Iran bans English in primary schools after leaders’ warning

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Iranian school-girls attend President Rouhani's presentation of the for 2018-2019 budget to the parliament on December 10, 2017, in Tehran. (AFP)
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A demonstrator dressed as the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei participates a rally across from the White House in Washington, on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. (AP)
Updated 08 January 2018

Iran bans English in primary schools after leaders’ warning

DUBAI: Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official said, after Islamic leaders warned that early learning of the language opened the way to a Western “cultural invasion.”
“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run High Education Council, told state television late on Saturday.
“This is because the assumption is that, in primary education, the groundwork for the Iranian culture of the students is laid,” Navid-Adham said, adding that non-curriculum English classes may also be blocked.
The teaching of English usually starts in middle school in Iran, around the ages of 12 to 14, but some primary schools, below that age, also have English classes.
Some children also attend private language institutes after their school day. And many children from more privileged families attending non-government schools receive English tuition from daycare through high school.
Iran’s Islamic leaders have often warned about the dangers of a “cultural invasion,” and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voiced outrage in 2016 over the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools.”
Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, said in that speech to teachers: “That does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but (this is the) promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.”
“Western thinkers have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism ... the best and the least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to the younger generation of countries,” Khamenei said, according to the text of the speech posted on a website run by his office (Leader.ir).
While there was no mention of the announcement being linked to more than a week of protests against the clerical establishment and government, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have said that that unrest was also fomented by foreign enemies.
Iranian officials said 22 people were killed and more than 1,000 arrested during the protests that spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, as thousands of young and working-class Iranians expressed their anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.
A video of the announcement of the ban was widely circulated on social media on Sunday, with Iranians calling it “The filtering of English,” jokingly likening to the blocking of the popular app Telegram by the government during the unrest.


Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 10 min 12 sec ago

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final agreement for a transitional government.
The agreement was signed in the presence of regional and international dignitaries including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. 
During a ceremony that was held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir led Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony in Khartoum, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Jubeir is being accompanied by the Saudi Minister of State for African affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar.

After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.