UNESCO boss calls for emphasis on science, humanities in schools

Iraqi girls walk to school in west Mosul (File Photo/Safin Hamed / AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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UNESCO boss calls for emphasis on science, humanities in schools

DUBAI: The director general of UNESCO said Tuesday she would advocate for “integrating education and culture into a long-term strategy for rebuilding hope and dignity” at a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq.
Audrey Azoulay said she would attend a conference in Kuwait on Wednesday, and explained that UNESCO, with the support of governments, would lead several initiatives including the rebuilding of Mosul, which was liberated from Daesh in July last year.
Giving the penultimate speech on the final day of the World Government Summit in Dubai, which promoted the importance of collective intelligence in building peace, she said all people needed to be included in the dialogue.
“This means, for example, ensuring young girls are in the classroom and not forced into early marriage or early pregnancies,” she said, adding: “This means also making the most of our cultural diversities as a force of peace, innovation, critical thinking to put things in a wider perspective, to renew ideas and societies.”
And she said journalists should be treated as “guardians of democracy and freedom.”
She said 263 million children currently did not have a school place.
“These are the would-be teachers, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, and citizens of tomorrow, unable to shape the future potential of the rest of their lives,” Azoulay added.
In September 2015 the UN created a plan for the future sustainability of the world’s population and the planet, called Agenda 2030.
Azoulay warned that without “quality education for all,” the goals of Agenda 2030 could not be achieved.
But she also cautioned against complacency about places where children are in schools, adding that they “are not necessarily gaining basic skills, leaving equipped with knowledge and competencies for the 21st century. We need to step up investment in quality education to reach the most marginalized and disadvantaged learners.”
The theme for much of the conference has been that with a faster-than-expected technological advancement, the importance of retraining people of all ages was essential.
The summit has also seen many speakers warning of the narrowing of education, stressing that a lack of information leads to prejudice and extremism.
Azoulay said the world needed a “skills revolution.”
“The shift to the green economy and the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution call for a sharper focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” she said.
“Especially for girls, who are too often dissuaded from pursuing a career in these fields.”
While placing an emphasis on sciences, she said there was also a need to include humanities in education.
“In recent years we have seen – including in this region – increased attempts at cultural cleansing by those who wish to erase traces of our shared history, and wish to deny diversity,” she said.
“But culture is more than buildings, documents and traditions. It is how we see ourselves, how we see the world, how we learn about ourselves and about others.”
Education for all, she said, was the “only long-term solution to fight extremism.
“When extremists divide humanity between us and them, we need to highlight everything that unites us as a single community.”


Sri Lanka in lockdown after deadly blasts leave scores dead

Updated 18 min 42 sec ago
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Sri Lanka in lockdown after deadly blasts leave scores dead

  • Eight blasts have ripped through churches and hotels
  • Social media blocked across the country in temporary ban

COLOMBO: An eight blasth has been reported in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, as the government announced an immediate curfew.

The curfew will begin on Sunday night at 6:00pm local time (1230 GMT) and run until 6:00am local time (0030 GMT), the Sri Lankan defense ministry said.

The attack took place just hours after a string of bombings ripped through churches and hotels on Sunday monrning, killing at least 160 people.

Access to major social media platforms and messaging services has been shut down by the Sri Lankan government.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the seventh blast hit a hotel in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala, killing two people.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Inside St. Anthony's Shrine where one of the bombings took place. (AFP)

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the deadly string of Easter Sunday attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka as “truly appalling.”