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TOPIC: education

Society

In Denmark, Beloved Christmas TV Special Cancelled For Blackface Scenes

The director of the 1997 episode complained that TV executives are being "too sensitive."

If there’s one thing Scandinavians take seriously, it’s Christmas. And over the past half-century, in addition to all the family and religious traditions, most Nordic countries share a passion for what's known as the "TV Christmas calendar": 24 nightly television episodes that air between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve.

Originally, the programs were strictly aimed at children; but over the years, the stories evolved more towards family entertainment, with some Christmas calendars becoming classics that generations of Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and others have watched each year as national and family traditions in their own right.

But this year in Denmark, one vintage episode has been pulled from the air because of a blackface scene.

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This Happened—November 14: A First Step in Desegregation

Ruby Bridges walked into the first desegrated school on this day 62 years ago. Her story later became the subject of a famous Norman Rockwell painting, titled “The Problem We All Live With”.

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"Save Us From Nazis," Indoctrination Stamped On Student Letters To Russian Troops

In the Ukrainian city of Izium, Russian troops left behind more than destruction, mass graves and testimony of torture. After their hasty withdrawal in early September, Ukrainians found traces of the regime's propaganda indoctrinating school children.

IZIUM — We've spent the last few days in this strategically important city northeastern Ukraine, visiting some of the buildings used by the Russians as prisons and places of torture. One particular building in Izium had served as an administration center, which became a jail during the occupation. Today, it's been partly reduced to rubble.

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The presence of Russian troops is still visible on the military vehicles marked with “Z”, symbol of the “special military operation.” There are also the remains of soldiers' food rations, boots, uniforms, all abandoned before the Ukrainian counteroffensive liberated almost the entire Kharkiv region in just a few days.

But perhaps most interestingly, we found boxes full of the letters that Russian students of all grades had sent to their soldiers to keep their morale high.

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Education As Pluralism: A Humble Manifesto Against Totalitarianism

Authoritarianism and conflict are on the rise around the world. Yet democracy will not be saved on the battlefield but in the classroom. Schools, and more importantly, how teachers teach is crucial in showing the next generations that there is no single defining point of view.

-Essay-

ROME — In this time of crisis and war, any true supporter of democracy must be reminded of the importance of school for a fundamental reason: to ensure a multiplicity of points of view. No, we must remind ourselves, there is no definitive last word on good and evil, life and death, justice or injustice. Freedom of speech must always be safeguarded: diverse, secular and democratic.

Diversity of points of view implies a bond that connects one person’s view point with another. For, as the COVID pandemic has shown, there is no such thing as one life separate from other lives. There is no such thing as a self-sufficient life, no autonomous life, no life that does not depend on the lives of others.

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The great task of school, in a traumatized time like ours, is to actively practice an ethic of plurality and inclusion. The question that starts with is: Does that happen by educating or by instructing?

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Society
Yann Rousseau

Play And Pay: Why Singapore's Education System Is Top Of The Class

For years, Singapore has topped education rankings and inspired other school systems. Among the keys to its success is a playful approach to education and highly paid teachers. But many worry about the pressure the system places on children.

SINGAPORE — Every year in mid-October, social networks are set ablaze in Singapore. Upset parents attack the Ministry of Education on Facebook, Twitter and other forums, accusing it of having organized tests that were too complicated for their children. They say their children came home from the math section of the PSLE – the Primary School Leaving Examination – in tears. The results come in late November.

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Society
Elaine Unterhalter

With Taliban Back In Power, Brave Afghan Girls Again Risk Everything For An Education

Certain teachers and female students face extraordinary risks in clandestine schools for girls, recalling similar secret education operations when the Taliban were in charge before 9/11.

In August 2021 the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and since then secondary education for girls in the country has been banned. However, there have been reports of clandestine girls’ schools operating despite the ban. Teenage girls are reportedly taking extraordinary risks to attend lessons. Their teachers bravely share knowledge, even if they do not have extensive experience or the backup of an education system.

Education for girls was also banned during the previous era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (1996-2001). In this period, too, girls attended secret schools.

Not much was known about these schools during Taliban rule. A 1997 report noted that the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan supported 125 girls’ schools and 87 co-education primary schools and home schools. An article in the Guardian in July 2001 stated that aid agencies had estimated 45,000 children were attending secret schools.

After the defeat of the Taliban in 2001, the educational work of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which they carried out during Taliban rule, was much documented.

Before 9/11, there was very limited international knowledge of these secret schools for girls. But after 9/11, the misogynistic actions of the Taliban regarding women’s rights and girls’ education became a pillar of the argument for the U.S. War against Terror.

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Society
Prudence Phiri

Zambia, Trapped In A Generational Cycle Of Poverty

The pandemic has scuttled Zambia’s efforts to combat child labor and keep kids in school. The result is a generational cycle of poverty.

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA — A gray haze hovers above the garbage dump, a stain on an otherwise blue sky. Known as Marabo, the site unfurls across almost an acre of dirt, with mounds of plastic bags and cracked bottles baking under the midmorning sun. On the north end, dark green-and-black mud cakes the rubbish, emitting a sewer-like stench. The smell clings to the body long after one leaves.

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Society
Apophia Agiresaasi*

Beyond COVID: Why Ugandan Kids Can’t Go Back To School

Severe weather and a lack of upkeep during pandemic shutdowns wreaked havoc on school facilities. Officials and parents are scrambling to rebuild.

SHEEMA, UGANDA — After nearly two years of repeated shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Benon Atwijuka was excited to return to his job as headmaster of Kyeihara Integrated Primary School in southwestern Uganda. But when he arrived, he realized that he had to do more than help his students catch up on the learning they had lost.

“During the long absence, animals roamed and grazed in the school compound and damaged buildings,” he says.

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Society
Sukanya Shantha

India Faces Eternally Complex Child-Care Question: What To Do With Kids Of Women Prisoners

While growing up inside a prison leads to a range of difficulties for children, those separated from their mothers and left on the outside also face different traumas. In this in-depth reportage for India's The Wire, journalist Sukanya Shantha talks to mothers who had to give birth in jail and those who went without seeing their children for years to keep them protected.

MUMBAI — Raginibai was at the construction site when a large police search team came looking for her. Her husband was found brutally murdered, and his body — wrapped in a jute bag — had been buried several feet under the construction debris close by. The police suspected that Raginibai, along with a man they claimed was her “lover,” was involved in the murder. Raginibai denied this charge vehemently.

But at that moment, neither her husband’s death nor the police’s suspicion could unsettle her. The well-being of her five-year-old son, who shadowed her everywhere at the construction site in Taloja, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was all that she worried about.

Raginibai, a landless migrant labourer and a Dalit woman from Kalahandi — one of the most backward districts in the eastern Indian state of Odisha — feared that the police would take her child away and she would never be able to see him again. In desperation, she requested that the police hand her child over to a person she claimed was her sister. This was a claim that the police was legally bound to — yet never bothered to — independently ascertain.

Raginibai was arrested on November 15, 2019. She was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a girl, her third child, inside an overcrowded Kalyan district jail, over 50 km away from Mumbai city.

Her eldest, a 12-year-old daughter, was away at Raginibai’s mother’s house in Odisha at the time of the arrest. With no parental support or financial backing, her daughter had to drop out of school and is now being forced into child labor in a paddy field, many kilometers outside her village.

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Society
Alice De Souza, Clarissa Levy, Mariama Correia, Diana Cariboni

Probe Finds Brazil's Religious Homeschooling Groups Encourage Corporal Punishment

As Brazil prepares to legalize homeschooling — a campaign promise that President Bolsonaro hopes to fulfill before October's elections — a disturbing investigation by openDemocracy and Agência Pública finds that Brazil's religious homeschooling groups, supported by ultraconservative U.S. associations, are giving parents instructions on how to spank their children while dodging the law.

Training dished out by Brazil’s homeschooling industry is encouraging parents to spank their children “calmly and patiently” as a teaching tool, a disturbing investigation by openDemocracy and Agência Pública has found.

Books, websites and videos seen by our journalists give parents tips on how to spank children and dodge the law — by avoiding major injuries, visible marks and public humiliation. They also say parents who do not punish their children with “the rod” do not love God or their children.

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Society
Eleonora Camilli

"Jus Scholae" - Italians Seek To Establish A Right To Citizenship Through Education Status

Italy is debating a new bill that would allow foreign-born students to become Italian citizens, linked to their status within Italy's school system.

ROME — "Joseph, are you Italian?"

The question hangs in the air for just a few seconds, before the boy replies confidently: "Of course!"

Before starting to shoot the basketball again, his expression turns worried and asks: "Why? Am I not?"

Twelve years old, a lover of basketball and fan of AS Roma soccer club, Joseph was born in Italy but his document states the nationality of his mother, who arrived from Nigeria shortly before he was born.

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Geopolitics
Hye-kwan Lee and Stanley Leung

A Bitter Road Back For Hong Kong Students Arrested During 2019 Protests

Thousands of students and young people were detained during Hong Kong's democracy protests in 2019. Now with criminal records, many are struggling to re-integrating into a changed society

HONG KONG — Shortly after his release from the Detention Center, Ah Tao received a phone call from his secondary school headmaster. The headmaster told the Hong Kong teenager that it might not be a good idea for him to continue his studies, and that there were some barista courses outside school he might as well try.

Tao did not respond to the suggestion, and hung up after a few pleasantries.

Back when he was arrested on the street in 2019, Tao had completed his third year, and the school promised to hold his place. However, they stated that if he committed any offenses again, he could be expelled. Tao was already prepared for such a phone call. At that moment, he felt strongly that he was just a young person who had broken the law, and even his school did not want him anymore.

In 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed an amendment bill on extradition that would allow the transfer of fugitives from between Mainland China and Hong Kong. The bill received widespread criticism, with fears it would hamper political dissent in Hong Kong and led to large-scale protests.

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