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RAPPLER
Rappler is an award-winning news outlet based in Manila, Philippines. Initially founded as a Facebook page named MovePH in 2011, Rappler became a separate website in 2012. The outlet and his editor in chief Maria Ressa have been targeted by the Filipino government since 2018 after it reported on lies and an alleged fake news campaign orchestrated by country's president Rodrigo Duterte
 Ayana BoydKing, a pulmonology, critical care doctor takes off a face shield after seeing a COVID-19 patient in a negative pressure room in the emergency room
Coronavirus
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Here's Why Healthcare Workers Around The World Are Quitting In Record Numbers

The long toll of the pandemic is the final straw for many burned out healthcare workers in the West. But the Great Resignation in the medical field is global, with developing countries already struggling to contain the pandemic in the face of a doctor brain drain.

PARIS — The COVID-19 pandemic has led many around the world to reevaluate their careers, becoming part of the so-called “great resignation.” Just take one statistic: a record 4.5 million U.S. citizens quit their jobs last November. By far, the industry that has been most shaped by the pandemic is healthcare, the field leading resignations, with a 3.6% increase in the number of U.S. health workers quitting their jobs in 2021.

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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, theMail & 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.

photos of a candlelit memorial for slain Russian journalist  Anna Politkovskay
Society
Carl Karlsson

A Nobel For Brave Journalists, And Remembering Those We've Lost

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have won the Nobel Peace Prize for their fight to defend freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.

Ressa, who co-founded the news site Rappler, was commended by the Nobel committee for using freedom of expression to "expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines," while Mr Muratov, the co-founder and editor of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the prestigious price for decades of work defended freedom of speech in Russia.

The award also came one day after the 15th anniversary of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, one of six Novaya Gazeta reporters who have been murdered since the publication's inception in 1993. It was her deep reporting on the suffering of ordinary people during the first war in Chechnya that first brought global attention and prestige to Novaya Gazeta — and also what cost Politkovskaya her life, shot down as she entered the lift in her apartment block in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006.

As Muratov dedicated the Nobel Peace Prize he won on Friday to his six colleagues murdered for their work, sadly the risks for those covering conflict and exposing wrongdoing continues. Already in 2021, at least 18 journalists have been killed around the world, including 14 assassinated. Here are some of their stories:

Borhan Uddin Muzakkir 

rsf.org


On February 19, Borhan Uddin Muzakkir, a Bangladeshi correspondent for online news portal Barta Bazar and the Bangladesh Samachar, was shot in the throat while filming street clashes between two factions of the ruling Awami League party, in the Companiganj area of southern Noakhali district. As police and armed demonstrators opened fire during the intra party conflict, at least 50 people were injured and nine were shot.

Muzakkir's father filed a police murder case over the journalist's killing, which led to the arrest of three suspects. However, in late August, the three men were granted a three-month bail by the High Court, according to Bangladeshi daily The Independent. Muzakkir, was 25 years old at the time of his death.

Ricardo Domínguez López

Ifj.org


Ricardo Domínguez López, the founder of news site InfoGuaymas, was shot and killed on July 22 by an unknown assailant using a .38 caliber handgun in a parking lot of a convenience store in the Mexican city of Guaymas.

López had said in a March press conference that he had received death threats from criminal gangs over his reporting, and that he was also subject to a smear campaign by local police — accusing López of having ties to organized crime. The day of the murder was López's 47th birthday.

According to Mexican daily Expansión Política, it was the second murder of a journalist in less than a week, following the killing of Abraham Mendoza outside a gym in Morelia, Michoacán. The publication also noted that at least 139 journalists have been assassinated in Mexico since the year 2000.

Danish Siddiqui 

commons.wikimedia.org


On July 16, Reuters correspondent Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters near the border with Pakistan. Siddiqui, 38, was embedded with Afghan special forces at the time of his death, and had told his employer he'd been wounded in the arm by shrapnel earlier that day. Resuming work after receiving medical treatment, Siddiqui was talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked, and was killed in a subsequent crossfire.

In 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh. Siddiqui took this picture of an exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touching the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat. The Reuters photography team of which Siddiqui was a member later won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Roberto Fraile

es.wikipedia.org


On April 26, Roberto Fraile — a Spanish journalist and cameraman — was kidnapped by unidentified attackers along with fellow Spanish journalist David Beriain and Irish conservationist Rory Young while filming a documentary about poaching in Pama, Burkina Faso. The next day, the three were confirmed to have been killed.

According to a statement by the Burkina Faso government, during an excursion the team's convoy came across a position held by terrorists who opened fire. Soldiers from the military escort tried to protect Fraile, Beriain and Young, but the three had disappeared by the time the shooting stopped.

In a tweet the day following the kidnapping, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez extended a recognition of those who "carry out courageous and essential journalism from conflict zones on a daily basis."


In 2012, Fraile — who had worked for 20 years as a cameraman and filmmaker covering corruption, crime, human rights and conflict — was hit by shrapnel from a grenade in the Syrian war and had to undergo emergency surgery in Turkey. According to Spanish daily La Vanguardia, Fraile often used vacations and paid leave from his dayjob at broadcaster Televisión Castilla y Leónto to pursue passion projects like the one that brought him to Burkina Faso. He was 47 years old at the time of his death.

Sulabh Srivastava

rsf.org


On June 13, Sulabh Srivastava, a reporter with Indian broadcasters ABP News and ABP Ganga, was declared dead at a hospital in the Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, shortly after his body was found near a brick kiln. Police initially said Srivastava had died in a motorcycle accident, but reports that he'd written a letter to the police just a day before his death, saying he was feeling threatened, prompted a police investigation.

The threats Srivastava received followed his reporting on a criminal liquor-selling group, according to reports by Indian The Wire. In his complaint, Srivastava said he was being followed and that sources had informed him the criminal outfit was planning to harm him for his coverage. According to New Delhi Television, A photograph of the body - taken at the scene of the "accident" - showed the journalist lying on the ground with what appear to be injuries to his face and his clothes seemed to have been almost entirely removed.

Lokman Slim

commons.wikimedia.org


On February 3, Lebanese political commentator, journalist and activist Lokman Slim went missing after leaving the home of a friend near the town of Niha, south of Beirut. The following day, Slim was found shot dead in his car.

Slim was a prominent columnist and political voice who frequently contributed columns commenting on Lebanese politics and legislation to the French-language daily newspaper L'Orient Le Jour. He was especially known for his stance against the Shia political party and militant group Hezbollah and frequently received threats for his work relating to the group. In December 2019, Slim issued a statement saying that he believed Hezbollah to be fully responsible for threats he had received, and for any future attack on him or his family.

Slim's widow, Monika Borgmann — a German filmmaker who found first her vocation and then her husband in Lebanon — said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle: "We worked and lived together for 20 years. They may have murdered Lokman, but his work lives on in all of us here."

A healthcare worker collecting swab samples in Naples
RAPPLER
Alessio Perrone

The Cruel Hypocrisy Of How Poorly We Treat Healthcare Workers

Essential? That's what Italy has labeled healthcare workers, but, like many of their peers around the world, they are receiving subordinate treatment, low wages and no protection from state or employers.

MILAN — Unlike many of us, Paolo's work routine has changed little in 2020. He wakes up before the first light of day in Northern Italy, takes the train to Milan, then the underground, then several buses as he visits a dozen elderly patients in their homes in the city's nearby suburbs.

But since the pandemic started, he's heard he is an "essential worker" and at high risk of becoming infected, as happened to many of his colleagues, but he has never been tested by his employer for the coronavirus. Even as the second wave of the pandemic batters Italy, Paolo only receives a handful of standard face masks a day — no gloves, visors, or higher-protection masks – and an €880 monthly paycheck.

Paolo's situation, as reported by Italian weekly L'Espresso on condition of anonymity for fears he would face retribution in the workplace, illustrates the hypocrisy of how an incalculable number of health workers are treated around the world. On the one hand, they have been called "heroes' and "essential." On the other, they lack the basic PPE to provide their best care safely, and their work is often underpaid and undervalued.

Like Paolo, more than 400,000 workers work little paid, high-risk health jobs with few guarantees or rights in Italy. They are nurses, but also assisted facility health workers, cleaners, home health workers. Some admit that they even avoid alerting their GP that they've come into contact with someone who tested positive because they fear they would lose their job – a decision that potentially puts their own patients at risk.

Their work is often underpaid and undervalued.

But the problem is widespread and persistent well beyond Italy. In the UK, a million health workers were paid less than the country's living wage while also being four times more likely to be on a zero-hours contract, according to a recent study. In the US, another study found that nearly 20% of care workers — including home health and personal care workers — live in poverty, while more than 40% rely on some form of public assistance. In the Philippines, nurses can make as little as $160 per month, forcing many to try their luck in Europe instead.

Many governments, including in France and Germany, have given bonuses to health workers during this global crisis. But few have tried to address the inherent structural problems the workers face. They are pushed into second-class jobs and zero-hours, zero-guarantee contracts, while the Western population ages and health care services become more starved of resources and enticed by cost-cutting operations.

An egregious example came from Bergamo, the city that first showed the world the horrors caused by the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Here, many doctors and nurses employed by public hospitals received a bonus for their effort in fighting the pandemic. But many of those privately employed in care homes and personal care jobs faced more responsibility, higher risk, and little recognition for their contribution. Like Paolo, in the face of regular risk of exposure to the deadly virus, their monthly pay stayed fixed at €800.