to get vaccinated.

"It disturbs me greatly, more than anything else, that one-third of the German population are not open to the successes of science," he said in an interview published Tuesday in Italian daily La Stampa.

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Screenshot of video filmed upon baby Luna's arrival in Italy
Society
Michela Marzano

Ethics Of Surrogacy: The Case Of Baby "Luna" Abandoned In Ukraine

Surrogacy is still considered quite controversial, especially in Italy where a story has made headlines after would-be parents renounced a baby born in Ukraine. The author says we must face the ethical (and other) questions rather than dismiss the practice as "uterus for rent."

-Analysis-

ROME — The story of the surrogate child born in Kiev, and then abandoned by its would-be Italian parents, is filled with deep sadness. No child should ever be let go.

And yet, it happens. It happens when a woman decides to give birth anonymously, and the baby is then given up for adoption. Or when a child is placed in temporary foster care, but then never returns to the family of origin. It happens with some premature-born babies who, after being kept alive with the help of sophisticated therapies, will never be picked up by their parents because of a disability. It even happens with adoption: those rare occasions when the kid is returned, putting him or her through a dramatic "double abandonment."

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