Chinese International Students, Where Are You?

Source: ABC

Last week, the first charter flight carrying 63 Asian international students, majority Chinese, arrived in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. It is the first group of international students entered Australia since the strict border control imposed in March due to the pandemic. News outlets in both China and Australia reported on this event.

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) published an article “International students to arrive in Australia for first time in nine months under pilot program.” The detailed story of a Chinese international student on the flight at the beginning gives me the perception that the report will have an overly hopeful tone. Still, comments from another student whose flight was canceled, opinion surveys from international students, and critics from a migration agent quickly convinced me this is a complete story. My own experience as an international student and with other peers resonates well with this article. We can see universities (in Australia and the States) are trying hard to get us back on campus. Many news is desperately saying that the loss of Chinese international students would hurt the financials of higher education and other relevant sectors. The governments seemed to remain indifferent about the struggles of international students. ABC’s article is pessimistic about how this “first flight” would help bring back Chinese international students.

Global Times, a China-based international news outlet, also reported on this event. Again, I found Chinese international outlets tend to have an official tone, and fewer voices would be presented. Comments selected from interviewed students are majorly on their feelings (mostly negative) toward the federal government’s attitudes regarding entry policies and how those students were debating about the choices to study in other countries. In addition, while Australia based news all stated clearly that prior planned charter flights were canceled or delayed due to the resume of COVID cases in the destination areas, and priorities are given to returning Australians, Global Times cited that flights were postponed due to “some unknown reasons.”

It is very ironic that, with a similar negative tone in the report, the Global Times’ piece’s overall presentation seems to be very uplifting. It is titled “Australia welcomes its first batch of Chinese students after the epidemic.” The photos featured were all happy group photos with welcome signs, smiling faces, and happy emojis. If I were just scrolling down my screen to read this article, I would assume it positively.

Photo featured in Global Times

Photo featured in Global Times

Under this report, two comments especially caught my attention: one from an apparent Chinese user, saying sarcastically that he thinks the government does not want Chinese to go to Australia and hopes this is the last flight. Another one is from a seemingly Australian user, explaining the government’s attitude is different from the nation’s perspective, and the Chinese government should stop discouraging students from choosing Australia.

Source: ABC

As a Chinese international student myself, I cannot end this topic without reflecting on my feelings reading those sources. I never imagined how much the pandemic would teach me about my cohort’s role in global politics and economics. China is the top sending country of international students, so changing visa status and travel restrictions in receiving countries directly reflect those countries’ relationships with China. The eager call for attracting Chinese international students after the hit of COVID in media overwhelmingly depicts my group as the primary source of income (if not cash cows) in higher education and relevant sectors. Where am I? On the checkerboard of international politics, or the supply chain of universities’ finances? Hopefully, on a safe campus and in a welcoming classroom.

Written by: Echo Xu

References:

  1. Bang Xiao. (2020, 29 Nov). “International students to arrive in Australia for first time in nine months under pilot program” Accessed from ABC on Dec 6 2020.
  2. Xu Yelu and Zhao Juecheng. (2020, 7 Dec). “Australia welcomes its first batch of Chinese students after the epidemic.” Accessed from Global Times on Dec 6 2020.
  3. Echo Xu. (2020, Nov 29). “Parent-School Tensions in China, Why and How: Local and International News Compared.” Accessed from Four Continents One Blog on Dec 6 2020.

Perhaps I should Homeschool my Child!

Photo from bbc.com

A vast majority of parents currently are still struggling with the decision of whether to send their children to school in instances where the school offers a hybrid model or full physical model option. Many are clearly worried about the implications for both the child’s health and family health as news of numbers filter through the airwaves. Thus requiring clarity and tact in reporting.

A non-Nigerian study from Qualitrics reveals that “majority of parents who can send their children to school are uncomfortable doing so.” About 53% of pupils will learn remotely (with attending challenges) even when the option for in person classes are available. What parameters are parents engaging in making these decisions? Where do they get the information required? You guessed right. The media.

It can thus be imagined what headlines like the one reported in The Punch, Healthwise would do to the decision of parents to send their children back to school. The headline of the October 16, 2020 article read “181 students, staff contract COVID-19 in Lagos private boarding school”. Right under that headline is a picture of individuals fully kitted in hazmat and decontamination gear. To understand how this news may have been perceived, it is important to note that schools had been shut down for months and had only resumed three weeks earlier amidst frantic worry from parents. I remember where I was the minute I saw that headline flash across my screen and even I, as a teacher in a school successfully running a hybrid model, wanted to run, pick my child up and return her to the bubble of my home. Did I mention that the image had nothing whatsoever to do with the reported cases? It was a photo taken in April 2020 showing volunteers disinfecting a school. Yet, it immediately seems to scream “Danger! Keep your kids at home!” What does this do to school populations and learning outcomes in the long run?

Speaking with friends, family and a few parents, several parents kept their kids home after that news broke because in their minds it was a case of “if it can happen in this school, it can happen at my child’s.” The Qualtrics survey reveals that pupils from homes with higher incomes are more likely to be kept at home because their parents can afford to ‘indulge’ the fear. What then does the report like the one above do? Further solidifies their decision to keep them at home. 

The concern though is, while they are at home, do they get the requisite support to ensure learning is going on optimally. Many children work unsupervised and only get the virtual support from teachers through a screen because either their parents have to go to work physically or are working from home. This often leads to lower teaching and learning outcomes.

Fast forward a few weeks later, Nairametrics ran a similar story following reports of other cases in another secondary school. The headline simply read “Lagos State confirms COVID-19 cases in secondary school.” The article shared the discovery, actions taken and sought to allay the fears of readers while keeping them cautious. Having sampled a few other opinions, every single person had the similar reactions. COVID is real, but things seem to be under control. My kids can still go to school. 

Why did this article hit differently? First, there was no mention of numbers in the second headline. This perhaps gives a false sense of security or implies that it is not too serious if they aren’t scaring us with the magnitude. Next would be the photograph right under the headline. We see a confident Health Commissioner who seems to lend some of his confidence through the picture.

Both articles report the same thing at the end of the day. Bubbled schools are not impenetrable by COVID-19. Both articles have the government responding appropriately and the school authorities doing the same. In fact, both articles end almost the same way with a charge from the commissioner, but they elicit different reactions. 

So, I ask you as I have asked every parent I encounter, what parameters would you be engaging in deciding whether to home-school or not?

Written by Adeiye Oluwaseun-Sobo

References:

1. Adejoro, Lara. (2020, October 16). 181 Students, staff contract COVID-19 in Lagos private boarding school. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from The Punch

2. Nielsen, Liesl. (2020, August 13). Mostt parents will send kids back to school- with hesitation Qualtrics study finds. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from Qualtrics

3. Olisah, Chike. (2020, November 8). Lagos State confirms COVID-19 cases in secondary school. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from Nairametrics

Let’s Talk Periods, but Hold the Stigma

Photo Credit: Neat

This past Tuesday, Scotland MSPs have unanimously approved a bill that will make period products free for all. Though the practical arrangements have yet to be decided, it will ensure that anyone who is in need of period products will be able to get them for free. Scotland has been taking strides towards this issue for years to tackle period poverty and period stigma and to create a positive impact on girl’s education. 

Over a dozen mainstream news sources across the globe shared the ground-breaking news with great excitement and positivity. From BBC in the UK, to Brussels Times in Belgium, to Al Jazeera in Qatar, to The Indian Express in India, this has sparked a mass conversation around the world highlighting that Scotland is the first in the world to make such an ‘important policy for women and girls.’ These articles have also mentioned a push for a similar law in their own countries in response to the momentum that Scotland has created. 

The majority of the conversation has been positive as demonstrated in the articles above, mentioning that Scotland has made a revolutionary move upon this decision. However, some are still holding the government in contempt for it. Fellow blogger, Anastasia Lavrenyuk, also highlights contrasting points of view on the topic in Russia. Some also took to Twitter to share their intolerant thoughts on the topic, replying to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of the bill. Sturgeon is serving as the First Minister of Scotland and is the Leader of the Scottish National Party, the first woman ever to hold either of the positions. In their responses to the tweet, one person highly critical of the source of funding said, “The land of milk and honey. Everything in Scotland is free! No wonder immigrants want to come here. How are we paying for this?…” And another, “Well done on wasting Scottish taxpayer’s money when women can afford to buy them.” 

Another article, while in support of the free products that will aid in ending period poverty, focuses on a different perspective of the story. Kira Taylor, often writing environmental pieces for Euractiv, shows support of ending period poverty, but drowns out the importance of the bill in mentioning the environmental impact that disposable period products have. Taylor tweeted that she believes it is a landmark event, but the focus should be on plastic and chemical use instead. Through this, Taylor negates the bill’s significance in fighting period poverty and instead adds another barrier for those facing it whilst also negatively adding to the period stigma.

Similar to Taylor’s take on the topic, Priyanka Nagpal Jain, founder of a period products organization in India, speaks to the potential of this law in India saying it should instead include reusable products and only be free for those that cannot afford it to make the project “more feasible” because when things are free, people tend to not value them. Or, to make reusable products more available and affordable. Despite being a feminine hygiene advocate and promoting equity and access in her sentiment, this take on the topic is not necessarily helpful for the stigma that it is adding to. 

It is evident there are many layers of this topic that people on Twitter, Kira Taylor, and Priyanka Nagpal Jain are alluding to such as financial sourcing, environmental impact and equitable distribution. But do these varying perspectives on the topic aid to the fight that is trying to be fought? Or do their counter arguments prove to be counter productive? 

Written by Alexis Golden

References:

  1. Al Jazeera. (2020, November 25). Scotland first in the world to make sanitary products free. Retrieved November 26, 2020, from Al Jazeera
  2. Diamond, C. (2020, November 24). Period poverty: Scotland first in world to make period products free. Retrieved November 26, 2020, from BBC
  3. Chini, M. (2020, November 26)  ‘Period poverty’: Belgium called on to make menstrual products free. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from Brussel Times
  4. Indian Express. (2020, November 27). Scotland becomes first country in the world to make sanitary products free; can India follow suit? Retrieved November 27, 2020, from Indian Express
  5. Lavrenyuk, A. (2020, November 28). Free Period Products: Is It Bananas or Cool? Retrieved November 29, 2020, from WordPress
  6. Neat. (2020. January 20). Life changing product: Menstrual cups. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from Neat
  7. Nicola Sturgeon. (2020, November 27). Retrieved November 28, 2020, from Wikipedia 
  8. Sturgeon, N. (2020, November 24). Proud to vote for this groundbreaking legislation, making Scotland the first country in the world to provide free period products for all who need them. An important policy for women and girls. Well done to @MonicaLennon7 @ClydesdAileen and all who worked to make it happen https://t.co/4lckZ4ZYIY. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from Twitter
  9. Taylor, K. (2020, November 27). Environment must be considered in moves to end period poverty. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from Euractiv 
  10. Taylor, K. (2020, November 27). Scotland’s law to end #periodpoverty is a landmark event, but we need to break the taboo around periods and look into reusable products to avoid unnecessary plastics and chemicals.I talked to @TatiannaZorina and @ZeroWasteScot about this https://t.co/W2VOmWobOP. Retrieved November 27, 2020, from Twitter 

Parent-School Tensions in China, Why and How: Local and International News Compared.

Comic from Veritas China, translation added by the author.

The Paper, one popular news outlet in China, posted an article about the recent heated discussion around parents and schools’ tension. This topic’s popularity was sparked by a short video posted by a father complaining about how frustrated he was by being expected to correct his kid’s homework and communicate with teachers in a parent group chat. Many parents echoed his experience on social media, and on Sina Weibo alone, this topic garnered 760 million hits and 87,000 discussions in two days. Shortly after, some municipal education bureaus published rules to regulate teachers from asking parents to review students’ homework, and violations of such rules can lead to penalties on teachers’ performance evaluations. While this is a local issue, I found that China Global Television Network (CGTN) published an English article on this topic. I wonder how the presentation of this issue will vary when it is delivered to foreign readers. 

Both articles started with a summary of the augmentation of the tension between parents and schools. While The Paper opens with the spread of the overwhelmed father’s video, CNTG’s report begins with the applause to recently published policies from the public. When diving into the causes of the heated debate, the English article contextualized the demand of parents’ engagement in children’s homework as a “strategy” in the digital era and is strengthened as a ripple effect of the pandemic remote learnings required parents to supervise students at home. The author even emphasized that the parent group chat was originated with “a good intention.” In contrast, the article geared towards native readers referred to a few more examples of stressed-out parents in the past two years and positioned the vulnerable relationship between schools and parents as an example of the social anxiety around children’s education. 

When discussing the solutions to this issue, both articles discussed the focus and boundary between family education and school education. As a media outlet renowned for its investigative report and relatively autonomous position under the heavy state media censorship, there is little surprise that The Paper offered a more thorough discussion on this issue. The Paper interviewed Bingqi Xiong, head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in China, and two other education experts to explain the blurry line’s root causes and outlook between schools and families. They called for policy renovation on a larger scale to reduce the burden of both students and teachers, stricter implementation of policies at a local level, and more structured parent-school cooperation. Interestingly, the English version quoted Xiong’s interview with The Paper, but only to conclude that asking parents to engage with homework correction can hurt the parent-child relationship, which was not mentioned in the Chinese article at all. Overall, the parent-school conflict is more simplified in CNTG’s report. It sounds like a relevant recent issue that is a problem of a few teachers who crossed the line, and governments have published new policy to solve it. The intensive stress that teachers are experiencing, the school board’s missing role, and parents who considered the group chats as a necessity were left out of the discussion. 

Neither of those articles included children/students’ voices on their own experience in this tension. I can’t stop wondering how they feel when spending every day with anxious and tired teachers and parents. 

Written by Echo Xu

References:

  1. Li Zhao & Mingyi Xing. (2020, November 18). “Behind Parents’ Call for “Quitting the Group Chat”: The Root Causes of Parent-School Tensions.” Retrieved on November 27, 2020 from The Paper.
  2. Ai Yan. (2020, November 12). “How much should parents be involved in kids’ homework?” Retrieved on November 27, 2020 from CGTN.
  3. Wikipedia. “The Paper (Chinese newspaper)” Retrieved November 28, 2020 from Wikipedia.

Free Period Products: Is It Bananas or Cool?

Activists rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in February in support of legislation for free period products. Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

On the 24th of November, the Scottish Parliament approved the bill that made “provision for free period products for anyone who needs them.” This is a historical moment, as Scotland is the first country to do so. A survey conducted by Young Scot between students in secondary schools, colleges, and universities showed that a quarter of them had difficulties with access to sanitary products in the previous year, with 43% saying they couldn’t afford to buy it. According to UNICEF and the World Bank, lack of access to menstrual hygiene products forces girls to miss school worldwide, which makes the bill a big step toward improving girls’ education. 

However, not everywhere the news was accepted similarly. Many Russian newspapers wrote about the Scottish bill, and some of them included the opinion of famous people in the Russian media landscape. For example, the magazine The world of news decided to cover this fact with Milonov’s perspective on occasion. Vitaly Milonov is a member of the State Duma, known for his controversial, not to say extravagant, remarks. 

The article entirely focuses on Milonov’s quotes. The event itself is only brought up briefly at the beginning with a link to another article covering it, which is twice as short as the one with Milonov’s quotes. The article goes on by citing and retelling Milonov’s opinion, which is basically “this is bananas, bananas of multiculturalism and tolerance. [Next], children would ask for free diapers.” However, in a Twitter comments section to this quote, a lot of women, in fact, supported it: “free diapers for children is actually a good idea, Vit’!” (“Vit’ — a short version of Vitaly Milonov name). Thus, what the article and Milonov tried to show as an absurd proposition, got an opposite effect, and people suddenly stood by it.

Another magazine, the 360, also brought up the new Scottish bill and Milnov’s quote but decided to compare it with the opinion of the blogger Aiza Dolmatova (Anohina). The first half of the article is dedicated to the new legislation, its history, and why it is vital, highlighting how it would affect schools and girls’ education. Then goes Anohina’s quote, which states that the bill is “cool” and that she likes it. She also mentions that the bill doesn’t discriminate against men, but she thinks that some “spoiled” people might think that way, which is perfectly shown in the last part of the article with Milonov’s opinion. In the Instagram post introducing the article, the authors ask if the readers think that the same kind of bill is needed in Russia. Most people in the comments agree that it would be important to have this legislation.

In the end, I believe it is essential to show people different opinions on the situations. The question is how to do it the best way: to offer only one opinion, or to support it with background information and a contrasting point of view as well?

Written by Anastasia Lavrenyuk

References:

  1. Darya Bunyakova. (2020, November 26). “Milonov opposes free pads and tampons. Aiza disagrees.” 360. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from 360.
  2. Fedor Karpov. (2020, November 27). “Milonov criticizes the Scottish bill about the free pads.” The world of news. Retrieved November 28, 2020. from The world of news.
  3. Laurel Wamsley. (2020, November 25). “Scotland Becomes 1st Country to Make Period Product Free.” NPR. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from NPR.
  4. Mbn360. (2020, November 25). “Will the pads become free?” Instagram comments section. Retrieved November 28, 2020, from Instagram.
  5. MJ. (2020, November 27). Twitter replies. Retrieved November 28, 2020 from Twitter.
  6. The Scottish Parliament. (n.d.). “Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill.” Retrieved November 28, 2020, from The Scottish Parliament.
  7. The World Bank. (2020, May 28). “Periods Don’t Stop for Pandemics – Neither Will Our Efforts to Bring Safe Menstrual Hygiene to Women and Girls.” Retrieved November 28, 2020, from The World Bank.
  8. UNICEF. (2018, May 25). “FAST FACTS: Nine things you didn’t know about menstruation.” Retrieved November 28, 2020, from UNICEF.
  9. Young Scot Corporate. (2018, March). “Insight: Access to sanitary products in Scotland.” Retrieved November 28, 2020, from Young Scot.

The American Dream

Photo from istock

At this very moment, the U.S.’s collective student debt amounts to $1.5 trillion. However, things may be changing in the near-future with President-elect Joe Biden and there are a lot of opinions surrounding this issue.

First, an article titled “The class folly of canceling student loans” from The Week, a news magazine in the U.K., argues that it would be appalling if Biden wiped out student loan debt. The author, Damon Linker, uses verbiage with pejorative connotations like “bailout”. He contends that in the middle of a pandemic student loan debt forgiveness should not be a top priority, “Their indebtedness is a burden, but their education is a ticket to earnings significantly higher than those without it…Those who carry student debt are nowhere near the neediest people in the country.” Linker seems to have a strong meritocratic belief in the American job and education system. A major tone throughout is a sense of American individualism and loftiness.  Linker argues the actual number of Americans who carry student debt is overestimated and backs his statement with census data. Linker leverages his position by calling on fairness –– what about the people who have already paid off all of their loans? He also tries to cast doubt on his readers, particularly democrat readers, citing that canceling loans (or what he calls “handouts”) will lead to de facto federal control of universities and strongly claims that is not democracy itself.

In contrast, an article titled, “Student-Loan Debt is Immoral” by the Intelligencer is dripping with anger and imagery by author Sarah Jones. She uses rhetoric like “deep societal rot” and “everything is fucked.” Contrary to Linker’s position, Jones asserts that the narrative we grew up with––degree=job––is outdated. Interestingly enough, both writers argue their positions using the pandemic. Linker argues that student debt should not be forgiven because it is not a priority amid the pandemic, whereas Jones argues that it is a priority because of the pandemic. Linker argues money should be focused elsewhere, but Jones states that student loan debt cancellation would allow Americans to breathe during a time where people don’t have jobs, healthcare and can barely afford to pay rent. Compared to Linker, Jones employs lots of pathos by including personal stories as well. Additionally, Linker talks about social mobility but never once mentioned structural racism, whereas Jones cites statistics about how Black students have greater loan amounts than the average white student and how student loans just increase the wealth gap. By stating this, Jones nullifies Linker’s argument of social mobility because a college degree can’t solve larger social problems. 

While both articles present compelling cases, it’s clear that much of Linker’s arguments seem to be framed in functionalist beliefs of meritocracy and social mobility. However, Linker never once turns to look at the government’s own role in perpetuating inequality, whereas Jones harshly criticizes the government and turns Linker’s own argument (people who have already paid loans) right back around and agrees that people have a right to be angry but with the government and college institutions, not other borrowers. As Jones says, “You don’t solve one injustice by refusing to rectify another when you can. Biden shouldn’t hold debtors hostage to a broken system.” This is true, but there is also some truth to Linker’s argument. If Biden does wipe student debt then this will no doubt turn into a political mess of right vs left and yes, this relief will only be temporary. As Adeiye Oluwaseun-Sobo’s pointed out in her blog, the existence of a current system may work for some individuals but certainly not all and their existence is a sign of a failed education system. So the big question and the next step are how do we radically reshape higher education?

Written by Amy Yang

References:

  1. Jones, S. (2020, November 16). Student-Loan Debt Is Immoral. NY Mag. Retrieved November 22, 2020 from https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/11/biden-student-loan-forgiveness-plan-college-debt-is-immoral.html 
  2. Linker, D. (2020, November 18). The class folly of canceling student loans. The Week. Retrieved November 22, 2020 from https://theweek.com/articles/950359/class-folly-canceling-student-loans 
  3. Oluwaseun-Sobo, A. (2020, October 9). Emergency Funds- Were We Not Already In a State of Emergency?. Four Continents One Blog. Retrieved November 22, 2020 from https://4continents1blog.wordpress.com/2020/10/09/emergency-funds-were-we-not-already-in-a-state-of-emergency/ 

How Far Have We Gone and How Far Have Girls Gone?

A grade five student reads in front of the class at Phonsivilay Primary School, Meun District, Lao PDR, December 2018.
Image: Kelley Lynch/GPE

October marks a few important dates for women, especially girls’ rights. Along with the International Day for Girl Child, the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, a few reports on girls’ development also came out. I started searching for news covering girls’ rights, wondering how gender equality or the progress on this issue is portrayed in different sources, especially when international ones are compared to local ones. 

UNSCEO’s report, A new generation: 25 years of efforts for gender equality in education, and a joint report by Citi and Plan International, titled The Case for Holistic Investment in Girls: Improving Lives, Realizing Potential, Benefitting Everyone , are two most cited references across international media. The publishing dates of the two reports are very close to each other, but the latter definitely received more attention. Business InsiderBusinessWireGlobal citizens, and Women’s Agenda, all highlighted that girls’ education can generate positive economic returns. While the scope and depth of those two reports provided many insights into the progress and challenges on girls’ education and girls’ rights, only the latter two sites, added with the PIES News, are trying to convey the whole picture: approaches to achieve high “return on investment” on girls include holistic investment and interventions: covering health, education, violence prevention and economic independence, collaborative efforts from different stakeholders, as well as systemic and long-lasting changes.

Unsurprisingly, news outlet targeting audiences in the economic and financial sector (Business Insider and BusinessWire) utilize the ideas that economic return of investing in girls’ education is high and the average intervention cost is as low as “approximately $1.53 a day for a girl — less than a daily cup of coffee”. I feel very unsettling that those numbers are skewing the challenges of girls’ education. Who will be investing, and who needs to be investing in this issue? Are lacking money the critical barrier to solving gender gaps in education? On another note, authors in those two articles both had a positive outlook on the pandemic’s impact, saying that if the government can divert more resources to girls at this time, no serious consequences will happen. 

A more in-depth look at recent national and local media reports related to girls’ education in October would provide views on the contrary. The number is striking that 13 million girls are predicted not to be able to return to schools after the pandemic, as estimated by the UNSECO. Still, it can be more challenging to imagine those girls’ experiences, especially when reading in western media. In India, rural girls are hit the most by the pandemic. First comes the digital divide: boys are the ones who have access to smartphones but also the ones prioritized by the family to stay in schools when the family’s source of income is hindered. Then it is reported that without access to schools, girls are likely to experience inadequate food and nutrition, in addition to the increasing risks of domestic violence. Moving to Bangladesh, many underprivileged girls who have made a long way into nursing schools have to give up on their dream to find a job in the city and lead an independent life due to the economic hit caused by the COVID. In these local reports, authors provided us with the lived experience of individual girls who have once benefitted from increased chances to attend schools but are witnessing the closing doors to a more gender-equal future. However, once again, I wonder, who are to solve those problems? What can audiences do to help? 

It is essential to know both global data and individual stories and experiences to see a fuller picture. I also look forward to seeing more reports covering diverse stakeholders on an issue and engaging readers. 

Written by Echo Xu

References:

  1. UNESCO. (2020, October). “A new generation: 25 years of efforts for gender equality in education 2020 Gender Report.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from UNSECO.
  2. Citi GPS: Global Perspectives & Solutions. (2020, October). “THE CASE FOR HOLISTIC INVESTMENT IN GIRLS Improving Lives, Realizing Potential, Benefitting Everyone.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from Plan Canada.
  3. Theo Golder. (2020, October 27). “Investing in getting girls through high school in developing countries could boost GDP by 10%, a Citi study shows” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from Business Insider.
  4. Business Wire. (2020, October 26). “Citi & Plan International: Investments Enabling Girls to Complete Secondary Education Could Boost GDP in Emerging Economies by 10%.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from BusinessWire.
  5. Sonia Elks. (2020, October 27). “Keeping Girls in School Is Worth Billions to Developing Nations.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from Global citizens. 
  6. Madeline Hislop. (2020, October 29). “Investing in girls’ education could see emerging economies boost GDP 10% by 2030.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from Women’s Agenda.
  7. Jenelle Babb & Natalie Buchanan. (2020, November 05). “COVID-19 Leaves Millions of Girls at Risk of School Dropout in Asia-Pacific.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from UNSECO NEWS.
  8. Viggo Stacey. (2020, October 27). “Girls’ education threatened by Covid – UNESCO.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from The PIES News. 
  9. Jigyasa Mishra. (2020, October 13). “Covid 19 Impact – Online Classes Mean an End to Education for Girls in Rural Areas.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from The Citizens.
  10. Farid Ahmed. (2020, October 17). “Changing the Lives of Bangladesh’s Rural Girls by Giving them a Tertiary Education.” Retrieved November 07, 2020 from IPS News.

Equality or Equity?

In a recent meeting with senior officials, Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, makes a bold claim that the new curriculum aiming to be implemented in the next school year will create equal opportunities for all, ending a long-standing class-based system across the country. While government officials may be optimistic about this plan, there are a mass of critics opposed to this ‘new’ proposed system, and also many with conflicting views on the Prime Minister himself.  

A longstanding Pakistan-based newsgroup, Dawn News, reported on the meeting. Dawn News is the country’s oldest English-language newspaper and was originally founded as a platform for the “Muslim League,” a political party whom advocated for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state throughout the early to mid 1900s. Due to this, it may be fair to assume the news group is lacking in a voice for the minorities of the country.  


This article in particular was rather devoid of detail, ironic considering the significance of the change they plan to undertake and the powerful title, “Uniform Education to End Class-Based System.” Instead, the author highlighted the Prime Minister and Federal Education Minister’s mention of how the curriculum will encompass Islam-centered education. The recount of the meeting was short and brief but was sure to mention religious links within the recently developed curriculum. The juxtaposition of the new proposed curriculum and who is reporting about it is no accident.

A contrasting article by the Gandhara news group has a different take on the matter. Gandhara is an English new source in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are part of the Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty organization which is a nonprofit funded by a United States grant. The mission of the group is to promote democratic values and institutions and advance human rights by reporting news in areas where the practice of free press is banned or not fully established. 

The author, Zubair Torwali, is a Pakistani activist, research, writer and promoter of indigenous language. At the start of the article, much different to the Dawn article, Torwali includes a photo of around 25 young girls with face masks on, sitting in their classroom on the first day of school. Whereas the photo presented in the Dawn article instead included the Prime Minister Khan chairing the meeting alongside other officials, all wearing protective face masks. This raises the question: who is this curriculum benefitting?

Through his strong and unyielding tone, Torwali states his many critiques against the curriculum implementation citing unconstitutional acts being done, mentioning the lack of sound research on the matter, and questioning the legitimacy of equality that is said will be promoted. Similar to Towarli’s take on the matter, there were countless comments on the Dawn article: “Just what we need. Forced education of Islam on the youth. That is certainly not going to cause radicalization…” And another: “Who are the experts, academics, educationalists who are in the meeting to devise this strategy?” It is evident there are strong emotions about this issue.

For the year of 2020, Pakistan ranked 145 out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Ranking Index. Additionally, their abuse score was 62.48. Meaning, media reporters can face serious consequences based on the news they report. Whereas a country such as the United Kingdom was ranked 35 out of 180 with an abuse score of 45. This is due to legal binding and laws against the freedom of press in countries such as Pakistan that were identified as “more difficult situations” in terms of press. 

It is unclear of when and if this curriculum will be implemented. The aim of the Prime Minister and other senior officials is to put it into effect at the start of the 2021 academic year. While some of the curriculum objectives within the framework are commendable, it is not necessarily clear as to how it will actually create equal opportunities for all students and ensure equity in education. Instead, they might be viewed as baseless statements without much to back them up. It is crucial to consider how in fact these “objectives” would translate into pedagogical practice within the four walls of classrooms. What could the negative effects be of an undertaking such as this? How could this change the face of education in Pakistan? How could minorities be affected by this change? 

Written by Alexis Golden

References:

  1. Abbasi, K. (2020, November 3). Uniform education to end class-based system: PM. Dawn. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Dawn 
  2. Freedom of the press in Pakistan. (2020, October 24). Retrieved from Wikipedia
  3. Muslim League. (N.d.).  Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from Britannica 
  4. Reporters Without Borders. (2020). 2020 World Press Freedom Index. RSF.
  5. Single National Curriculum (2020). Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training
  6. Torwali, Z. (2020, November 5). In Pakistan, A Single National Curriculum Equals Indoctrination And Assimilation. Gandhara. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from Gandhara
  7. [Untitled image of youth in classroom] [Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training
  8. Yang, Amy. (2020, November 8). I Pledge Allegiance to… WordPress. Retrieved November 09, 2020 from Four Continents One Blog

I Pledge Allegiance to…

Migrant Imaginary © 2019 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Layqa Nuna Yawar & Ricardo Cabret, 1902 South 4th Street. Photo by Steve Weinik.

In September, President Trump announced that he planned to create a “pro-American” curriculum called the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education.” Patriotic education can be defined as “a form of political education…to teach people to love America,” however the curriculum would ignore most social movements and exclude current and historical movements for Black Freedom. The 1776 Commission is in contrast to the 1619 Project which teaches American history with a critical race lens – America being founded on oppression versus freedom. Trump’s speech argues the opposite, “America’s founding set in motion the unstoppable chain of events that abolished slavery, secured civil rights, defeated communism and fascism, and built the most fair, equal, and prosperous nation in human history.” His speech is overflowing with the idea of American exceptionalism (maybe jingoism), denial of the uncomfortable parts of the past, and painting America’s history as warm and fuzzy. 

Fast forward to the eve before the U.S. Presidential elections when Trump signed an executive order establishing the 1776 commission. It’s no secret that people in the U.S. are more polarized than ever and this divisiveness is evident in different news sources. 

A right-leaning article titled “The 1776 Commission is desperately needed,” declares that teaching history with a critical race lens skews American history to only see the negatives. The author, Keisha Russell further asserts that all of America’s sins were addressed and fixed, thanks to the U.S. Constitution and its founding principles. Russell implies that opponents of the commission have an authoritarian agenda and want to destroy civic bonds. Studying American history any way other than through its achievements is distorting facts and is outright propaganda. This evokes Cold War-era rhetoric involving ideas of an enemy and legitimization of politicized views. In the author’s short 700-worded article she doesn’t once address the paradox of her own argument: supporting patriotic education IS government indoctrination. 

Whereas, a left-leaning article argues that patriotic education should include the complexity and mistakes a nation has made while also celebrating unsung historical heroes – Black heroes and other figures from different cultural backgrounds. The author uses examples of BIPOC student’s negative school experiences and how all students benefit from racial conversations. Another article asserts the 1776 Commission would whitewash American education and appeals to credibility by calling on academics like Ibram X. Kendi who says, “What Trump calls ‘patriotic education’ is racist education” and Jeff Sharlet purports that a patriotic education is a “fundamentalist concept.” Opponents of the commission contend that to actually do right by the Constitution is to reckon with America’s problematic past and only then can America genuinely move forward. 

There is a striking difference in rhetoric when comparing the two sides. Proponents of the 1776 Commission create a distinct us versus them narrative by the use of language that invokes sentimentality as well as fear. On the other side, the discourse is mainly centered on racial injustice and a curriculum that includes ALL backgrounds. Both sides illuminate how divided a nation is and it brings up some important questions: (1) What will a patriotic education look like in 2021 with a new president? (2) What implications does a U.S. President’s agenda have globally? A similar circumstance is occurring in Pakistan right now and days following Trump’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin created a new appointment in Russia’s National Guard to maintain “ideological unity and “political unity.” But, maybe it’s the reverse and that Trump is responding to America’s current atmosphere i.e. civil unrest with an authoritarian approach and taking notes from Putin or Chinese leader Xi. (3) How do schools create national identity? What does Americanization entail? (4) How does the 1776 commission reflect or contradict democratic education? 

Written by Amy Yang

References:

  1. Golden, A. (2020, November 8). “Equality or Equity” Retrieved November 08, 2020 from Four Continents One Blog
  2. Gross, E. (2020, November 2). Trump Signs Executive Order To Establish A 1776 Commission To Instill ‘Patriotic Education’. Forbes. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2020/11/02/trump-signs-executive-order-to-establish-a-1776-commission-to-instill-patriotic-education/?sh=5e2153f06dc3
  3. Hannah-Jones, N., In Elliott, M., Hughes, J., Silverstein, J., New York Times Company., & Smithsonian Institution. (2019). The 1619 project: New York Times magazine, August 18, 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=040D3D14EE638FCE3519E8839897DE2E&gwt=pay&assetType=PAYWALL 
  4. Lockett, P. (2020, October 23). OPINION: Here is what patriotic education should look like. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://hechingerreport.org/opinion-here-is-what-patriotic-education-should-look-like/
  5. Murray, R. (2020, October 13). What is ‘patriotic education’ and why is it controversial?. Today. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.today.com/parents/what-does-president-trump-mean-patriotic-education-t192373
  6. Nelson, S. (2020, September 17). Trump reveals 1776 Commission, aimed at promoting ‘patriotic education’. New York Post. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://nypost.com/2020/09/17/trump-issues-1776-commission-to-promote-patriotic-education/?utm_source=url_sitebuttons&utm_medium=site%20buttons&utm_campaign=site%20buttons Russell, K. (2020, November 5). The 1776 Commission is desperately needed. The Hill. Retrieved https://thehill.com/opinion/education/524575-the-1776-commission-is-desperately-needed 
  7. The Moscow Times. (2020, September 22). Putin Recreates Soviet-Era Political Supervision Over National Guards. The Moscow Times. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/09/22/putin-recreates-soviet-era-political-supervision-over-national-guards-a71506 
  8. The Moscow Times. (2020, September 22). Putin Adds Patriotism, War History to School Curriculum. The Moscow Times. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/05/22/putin-adds-patriotism-war-history-to-school-curriculum-a70347
  9. Trump, D. (2020). Remarks by President Trump at the White House Conference on American History. White House. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-white-house-conference-american-history/ 
  10. XinhuaNet. (2019, March 18). Xi stresses ideological and political education in schools. XinhuaNet. Retrieved November 6, 2020 from http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-03/18/c_137905201_2.htm 
  11. Yawar, L. N., Cabret, R. Migrant Imaginary [Mural]. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Retrieved on November 6, 2020 from https://www.muralarts.org/artworks/migrant-imaginary/ 

They Must Think We Are Fools

#EndSARS Flag bearer Olistng

How did we get here? How on God’s green earth did we sink so low? The question on every sensible Nigerian’s mind the evening of October 20, 2020. The day peaceful protesters were shot at in Lagos Nigeria. It has now been termed the #LekkiMassacre. Actions surrounding that day have seen diverse reports primarily from the members of the government, military and the protesters. This leaves one wondering why exactly the ask for good governance seems too much for the government that it seems to be going to great lengths to cover its back.

Let me share a little back story for more context. On October 7th, 2020, Nigerian Youth started to protest the killing of an innocent young Nigerian by a division of the police force- Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). They are notorious for wrongly profiling individuals, harassing, extorting, kidnapping and even killing young men and women of Nigeria very often simply because they looked a certain way.

Things quickly escalated from online protests to large physical protests all over the country with citizens demanding certain things and the government either being unresponsive or slow to respond. One of their responses was to implement curfews across some states in the country. At 12 noon, Lagos state announced a curfew to start at 4pm on October 20th. This reaction from the government lead to the continuation of these peaceful protests even after the announcement on that fateful day. At about 7pm with all lights turned off at the toll gate, men in Nigerian Military attire opened fire on protesters at the Lekki Toll gate. See these pieces by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in The New York Times and Dr Krystal Strong in Harper’s Bazar for more context into the situation.

What has been most intriguing has been what happened after this massacre- even though the government is yet to acknowledge it as this- is one, the startling difference in coverage by certain media houses; and two, the reports being made by the government officials as reported in various media outlets.

Popular entertainer DJ Switch via her Instagram Live streamed what happened at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20th. In a follow up Instagram Live, she broke down sharing her ordeal on the day and there after detailing the number of people who where shot and the bodies she saw being carted away. She similarly shares this in her GQ interview where herself and Folarin Falana (Falz D Bahd Guy), another entertainer/activist, spoke about their experience, describing it as a “horror show”.

Yet, in his address, the President of Nigeria barely addressed the issue, seemingly extending more sympathy to the deceased officers as opposed to addressing the incidence at Lekki. On another hand, the Governor of Lagos state, according to Premium Times, initially said there were no casualties before coming back to later announce two deaths. In the series of addresses afterwards, he also mentioned an inability to reach the president, and a failure to know who gave the order to shoot at peaceful protesters. On the other hand, the military initially claimed they were not present at the scene but have now said they only shot into the air as seen in this publication from The Punch covering the Judicial Inquiry.

Though we must acknowledge an onslaught of opportunists spreading fake news on the heels of the massacre, the thousands of Nigerians who watched the Instagram Live (myself included) can not wrap their heads around the statements being released by the government. Did we not see what we saw? Are we all suddenly blind at the very same time? Are we losing our minds simultaneously?

It was also interesting to look through the news feed of the Nigerian Television Authority – the official news outlet of the Federal Government- and not find any ample coverage of the situation as it unfolded because it was politically motivated. Many other media houses also did not begin to give the occurrence ample coverage or report accurately as well till Nigerian youth began to call them out on the streets of Social Media.

Could it be that the reporting is skewed because the traditional media outlets feared bans such as those eventually imposed on them by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission as detailed in The Premium Times.

Having read so much, lived the experience and seen the seemingly covert operations going on, I am left asking again “Which way Nigeria? Which way? When will we get the ‘story’ straight and do right by your citizens? When will history ever be told correctly.”

Written by Adeiye Oluwaseun-Sobo

References:

  1. Adejumo Kabir. (2020, October 21). “#EndSARS: Despite evidence, Sanwo-Olu says no fatality in Lekki shootings. Retrieved November 05 2020 from The Premium Times
  2. Agency Report. (2020, October 26). “#EndSARS: NBC imposes N3m sanction each on AIT, Channels and Arise TV” Premium Times. Retrieved November 08 2020 from The Premium Times
  3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (2020, October 21). “‘Nigerian is Murdering her Citizens” The New York Times.  Retrieved November 05, 2020 from The New York Times
  4. Dr Krystal Strong. (2020, October 27). “The Rise and Suppression of #EndSARS” Harper’s Bazar. Retrieved November 01 2020 from Harper’s Bazar
  5. Lola Ogunnaike. (2020, October 27). “’It Was a Horror Show’: Inside the #EndSARS Protests Against Police Violence in Nigeria” GQ. Retrieved November 08 2020 from GQ
  6. News feed of Nigerian Television Authority. Retrieved November 08 2020 from NTA
  7. Obianuju Udeh. (2020, October 23).  #EndSARS Update Recording of Instagram Live Video. Instagram. Retrieved October 23 2020 from DJ Switch Instagram Live
  8. Oladimeji Ramon. (2020, November 08). “#EndSARS: Sanwo-Olu called me to say Col. Bello was shooting at Lekki, Gen tells Lagos panel” The Punch. Retrieved November 08 2020 from The Punch
  9. Tanumi. (2020, October 22). “President Buhari’s Speech on the #EndSARS” Nigeria Television Authority. Retrieved November 08 2020 from NTA
  10. Photo of #EndSARS Flag bearer. Retrieved November 08 2020 from Olistng
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