The Novartis Foundation launches Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities with the University of Basel and other partners

PRESS RELEASE

The DASH study provided evidence that improvements in children’s nutrition and physical activity not only contributes to their cognitive performance in school, but can also contribute to a reduction of hypertension, heart disease, and overall cardiovascular risk factors
BASEL, Switzerland, October 11, 2017/ — The Novartis Foundation (www.NovartisFoundation.org) and the University of Basel (http://APO.af/QvHtDX), together with other partners are pleased to announce the launch of Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities. The initiative aims to address poor health in disadvantaged schools in South Africa and is the first Novartis Foundation program to include the education sector, bringing new opportunities for achieving impact.

Following the successful first stage of the Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health (DASH) research project, coordinated by the University of Basel in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this second phase builds on learnings to further develop and scale successful interventions to more schools in the country, and potentially across other geographies in the future.

The goal of Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities (known locally as ‘KaziBantu’) is to improve the overall and cardiovascular health of schoolchildren and their teachers. Its focus will be on promoting health literacy, ensuring a formalized physical exercise program, providing access to medical examinations including anti-helminthic treatment, monitoring cardiovascular risk factors and providing nutritional supplementation where necessary.

In 2014, a partnership between the University of Basel (http://APO.af/QvHtDX), the Nelson Mandela University [1] (www.Mandela.ac.za) and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (http://APO.af/DGkMqD) created the DASH project to identify the causes and address the impact of poor health on children in schools from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Port Elizabeth.

The program investigated the health and wellbeing of children in eight schools, with a particular focus on the link between physical activity, infectious diseases and risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. This study was the first of its kind for African children and discovered that one-third of all examined schoolchildren had high blood pressure, while 16-21% were overweight or obese. [2]

The DASH study provided evidence that improvements in children’s nutrition and physical activity not only contributes to their cognitive performance in school, but can also contribute to a reduction of hypertension, heart disease, and overall cardiovascular risk factors. Physical activity was also found to correlate with health-related quality of life. To date, little to no comprehensive interventions have been examined to address cardiovascular health among students and teachers in low-income school settings. The aim of this expansion phase from DASH to Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities is therefore to generate the evidence that simple interventions can improve cardiovascular health.

“At the Novartis Foundation, we realize that the complex nature of cardiovascular diseases makes achieving impact, scale and sustainability extremely difficult. No single actor can tackle hypertension alone and to address hypertension and its complications, multisector and multidisciplinary action is needed. That is why we are excited for Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities to enter this new phase, and to work to further develop the initiative with our partners,” said Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation.

In collaboration with many partners, the Novartis Foundation is working to address hypertension around the world – from pilot models to approaches that aim to achieve impact at scale from the start.

Launched this year, Better Hearts Better Cities convenes networks of multisector partners to contribute expertise and resources to solutions that improve cardiovascular health at scale in cities.

The other hypertension programs supported by the Novartis Foundation – Communities for Healthy Hearts in Vietnam and the Community-based Hypertension Improvement Project (ComHIP) in Ghana – aim to bring hypertension detection and management closer to local communities by maximizing hypertension screening and awareness opportunities.

As its first program to include the education sector, Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities marks an important next step in the Novartis Foundation’s multisector approach to addressing hypertension. As with all our programs, learnings from Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities will inform other hypertension initiatives as part of an ongoing process of evaluation and adaptation.

The Novartis Foundation’s partners for this initiative include the University of Basel, the Government of South Africa, the Nelson Mandela University, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH).

Hedwig Kaiser, former Vice President for Education at the University of Basel, notes that “KaziBantu or Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities offers an opportunity to continue the successful work we have already started, continue to make improvements and, through collaboration, impact the lives of many more children in South Africa.”

“To address rising rates of obesity and poor heart health, we all need to work together and start early. Through KaziBantu, if we can build health literacy and foster better health in our children from a young age, then we can look toward healthier generations in the future,” stated Professor Lungile Pepeta, the Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Nelson Mandela University.

Peter Steinmann from Swiss TPH said, “Our research during the DASH program found that a third of children were hypertensive. This is a staggering number when you consider these are children in primary school. We’re pleased to be part of the continuation of this project and hope it will be able to positively impact the lives of many more children in the future.”

Source : APO

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Africa: Technology Can Help Kids Learn, but Only If Parents and Teachers Are Involved

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Educational psychologist Dr Benjamin Bloom wanted to understand how people learn. So in 1965 he and his colleagues created Bloom’s taxonomy : a system for identifying, understanding and addressing learning. They came up with a system that’s composed of two elements: thinking and the ability to apply knowledge, and then feelings and emotions.

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When a student learns about gravity, the cognitive elements would include knowledge and understanding of the concept of a force pulling an object towards the Earth; acceleration, mass and so on. The moment the student has developed understanding, she would be in a position to apply (psychomotor) – the acquired knowledge and skills in new situations. For example, she might want to see what would happen if something different was done to the same object – would it experience the same acceleration?

This learning process doesn’t happen in an isolated context. It takes place during interactions with peers and teachers – what the model refers to as the affective domain. That is the elements of learning that affect emotional development. Elements of interest, motivation and values would help the student to appreciate the discussion and value the ideas as well as encourage her to develop social skills appropriate to working in groups. Eventually, development of this domain benefits broader communities and society as a whole.

Some researchers claim that integrating technology into teaching and learning improves students’ grades. Others argue that technology makes little difference to how students perform because traditional approaches to teaching still predominate.

A lot of research in this area has focused on technology as a tool. But what is the value of technology as a medium to encourage interactions between parents, teachers and students – tapping into the affective domain – and ensure that students construct knowledge?

Myself and other academics from the Mauritius Institute of Education and London’s  Brunel University wanted to know how technology could be used to transform the teaching and learning process into an innovative, interactive environment that promotes students’ cognitive development driven by the affective domain. So we embarked on  a study that attempted to build a case for incorporating the affective domain in the teaching and learning of physics using technology.

A space to develop the affective domain

The study was carried out in two phases: exploratory and evaluative. The evaluative phase confirmed the findings made in the exploratory phase.

The exploratory phase involved one teacher, 22 students (all 13 and 14 years old) from a coeducational school situated in Mauritius’ central region and 19 parents.

In the evaluative phase 31 students from an all-girls’ school (in the same region as the first school), 15 parents and one physics teacher participated.

We developed a framework called the Pedagogical Technological Integrated Medium. It is founded on a well-documented framework, TPACK, which was created to facilitate the use of technology in schools. Our framework helps learners to create knowledge and develop an understanding of physics through interactions between teachers, students and parents.

We created an interactive website to monitor how parents, teachers and students were engaging with the framework. The site encompasses a series of home tasks (parent-student and parent-teacher interactions), in-class tasks (student-teachers) and out-of-school activities (parent-student-teacher interactions).

For instance, students used the website to consolidate their existing knowledge of measurement as a concept in physics. They did this in collaboration with their parents before attending classes.

The experiment showed that learners benefited enormously from the approach we had adopted. By creating the affective domain through interactions with their parents (at home) and teachers (at school), the students were able to construct physics knowledge. The added dimension was that we used technology as a medium to meet this end.

Benefits of our approach

The framework was well received by students, parents and teachers. One parent told us:

I was happy that my daughter was discussing with me and I encouraged her to complete all the tasks and to tell me if she had any difficulty.

Students said they wanted to do more activities and be provided with more notes on the website because this would help them “to learn better”. One said,

I would like to try it first before learning it [the concept] at school.

The teachers were also happy. One said that, “the activities contained in the web lesson have helped me to understand in which specific areas students hold misconceptions”. The teacher also hailed the chance to “innovate in my teaching”.

Integrating the affective domain into our model has shown the potential of key educational stakeholders – parents, students and teachers – to collaborate. The teacher established a network with parents and learners and used the insights gained to construct her interactive lessons.

The schools we worked with are planning to use the website to sustain the interaction that’s been developed between teachers, students and parents. We also plan to get more schools in Mauritius using this system.

The affective domain matters

Our study has provided evidence of a change in students’ attitudes: they claimed to be interested, motivated and better prepared to learn new concepts in class.

It’s been known for a long time that educational technology can offer opportunities for cognitive development in learning science. We’ve now proved that this isn’t sufficient unless the affective domain forms an integral part of teaching and learning when technology is integrated into the process.

Disclosure statement

Yashwant Ramma receives funding from Mauritius Research Council.

Source : The Conversation

About Attitude                About Values                About Behaviour

Africa: Child Sex Traffickers Turn to Rural Areas, Internet for Business

Bogota — Working undercover in bars and brothels across Southeast Asia to combat child sex slavery, campaigner Kevin Campbell has posed many times as a tourist looking to buy sex with a girl.

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But these days, Campbell, who works for the anti-trafficking group The Exodus Road, says it is far less common to see young girls for sale in sex tourism hotspots in cities, as child sex traffickers turn to out-of-the-way places – and the internet.

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“Three or four years ago I could walk into…sex tourism areas and you could see girls that were 14, 15 years old very easily,” said Campbell, vice president of global operations at U.S.-based The Exodus Road, which helps local authorities rescue children sold into forced prostitution.

“But now you are not going to find that. You will find maybe 17-year-olds, 18-year-olds … where we do still see very young girls being sold are in rural areas,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said traffickers operate in suburbs or small towns and villages, “where they feel they can operate with impunity because the national police aren’t as active there.”

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion a year.

More than 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery, according to new estimates by the International Labour Organization, human rights group Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration.

VENEZUELA

In Latin America, women and girls trafficked into sexual exploitation is the most common form of trafficking.

Campbell said Venezuelan women and girls are increasingly at risk of falling prey to traffickers looking to exploit poverty as tens of thousands head to neighbouring Colombia and Brazil to escape a humanitarian and political crisis at home.

“There’s a market right now for victims that is very enticing to traffickers,” said Campbell, adding Venezuelan women are being trafficked within Latin America and beyond.

“Traffickers are experts in exploiting the vulnerabilities of marginalised people. They are really adept at manipulating the desperation of the poor.”

Campbell trains people to work undercover and raid places where children are sold for sex, from bars and brothels to hotels and squares, to identify victims and gather evidence.

Typically evidence includes video footage taken with hidden cameras of children being sold that can be used by police to rescue them and put sex traffickers behind bars, he said.

For the past five years, The Exodus Road has worked mainly in Southeast Asia and India but recently moved into Latin America, a region known as a hub for online child porn, Campbell said.

The charity has trained five local investigators who are working undercover and in cyber forensics, he said.

Some of the techniques being used to crack child porn rings and identify victims include technology to decode encrypted files and data scrapping, which can pull information off the internet on traffickers.

“And then there’s just the pornography side, the live streaming of child rape and so you can have tens of thousands of men logging in and watching these things take place,” he said.

“There is an issue in Latin America where it’s kind of a hub for a lot of the trafficking and recruiting of young, young children and the live streaming is done from Latin America.”

He said traffickers are increasingly distributing child pornography and selling children via instant encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp, social networks such as Facebook, and sites on the dark web that can allow users to remain anonymous.

“It’s certainly is safer for the trafficker to sell online,” Campbell said.

Source : Thomas Reuters Foundation

Zimbabwe: Outlawing of Child Beating Draws Mixed Reactions

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Christian and traditional leaders have slammed the recent High Court decision outlawing the beating of children at school and in homes, saying it had an effect of spoiling the children and promoting indiscipline in the country.

Justice David Mangota declared the practice unconstitutional and struck down relevant pieces of legislation that allowed canning in schools.The ruling bars the beating up of children even for disciplinary purposes.

In an interview, Bishop Patience Itayi Hove of the El Shaddai Ministries International said the decision had serious repercussions to society.

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She relied on Proverbs 13 Verse 24 which reads:

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”

Bishop Hove said beating up children was biblical and it helped in the process of training them up.

“The word of God allows that. At least 85 percent of Zimbabweans are Christian and we must read and abide by the word.

“Children should be beaten up but that must be done responsibly,” she said.

Reverend Paul Damasane, principal director in the Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation of Culture and Heritage said beating up children was a necessary evil.

“The Bible commands us to train up our children and we should find ways of complying with the command both in schools and at home. The Bible says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction drives it away,” he said.

Rev Damasane said beating up a child should be used only as a last resort because there were several other means of driving away foolishness from children.

Chief Seke, Mr Stanely Chimanikire, weighed in saying the judgment was not in sync with Zimbabwean culture.

“We were brought up in an environment where children were disciplined through the use of a rod and we did not die. Children need some form of discipline to shape them into responsible and well behaved future men and women.

“Grooming in our context, involves some beating, but we must make sure we do it out of love and responsibly,” he said.

Chief Seke said the abolition of corporal punishment would promote juvenile delinquency.

“The decision of the court, if implemented, will bring more problems than solutions to our country. The children will become more mischievous and uncontrollable,” said Chief Seke.

Historian and former Cabinet Minister and educationist Cde Aeneas Chigwedere said outlawing child beating was necessary but some control measures must be put in place to protect the same children from abuse.

“The starting point of progress is discipline. If there is no discipline, there is disorder.

“Beating is necessary but the teachers and parents must be controlled. Some of the parents and teachers are ruthless and they unreasonably and brutally assault the children.

“Under the colonial era, there was a law barring teachers from beating up children. When the child’s mischief got out of hand, teachers would take him or her to the school head for caning.

“Only the head had authority to beat up children but he would do so in terms of the set standard guidelines.

“There were standard sticks used to beat up naughty pupils to ensure their safety,” he said.

However, educationist and social commentator Mrs Rebecca Chisamba had different views.

“Personally, I am against corporal punishment. People are now abusing children in the name of disciplining them.

“These days some teachers may express their anger for delays in getting bonuses on the innocent children. When they have grievances with their employers or their bosses, the innocent souls may simply be caught up in crossfire and they are unjustifiably beaten up.

“Some parents, especially stepmothers, may punish the children to express their anger at the conduct of their husbands.

“Newspapers are awash with such cases where children are seriously injured or even maimed due to violent attacks in the name of disciplinary measures.

“I support the decision of the court and we must resort to non-violent means of disciplining our children like dialogue,” she said.

Source : The Herald(Harare)

Secretary Kelly: Undocumented Children and Mothers May Be Separated at Border

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DHS Secretary John Kelly said Monday that his department is considering separating children from their mothers if they are caught crossing the border illegally.

Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly confirmed today that he is considering separating the children of undocumented immigrants  from their parents if they are apprehended while illegally crossing the border.

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“Yes, I am considering, in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that,” Kelly told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. “They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.”

Kelly said he thought the change might deter mothers and children from making the dangerous journey from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador  to the United States.

“You understand how that looks to the average person who is, you know…” Blitzer replied.

“It’s more important to me, Wolf, to try to keep people off of this awful network,” Kelly said.

Currently, mothers and children who cross the border together—and it’s virtually always mothers and children, rather than fathers—stay together. In many cases, they’re put in family detention centers, though they are frequently released quickly while they await asylum hearings. Reuters reported  on March 4 that the Department of Homeland Security was considering separating mothers from their children when it apprehended them. Mothers would be put in detention centers, while their children would be in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the report.

The smuggling networks Kelly referenced move people from incredibly violent Central American countries to the United States often exploit them along the way, and women are frequently sexually assaulted on the journey. In many cases, migrants take great risks because they fear death in their home countries—as was the case forSara Beltran Hernandez , an undocumented woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. in November of 2015 and was recently released from ICE detention to get better medical care for a brain tumor.

Kelly’s confirmation that he is considering separating children from their parents shocked children’s advocates.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney from Buffalo, N.Y. who frequently represents undocumented children.

“He’s going to be traumatizing young children even more than they are by pulling them from their mother’s arms,” he said.

“Who knows what they’re going to do with them?” he added.

Source : The Daily Beast

Rwanda: Gasabo Youth Makes Fortune From Banana Stems

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Banana is like the tale about seven blind people and the elephant. To some people, it’s food, for a farmer it is fodder for animals, and for alcohol manufacturers; it is a raw material for some gins and beer like Urwagwa.

But for one youth in Gasabo district in Kigali province of Rwanda, the banana plant has a whole new meaning. Every morning, Celse Ngaruye wakes up in the morning to hunt for banana stems which he later makes into a final product: the banana lampshades.

When he has collected enough banana stems for the day, he chops them into small pieces, packs them in a sack and makes his way back to his art studio at Niyo Arts center based in Kacyiru. The banana stems are key raw material for his enteprise.

“Apart from the bulb and sockets, our final product is uniquely Rwandan,” he explains. Ngaruye says since he started the enterprise, he has had steady stream of customers, mostly tourists, who are impressed by the unique lampshades made from local products.

“I sell most of these eco-friendly products during the tourism peak periods, from May to November. This is the time, when many tourists flock into the country,” he says.

He says the lampshades he makes during the other months target local clients.

He adds that his other buyers include big hotels around Kigali, and individuals, who like ambiance the local lampshades create in bedrooms or living rooms.

“I have already started getting bulk orders from key hospitality industry players, like hotels. When they make their orders, they are free to dictate the style of the lampshades. I don’t mind this since I value my clients and their opinions,” says Ngaruye.

He notes that what has also endeared him to customers is the fact that buyers are free to choose their favourite colours.

He explains that the lampshades come in different colours, depending on the hue of the paper and ‘ibitenge’ fabrics used. Each lampshade costs between $100 (about Rwf80,000) and $150 (about Rwf120,000), when he sells to tourists, while Rwandans buy them at a bargain price.

The former visual artist says he has now concentrated on making lampshades abandoning his first love – painting – “because this business is more lucrative.”

“I realised that there’s a lot of competition when it comes to visual arts since many youth are into it. But making banana paper lampshades is a new phenomenon in Rwanda… it’s still a virgin field,” he says.

Challenges

Ngaruye, who is soon holding a banana lampshade exhibition, says since his main buyers are tourists, that “business is low during off season (time when there are few tourists coming into the country)”.

Source : The Independent(Kampala)

Kenya: A Burning Question – Why Are Kenyan Students Setting Fire to Their Schools?

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Over the past few years, students have set fire to hundreds of secondary schools across Kenya. The tally includes more than 120 cases in 2016 alone. Why students are setting fire to their schools has been the topic of repeated investigations by police, education officials, government inquiries and journalists. Indeed, explanation — or rather blame — for this trend has been levelled in every conceivable direction.

Kenya’s Education Minister and other members of the government have suggested that the fires have been masterminded and supported by “cartels” in retaliation against the government’s crackdown on lucrative exam-cheating schemes. This is a claim repeated by the President. The government has also fingered ethnic and clan hostilities as motivating attacks on schools headed by principals who are identified with different communities.

In these ways, the government’s explanations treat students as unwitting pawns in political disputes that are actually not really about them or their schooling.

Meanwhile, many public policy analysts and members of the public have blamed students’ “indiscipline“. This lack of discipline has been attributed to lackadaisical parenting as well as the ban on teachers’ use of corporal punishment.

Again, students are understood to be relatively passive receptacles of adults’ management.

My research with students and in schools across Kenya indicates that most of these explanations miss the mark because they depreciate, rather than appreciate, students’ capacities to engage in purposeful political action.

Rational political tactics

In the media, students’ actions are cast as “mindless hooliganism”. But students can rationally explain why they use arson in their schools. Students have learned that setting fire to their schools is an effective tactic for winning acknowledgement of their dissatisfaction.

Their use of arson represents an astute reading of the limited options available to citizens to practice meaningful dialogue and peaceful dissent related to the conditions of public services, such as education. As many analysts have noted, limited options for meaningful citizen engagement in Kenya’s policy arena has given rise to the popularity of a “strike culture”.

In fact, students easily identify other examples from Kenyan political struggles that demonstrate how violence and destruction have proven effective means for citizens to win public and political recognition of their grievances.

As one student explained,

What I see is that in Kenyan society, the bigger the impact, the quicker the reaction. The government sees these people are serious and they can think “if we don’t meet their grievances now, we might see worse”.

Schooling complaints

Students target their schools because their grievances tend to be school-based. The most commonly cited complaints among students include principals’ overly authoritarian, “highhanded” and unaccountable styles of management, poor quality school diets and inadequate learning resources, including teaching. Many of these criticisms reflect suspicions about how school budgets are being allocated.

The overwhelming majority of school arson cases have occurred in boarding schools across the country, including boys’ schools, girls’ schools, and mixed schools. Schools that perform well and those that tend to perform more poorly on national examinations have all been affected.

Why are boarding schools such common targets? Some of this is explained by prevalence: nearly 80% of Kenya’s secondary schools are boarding schools. However, students explain that boarding schools are targeted because life for them in these schools can be “like prison”.

The boarding school, like prison, can be considered a “total institution“. This idea, theorised by sociologist Erving Goffman, refers to a situation where all aspects of life occur in the same place, with the same cohort and according to a stringent schedule. This regime is enforced by a single authority according to an overarching “rational” plan. In practice, boarding school life is often experienced by students as excessively rigid and authoritarian.

The majority of school fires are set in students’ dormitories, thereby also destroying students’ own personal belongings. The rationale given by students is that the destruction of their dorms means that they will be sent home and given some respite from their intensive boarding school lifestyles.

Understanding adolescents and risk-taking

Interviews with students as well as reviews of court case proceedings indicate that it can be difficult for students to imagine the long-lasting detrimental consequences that might arise from setting fires in their schools.

In part, this is due to students holding cynical views of the ineptitude of the Kenyan enforcement and judicial systems. Students note, for example, that many prosecutions fail due to deficient criminal investigations, including unlawful interrogation practices.

Additionally, some students who played active roles in setting fires later claimed that they had been unable to anticipate the scale and scope of the damage the fires would cause to their schools as well as to their own futures.

These kinds of experiences jibe with emergent understandings from neuroscience concerning the unique developmental stage of adolescents’ brains. We now know that the brain is still developing during adolescence. The prefrontal cortex of the brain – which is implicated in impulse control – may not be fully developed and functional until the early 20s or later. Consequently, neurodevelopmental researchers theorise that

adolescents may have less inhibition, be more prone to take risks, more impulsive, and less likely to consider the distal consequences of their actions than adults.

Recognising these potential differences does not cancel out the immediate deliberateness of students’ acts to affect change in ways that they understand to be effective. But it does complicate the question of how to respond to students’ palpable frustrations.

Alternative possible futures

All of this indicates that the government’s intention to respond to the trend of school-based arson with more discipline and punishment of students is misguided in two crucial and connected ways.

First, this approach only addresses symptoms exhibited in rebellious acts. At the root of students’ dissatisfaction and desperation is a gruelling education coupled with often unaccountable authority, both of which are acutely experienced through the “total institution” of the boarding school.

Second, threats of more punishment misjudge the unique conditions of adolescence in terms of neuromaturation, and specifically how this can affect risk-taking and consideration of long-term consequences. More threats and interventions of punishment are unlikely to affect these predispositions.

Kenyan students have learned that arson works as a tactic to express dissatisfaction and opposition. To change this lesson, the government needs to open peaceful and effective channels for young people’s perspectives to be taken into account, both in education and government. Otherwise, we can likely expect more fires next year.

Disclosure statement

Elizabeth Cooper does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Source : The Conversation

Uganda: Bridge Academies Closed for Teaching Pornography, Says Minister Kasaija

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Mpigi — The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija has revealed that Bridge International academies were closed recently because government suspected they were teaching pornography and the content related to lesbianism and homosexuality.

The Minister was speaking at the 22nd graduation ceremony of Uganda Martyrs’ University (UMU) at their main campus in Nkozi, Mpigi District on Thursday.

“We could not allow teaching sexual matters in public. Why teaching pornography in Bridge schools? This moral decay couldn’t be tolerated,” he said.

Minister Kasaija, also MP for Buyanja South added: “Instead of using schools to apply and promote sexual education, why don’t we go back to our traditional aunties (ssenga) and uncles (kojja)? Stop conveying the gospel of homosexuality to our children. You should stop and stop.”

Prof John Chrysostom Maviiri, the UMU Vice Chancellor asked government to prioritize education as an engine to achieve the middle income status.

A total of 1,069 graduates were conferred with certificates, diplomas, bachelors and masters degrees in various disciplines of which 639 were males and 430 were females.

UMU also offered academic awards to the best performing students in different disciplines for their outstanding work in class and examinations.

When contacted for a comment on the minister’s statement, Mr Solomon Sserwanja, the Public Relations Manager of Bridge International Academies said: “I think it is very unfortunate for the whole minister to make such a statement based on allegations. He should come out with proof over the matter in question.”

According to him, several government officials have visited the academies and looked at the text books they are using to teach but none of them have ever found evidence of such allegations.

“His (minister) statement is malicious and we will not take it lightly. We will explore all alternatives against him to proof the allegations. This is fighting quality education for the country. We were never given an ear to defend ourselves despite several letters we have written to authorities,” added Mr Sserwanja.

Uganda’s High Court early this month ordered the closure of 63 Bridge International Academies on grounds that the private schools provided unsanitary learning conditions, used unqualified teachers and were not properly licensed.

Bridge International, which claims to have 12,000 students in Uganda,said it would challenge the High Court ruling.

Source : The Monitor