‘Why Can’t We Study?’ – Afghan Girls Still Barred From School

`FILE PHOTO: Afghan students attend class at a school at Babro village in Arghandab district on October 14, 2021. PHOTO: Javed TANVEER / AFP

 

Afghan teenager Amena saw dozens of classmates killed when her girls’ school was targeted by an Islamic State bomb attack in May, but she was determined to continue her education.

Now, like most secondary school girls in the country, she is banned from lessons altogether after the Taliban’s hardline government excluded them from returning to class one month ago.

“I wanted to study, see my friends and have a bright future, but now I am not allowed,” 16-year-old Amena told AFP at her home in western Kabul.

“This situation makes me feel awful. Since the Taliban arrived, I am very sad and angry.”

On September 18, Afghanistan’s new Islamist rulers ordered male teachers and boys aged 13 and over back to secondary schools, picking up an academic year already cut short by violence and the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, there was no mention of women teachers or girl pupils.

The Taliban later said older girls can return to secondary schools, which were already mostly split by gender, but only once security and stricter segregation under their interpretation of Islamic law could be ensured.

Reports have emerged of girls going back to a few high schools — such as in Kunduz province where the Taliban promoted the return with a stage-managed rally.

The de facto Taliban education minister told the UN children’s body that a framework to allow all girls to go to secondary school will be announced soon, a senior UNICEF executive said Friday.

But for now, the vast majority are barred from lessons across the country of about 39 million people, including in the capital Kabul.

Primary schools, meanwhile, have reopened for all children and women can go to private universities, though with tough restrictions on their clothes and movement.

 

– ‘No hope’ –

Amena lives just a short walk from her Sayed Al-Shuhada High School, where 85 people — mainly young girls — perished in the May bomb attack.

“Innocent girls were killed,” Amena said, her eyes welling up.

“I saw with my own eyes the dying and wounded girls.

“However, I still wanted to go to school again.”

Amena would be in Grade 10 studying her favourite subjects such as biology, but instead is stuck inside with a handful of books doing “nothing special”.

The teenager said she dreamt of becoming a journalist, but now has “no hope in Afghanistan”.

Her siblings help her at home, and occasionally she gets lessons from a psychologist who comes to see her younger sister, still traumatised by the school attack.

“They say: ‘Study if you cannot go to school — study at home so that you may become someone in the future.'”

“My brother brings home storybooks and I read them,” Amena said. “And I always watch the news.”

FILE PHOTO: Afghan students play outside their bullet-ridden school at Babro village in Arghandab district on October 14, 2021. PHOTO: Javed TANVEER / AFP

 

But she does not understand why boys are allowed to study and girls are not.

“Half of the society is made up of girls and the other half is made up of boys. There is no difference between them,” she said.

“Why can’t we study? Are we not part of society? Why should only boys have a future?”

 

– Recent progress –

After US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, progress was made in girls’ education.

The number of schools tripled and female literacy nearly doubled to 30 percent, but the change was largely limited to the cities.

“Afghan women have made great achievements in the past 20 years,” said Nasrin Hasani, a 21-year-old teacher at a Kabul secondary school who now helps out with primary pupils.

But the current situation has “lowered both our and the students’ morale”, she said, questioning the Taliban’s reasoning.

“As far as we all know, the religion of Islam has never hindered the education and work of women.”

Hasani said she has not experienced any direct threats from the Taliban.

But Amnesty International reported that one high school teacher received death threats and was summoned for prosecution because she used to teach co-educational sport.

Hasani said she was clinging to hope that the Taliban will be “a little different” from their brutal 1996-2001 regime, when women were not even allowed out of their homes unchaperoned.

 

– Buried dreams –

Born years after 2001, Zainab has no memories of that period and loved going to school until the Taliban directive.

The 12-year-old was stuck looking out of the window with a “terrible feeling” last month when boys went back to school.

“It is quite obvious that things get worse day by day”, said Zainab, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.

Her 16-year-old sister Malalay said tearfully that she had “feelings of despair and fear”.

Malalay, whose name has also been changed, passes her time helping around the house, cleaning, washing dishes and doing laundry.

She said she tries not to cry in front of her mother “because there are a lot of pressures on her”.

The teen had dreams of promoting women’s rights and speaking out against the men depriving her of her rights.

“My rights are to go to school and university,” she said.

“All my dreams and plans are now buried.”

AFP

Over 7,000 Schools Damaged By Tigray War Says Ethiopia Minister

Children displaced by fighting in northern Ethiopia play among sacks of clothes at the Addis Fana School where they are temporarily sheltered, in the city of Dessie, Ethiopia, on August 23, 2021.(Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

 

More than 7,000 schools have been damaged as a result of the expanding conflict in Ethiopia, the education minister has said, with 1.42 million students unable to attend classes in the war-torn region of Tigray.

Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by violence since November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party, saying the move came in response to attacks on army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner promised a swift victory, but the war has dragged on for months, triggering a humanitarian crisis in Tigray, while the rebels have pushed into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions.

“As a result of #TPLF futile war in northern #Ethiopia in Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, more than 7,000 schools have been fully (some partially) damaged,” Education Minister Getahun Mekuria said Monday on his official Twitter account.

“More than 1.42M students have been out of school already (in #Tigray) or will be out of school (in Afar, Amhara),” he added, calling the development “very sad”.

There was no immediate response from the TPLF to the claims, which could not be independently verified.

As the conflict has deepened, the humanitarian toll has surged, with aid workers struggling to reach cut-off populations and 400,000 people facing famine-like conditions in Tigray, according to the United Nations.

Last Thursday, the UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said the flow of aid to Tigray had virtually stopped since August 20, with no trucks able to enter the region.

“Stocks of food assistance are depleted, and new distributions of food have stopped, other than in areas where supplies were already dispatched and en route,” OCHA said in a briefing note.

 

Civilians displaced by fighting in northern Ethiopia wash clothes at the Addis Fana School where they are temporarily sheltered, in the city of Dessie, Ethiopia, on August 23, 2021. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

Since the conflict erupted, Abiy’s government and the Tigrayan rebels have traded blame over the issue, with each side accusing the other of obstructing aid convoys and driving a desperate population into famine.

Earlier this month US aid chief Samantha Power accused Ethiopia of blocking humanitarian access to the region, a claim Abiy’s spokeswoman denied.

According to OCHA, more than 5.2 million people require food supplies in Tigray while over 300,000 people are now estimated to be displaced in Afar and Amhara.

UPDATED: Gunmen Free 93 Islamiyya Students Three Months After Abduction

It is not clear if any ransom was paid for their release.

 

Gunmen have freed 93 pupils kidnapped from an Islamic seminary in Niger State nearly three months ago, the school’s head teacher said on Thursday.

But one of the pupils died in the captors’ den.

The head teacher, Abubakar Alhassan did not say if any ransom was paid and how the pupils were released.

The gunmen had abducted the schoolchildren from their school in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State on May 30th.

They demanded a ransom of ₦110 million and threatened to kill the victims but eleven of the students were released later, according to the Niger State Government.

The State Government had earlier ruled out the payment of ransom.

 

The governor of the North-Central state, Sani Bello had earlier ruled out paying ransom to the abductors.

“Even though we have ruled out payment of ransom, it is time for the government to take decisive measures towards ending the bandits’ activities that are forcefully changing the lives of the people, especially in the rural areas,” he said during a meeting with the parents of the abductees.

RELATED: Insecurity: Matawalle Calls For State Of Emergency In Northern Nigeria

Army Confirms Insurgent Attack On Town In Yobe

Abducted Zamfara Students Beg Govt To Pay Ransom In 24 Hours

 

Kidnapping of schoolchildren has increased in most parts of northern Nigeria.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari had in the wake of the attack urged security agencies to go after the kidnappers and ensure the schoolchildren were released.

“President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the nation’s security and intelligence agencies to expedite efforts towards the recovery of the 200 children kidnapped from an Islamic school in Niger State,”  presidential media aide, Femi Adesina, said in a statement issued after Buhari received a briefing about the incident.

 

Some of the released students.

 

The North-West and central parts of the country have seen a surge in attacks, looting and mass abductions by bandits.

Bandits this year began targeting schoolchildren and students, demanding more ransom.

Gunmen who kidnapped more than 100 students from a Baptist high school in Kaduna State released 15 more of those hostages.

Around 1,000 students have been kidnapped since December after gunmen started to hit schools. Most have been released after negotiations, but scores are still being held in forest camps.

 

Russia Mourns Students, Staff Killed In Kazan School

A woman cries at a makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting at School No. 175 in Kazan on May 12, 2021.  NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

 

Nine students and staff killed by a teenage gunman at a Russian school were laid to rest Wednesday as officials called for tighter controls on guns and the internet.

After Tuesday’s attack left seven students and two staff dead at the school in the central city of Kazan, President Vladimir Putin called on lawmakers to toughen gun control laws and senior officials demanded stricter regulation of the internet.

Flags were flaying at half-mast throughout Kazan, the capital of the majority Muslim Russian region of Tatarstan.

All nine victims were buried Wednesday, a spokesperson for Tatarstan leader Rustam Minnikhanov said.

Family members wearing black and students of Elvira Ignatieva — a 26-year-old English teacher who reportedly died while shielding pupils from the gunman — laid flowers and read the Koran at her grave during a funeral ceremony.

“My niece was like a shining star: she took off, lit up and faded away,” her aunt Anna Ignatieva told AFP, crying and wearing a black scarf.

The lone gunman opened fire on Tuesday at Kazan’s School No. 175, armed with a shotgun and at least one improvised explosive device.

Dozens of mourners carrying flowers and soft toys also congregated outside the school to commemorate the dead.

“This is a huge and unexpected loss,” Irina Krasnikova told AFP.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin gives a report on the government’s work over the previous year at the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, in Moscow on May 12, 2021. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

“We live in such a nice city. It’s hard to believe this happened to us,” she added.

“It didn’t happen to my children, but it is so painful, it’s hard to speak.”

‘Quick temper’

The gunman was identified as 19-year-old Ilnaz Galyaviev, a former student at the school who was recently dismissed from a local technical college for poor grades.

Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Wednesday that Galyaviev suffered from a brain disorder and had repeatedly sought medical attention for severe headaches.

“His family has also noticed aggression and a quick temper in his behaviour since the beginning of this year,” she said.

Panic spread throughout the building, with some students jumping from windows to escape, and the gunman was detained within about an hour.

Galyaviev was shown in interrogation footage leaked online claiming he was God and that he had “a monster” inside him.

He was due to make a first court appearance on Wednesday, and prosecutors were expected to formally charge him with murder.

All the children killed were in Ignatieva’s eighth-grade class and believed to be aged 13 and 14. The second staff member killed was a teaching assistant for younger students.

Twenty children including some who sustained injuries while attempting to escape the school building were hospitalised, regional authorities said on Wednesday. Three adults were also hospitalised.

Eight students were being treated for gunshot wounds and two were in critical condition.

After the attack, Putin offered condolences to the families of the victims and urged lawmakers to make the process of legally obtaining a firearm more strict.

Calls for internet controls

The shooting also prompted calls among pro-Kremlin lawmakers for even tighter regulation on the internet, which opposition figures in Russia say authorities use to suppress political dissent.

The speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, called on lawmakers to discuss the possibility of removing internet anonymity, requiring users to identify themselves to be allowed online.

Authorities have claimed that young Russians are being increasingly exposed to negative influences online, especially from the West.

The Russia-born founder of encrypted messenger Telegram, Pavel Durov, said Wednesday that his team had “acted quickly” to block the gunman’s account, one hour after receiving initial complaints about his channel.

Russia has relatively few school shootings due to normally tight security in education facilities.

Buying firearms legally is also not easy, although it is possible to register hunting rifles.

Officials noted that Galyaviev had undergone security and psychological tests to gain a license for the weapon.

Though public shootings are rare in Russia, Tuesday’s attack follows similar incidents in recent years.

In November 2019, a 19-year-old student in the far eastern town of Blagoveshchensk opened fire at his college, killing one classmate and injuring three other people before shooting and killing himself.

In October 2018, another teenage gunman — reportedly using the same type of weapon as Galyaviev — killed 20 people at the Kerch technical college in Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

AFP

How 20 Children Died In Niger School Inferno – Witnesses

A google map of the Republic of Niger, a country in West Africa.

 

A total of 20 pre-school children – aged between three and five years – lost their lives to a horrific fire that broke out at a school in the Republic of Niger.

The incident which occurred on Tuesday in an impoverished area on the outskirts of Niamey, the country’s capital has left dozens of parents and teachers with uncontrollable tears and agony.

The victims perished when the fire tore through the classrooms made of wood and straw, witnesses said.

“The little children, innocents, were really burned alive in this fire,” the school’s director Habiba Gaya told AFP on Wednesday as she wiped away large tears with her veil.

She lamented that while older children were able to make it out of the burning huts, it was unfortunate that those aged five and below could not.

“They were little, so they weren’t able to run,” Gaya added, saying all of Niger was in total mourning.

The tragedy took place in the poor “Pays-Bas” neighbourhood that was built in a former clay quarry near Niamey airport.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, security forces have blocked off the scene as investigators searched for evidence.

 

‘Answering The Call Of Death’

Residents, some with their heads in their hands, gathered in anguish behind police tape to look over what was left of the school buildings.

From the view, only the remains of desks and corrugated metal sheets were still visible among the debris, with charred books, pencil cases, and backpacks scattered among the ashes.

“The flames were carried from classroom to classroom by the wind,” said Balaraba Ibrahim, an aunt to five-year-old Yasmina who was among those who perished in the flames.

Ibrahim who lives nearby said Yasmina had come home and then she went back to school.

“It’s almost as if she was answering the call of death,” Ibrahim said as she broke down in tears.

The mother of another victim, seated in the courtyard near other more solidly built classrooms that escaped damage, struggled to accept her loss.

“Allah wanted this to happen and there is nothing we can do about it,” she said, clutching prayer beads.

The Fire Service Commander in Niger, Sidi Mohamed, also confirmed that around 20 children were trapped in the blaze.

He noted that rescuers set off rapidly and the fire was put out, but the intensity of the fire was enormous.

Niger, which ranks as the poorest country in the world under the UN’s 189-nation Human Development Index, often resorts to putting classrooms in makeshift huts where children sometimes sit on the floor.

France Announces School Closures, Defends COVID-19 Strategy

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal’s President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced nationwide school closures and a limited lockdown while defending his controversial strategy to confront soaring COVID-19 infections.

The 43-year-old leader has been under fire from political opponents and many health experts in recent weeks as the rampant virus left hospitals in hotspots such as Paris overwhelmed.

At the end of January, Macron bucked the European trend and went against the recommendation of his scientific advisers by deciding that France would not enter a third lockdown.

In an address to the nation, he tightened restrictions significantly on Wednesday, ordering a school shutdown for three weeks, travel restrictions across France, and the closure of non-essential shops around the country.

But he stopped short of demanding people stay in their homes or avoid socialising completely, and authorised people to move between regions over the upcoming Easter weekend.

“We have adopted a strategy since the beginning of the year that aims to contain the epidemic without shutting ourselves in,” he said.

Not locking down in January meant “we gained precious weeks of liberty, weeks of learning for our children, we allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to keep their head above water, without losing control of the epidemic,” he argued.

The question in the coming days will be whether the new measures are enough to reverse the sharp rise in infections which have been running at more than 40,000 a day, double their level at the beginning of the month.

Exhausted intensive care doctors and hospital directors have pleaded for a strict lockdown to stem the influx of new patients.

With warm weather and sunshine on Wednesday, groups of young people could be seen congregating in public spaces around Paris, ignoring rules barring the consumption of alcohol outside.

The French Hospitals Federation (FHF) urged Macron to order “a strict lockdown immediately” on Wednesday.

– ‘Vaccinate, vaccinate!’ –
Macron said that the current efforts to limit the virus “were too limited at a time when the epidemic is accelerating” and warned that the spread of the more contagious British variant meant “we risk losing control”.

He said that schools would close from Monday for the next three weeks, but this would include two weeks of spring holiday.

From Saturday night and for the next four weeks, travel restrictions will be imposed across the whole country and non-essential shops will close in line with measures already implemented in coronavirus hotspots such as Paris, he said.

Intensive care capacity in French hospitals is also set to increase from 7,000 beds to 10,000, he said.

But striking a more optimistic tone for the medium term, he said some cultural venues and cafe terraces would reopen in mid-May “under strict rules”.

“Thanks to the vaccine, the way out of the crisis is emerging,” he said.

“We will do everything to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! Without rest, without holidays. Saturday and Sunday just like in the week,” he said.

As well as the spiralling infections, he is also on the back foot over France’s vaccine rollout, which has been dogged by a chronic shortage of doses due in part to a centralised EU purchasing system which he championed.

He said France was sticking by its target to vaccinate all those above the age of 18 who want to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

All those over 60 would be eligible from April 16 and those over 50 from May 15.

– Frontrunner –
At stake in France’s current crisis is above all the health of nearly 70 million people and the fate of the eurozone’s second-biggest economy, but also Macron’s political future one year from presidential elections.

His handling of the twin health and economic crises caused by the pandemic will be foremost in voters’ minds next April and May, analysts say.

Acknowledging criticism from opponents, Macron said: “At every stage of this epidemic, we could say to ourselves that we could have done better, that we made mistakes. That’s all true.”

Stephane Zumsteeg, head of public opinion surveys at the Ipsos pollster in France, said voters would ultimately judge Macron’s performance based on a comparison of France with its EU neighbours.

And he underlined that polls still show the pro-business centrist as the frontrunner.

“Of course lots of things can happen in the next year but at this point, the main favourite for next year’s election is Emmanuel Macron, not because he’s the best or the most loved but because there’s no credible alternative other than Marine Le Pen.”

Boko Haram Insurgents Attack Yobe Community, Burns School, Healthcare Centre

The primary school burnt down by Boko Haram insurgents

 

Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents on Tuesday attacked Katarko community in Gujba Local Government Council of Yobe State.

The insurgents also burnt down a primary school and a healthcare centre located in the community.

Confirming the attack, a resident Fantami Kura told Channels Television that the gunmen stormed the community at about 5:30 am when they were going to the mosque for prayers.

The classroom also burnt by Boko Haram

 

“We came out as usual around 5.30 am for prayers, we sighted the gunmen, we immediately alerted our people and run into bush for safety.

“They proceeded straight to the military formation in Katarko shooting sporadically and later set the base on fire”

READ ALSO: Bandits Attack Primary School In Kaduna

The number of casualties is still unknown at the time of this report, however efforts to contact the Acting Assistant Director, Army Public Relations of the Sector 2 Operation Lafiya Dole in Damaturu, Lieutenant Kennedy Anyanwu proved abortive.

Katarko community which is 18 kilometers south of Damaturu the state capital, has been under attack over 10 times.

 

The primary healthcare in Katarko burnt down by Boko Haram

Rise In School Abductions

Since December, more than three schools in different states have been attacked and over 600 students have been kidnapped.

From Katsina through Niger to Zamfara states, bandits have struck schools, forcing some state governments in the north to shutdown boarding schools.

The Federal Government has in reaction vowed to tackle the menace, insisting it would not allow bandits to shut down the education sector, but the criminals have continued their acts with attacks on schools in Kaduna.

 

Kaduna Attack

On Monday, bandits attacked another school in the Rema area of Kaduna State, north-west Nigeria.

A map showing Kaduna, a state in Nigeria's North-Central region.
A map showing Kaduna, a state in Nigeria’s north-west region.

 

During the attack, some pupils and teachers were feared to be abducted.

The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in the state, Samuel Aruwan, confirmed this in a statement on Monday.

He noted that the primary school attacked by the bandits is located at the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of the state.

However, in a later development, Mr Aruwan while giving an update on the incident said three teachers were abducted and no pupil was kidnapped or declared missing after a headcount was conducted.

The latest attack followed the attempts by bandits to attack three schools in the state – at the secondary and tertiary levels.

{Related Post} School Attack: Three Teachers Abducted, No Pupil Missing – Kaduna Govt

{Related Post} VIDEO: Abducted Kaduna Students Call For Help From Captivity

Similarly, on Saturday, the Kaduna State government confirmed that a total of 39 students are missing after gunmen attacked the Federal College of Forestry in the state.

 

The attackers were reported to have invaded the school through a fence and went straight to the school hostel and abducted many students and staff.

{Related Post} School Abduction: 39 Students Still Missing – Kaduna Govt

Mr Samuel Aruwan noted that 23 female and 16 male students have yet to be accounted for following the attack on the school located in the Afaka area of Igabi Local Government Area of the state.

The commissioner, however, gave an assurance that the state government was maintaining close communication with the management of the college.

He added that efforts were being sustained by the security agencies to track the missing students who were apparently abducted by the bandits.

 

China Bans Harsh Punishments In Schools

A pro-Beijing supporter holds China's national flag as he and others gather outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on November 12, 2020, a day after the city's pro-Beijing authorities ousted four pro-democracy lawmakers. Anthony WALLACE / AFP
A man holds China’s national flag. Photo: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

 

 

China has banned school teachers from meting out any punishment that can cause physical or mental trauma, after a string of student deaths linked to harsh discipline in recent years.

New rules issued by the Ministry of Education that take effect Monday forbid punishments at schools that humiliate students, as well as reinforcing the existing ban on corporal punishment.

Banned practices include caning, making students stand or kneel on the floor for hours and verbal abuse.

Students are now encouraged to write an apology letter or do classroom chores for minor offences such as forgetting to do their homework.

Those who commit more severe offences like bullying may be suspended or advised to undergo counselling.

China outlawed corporal punishment in 1986, but enforcement has been lax and parents often turn a blind eye to the practice.

The ministry did not say how it plans to punish teachers who do not obey the rules.

Chinese media regularly reports cases of children who have died after being beaten by teachers or have taken their own lives following public humiliation at school.

A 10-year-old girl in the southwestern province of Sichuan died after her maths teacher pulled her ears and beat her head for getting two sums wrong, state news agency Xinhua reported in September.

A fifth-grader in eastern Jiangsu province killed herself last June after her teacher allegedly criticized her essay for lacking “positive vibes”, China Daily reported. The teacher had allegedly slapped her and humiliated her in front of the class.

A new family education law prohibiting corporal punishment at home is also due to be taken up when China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress, meets later this week.

Schools In Edo To Resume February 1

 

The Edo State COVID-19 response team has announced that schools in the state will now resume on February 1.

The permanent secretary, Edo State Ministry of Health disclosed this during a chat with journalists in Benin City, the Edo State capital.

The minister noted that Federal schools in the state that have resumed will be subjected to compulsory testing before being allowed to continue.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 response team also raised concerns over false information being provided by some residents during testing, saying it has made it difficult to reach infected persons and on time.

COVID-19: School Closures Still ‘Last Resort’ Despite Variants – WHO

This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
This picture taken on April 24, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva next to their headquarters, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Schools should only close as a last resort while research is under way into whether the new coronavirus variants affect children differently, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The debate on shutting schools during the Covid-19 pandemic has been revived by the emergence of more contagious virus mutations.

The WHO said research had begun looking at the factors that may put children at risk, the long-term health effects on those infected, and the impact of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease.

“The arrival in late 2020 of new more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2 requires additional analysis by sex and age to measure how and if the new variants impact children differently,” it said.

“If it is found that children are more affected, public health social measures may need to be adapted.”

Here is a summary of the WHO’s special focus on Covid-19’s impact on children and schools, issued Wednesday:

– WHO’s conclusions –

– “School closure should be implemented as a last resort, be temporary and only at a local level in areas with intense transmission.”

– Authorities should check for new guidance, “particularly with respect to the appearance of new and possibly more transmissible variants”.

– In low-transmission areas, schools are unlikely to drive infection; in areas with widespread transmission, protective measures in schools are essential.

– Schools need outbreak prevention and management plans, including on ventilation, hand and surface cleaning, communication with parents, mask use and physical distancing.

– Children aged 12 and older “should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults”. Physical distancing can be achieved by limiting class sizes, alternating shifts and limiting mixing of classes.

– Stronger prevention measures might be necessary in secondary schools, and adolescents should limit their exposure risk outside school.

– Teachers “are more likely to be infected” outside schools than inside.

– During school closures, remote learning should be set up, regular schools services such as meals and immunisation should be maintained, while mental health support should be enhanced.

– Data and 2020 findings –

– Under-18s represent 29 percent of the global population but only eight percent of reported cases last year.

– They are more likely to have mild or asymptomatic infection and under-20s accounted for only 0.2 percent of Covid-19 deaths.

– Studies suggest that among children, under-10s are less susceptible and less infectious. Adolescents aged 16-18 transmit the virus as often as adults.

– “The longer vulnerable children are out of school, the less likely they are to return,” said the WHO.

– School closures have a negative impact on children besides their education, including their physical and mental health.

UPDATED: Nigerian Govt To Review Resumption Date For Schools, Says Education Minister

A file photo of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.

 

The Nigerian government says it is currently reviewing the January 18 resumption date for schools across the country, following the rise in COVID-19 cases.

The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, stated this on Monday at the resumed briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

On his part, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, spoke about the ongoing enrolment exercise being conducted by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).

He noted that only the President has the power to issue any order to alter the subsisting one regarding the National Identity Number (NIN) registration.

Mamora’s comment was in reaction to his earlier comment where he suggested that the NIN registration may be suspended due to the increased breach in COVID-19 guidelines at the NIMC offices.

For the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani aliyu, the security agencies will continue to enforce compliance with the non-pharmaceutical interventions within states.

He explained that in spite of a ‘no lockdown policy’, the PTF would review the existing protocols including a review of the curfew hours.

Aliyu added that a permit to travel would be enforced, particularly for travellers from the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Before the task force members took turns to give their updates, the PTF Chairman, Boss Mustapha, gave the opening remarks.

He outlined the factors that led to the increased figures of coronavirus recorded in the country since November 2020.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), revealed that increased local and international travels were among the major factors.

He listed the others to include increased business and religious activities, reopening of schools without strict compliance with COIVID-19 safety measures.

According to the PTF chairman, no state in Nigeria is immune to the pandemic even if reports are not coming out of such states.

He urged the people to stay away from activities that can expose them to the virus as the nation’s tally crossed 100,000.

Molestation: We Will Not Cover Up Any Immoral Act – Deeper Life High School

 

The management of the Deeper Life High School has reacted to the controversy trailing the molestation of a JSS 1 student of the school in Akwa Ibom State.

In a video released on Tuesday, the school’s Education Secretary, Mrs Thelma Malaka, stated that the school would not cover up the issue but ensure justice was served.

“Permit me to remind you that the Office of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State has taken over the investigation of the matter to ensure neutrality and a dispassionate outcome.

“We appreciate the concerted efforts of everyone who has shown support in the investigation thus far,” she said in the clip which lasted a few minutes.

Malaka added, “We reiterate that we will be transparent and that justice will not only be served, but it will also be seen by all that it has been served.

“We would like to restate that Deeper Life High School stands on the core values of integrity and uprightness and will not attempt to cover up any immoral act under any guise.”

 

Beaten For Bedwetting

The student’s mother, Mrs Deborah Okezie, had posted a video on Facebook where she alleged that her 11-year-old son was sexually abused by his seniors when he was moved from his hostel to another hostel originally meant for senior students.

Recounting his ordeal, the victim said he was subjected to abuses such that he was forced to starve for days, beaten for bedwetting, and also sent to a hostel for senior students where he was also maltreated.

A screenshot taken on December 28, 2020, shows Mrs Deborah Okezie saying she is being threatened and under pressure to drop the case.

 

The video resulted in the suspension of the principal of the school by the authorities while the Akwa Ibom state government has launched an investigation into the incident.

Highlighting the actions taken by the school authorities since the victim’s mother raised the alarm, Malaka confirmed the suspension of the principal, noting that the management immediately initiated an investigation into the matter.

But she stated that they have decided to restrain themselves from further comments because it would amount to sub judice since the Akwa Ibom State government had taken over the investigation.

 

Truth Will Prevail

“Considering the potential impact of this issue, especially on what we stand for, we are compelled to provide an earlier update before the final report by the government.

“The panel has sat, and we have presented staff members and students of our school who have been mentioned in this particular case all through the period of the investigation,” the education secretary revealed.

She further explained, “We believe that the government will reveal the final report once the investigation is concluded … as a parent myself, I do care about the mental and physical health of (name withheld) who has been at the centre of this issue.

“Despite the intriguing underpinning, we will continue to show our love to him within the limits permitted by his parents. We have unflinching confidence in our God to resolve the issue such that at the end, the truth will ultimately prevail.”

Mrs Thelma Malaka highlights the steps taken by the school authorities in a video released on December 29, 2020.

 

Malaka disclosed that the police authorities were also investigating the matter and the school had been invited to tell its side of the story.

She stated that the detailed interrogation was adjourned due to the holidays and was hopeful that a new date would be communicated as soon as possible by the police.

The school official asked Nigerians to be on the lookout for the final report from the appropriate authorities.

On Monday, Channels Television reported that the victim’s mother alleged threats and pressure from undisclosed quarters asking her to drop the case.

While she insisted on ensuring that justice was served in the case, she lamented that her son was frequently starved and beaten up by the senior students.

In the video, Okezie compared a picture of her son before and after he went to the boarding house, saying the child now looked malnourished.