British inner-city teacher named world’s best, wins $1 million prize

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British school teacher Andria Zafirakou reacts after winning the Global Teacher Prize at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, March 18, 2018. (AP)
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British school teacher Andria Zafirakou, left accepts the Global Teacher Prize trophy from Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at a ceremony in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, March 18, 2018. (AP)
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British teacher Andria Zafirakou (L) receives the "Global Teacher Prize" from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (C), Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai during an award ceremony in Dubai on March 18, 2018. (AFP)
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British teacher Andria Zafirakou (L) receives the "Global Teacher Prize" from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai during an award ceremony in Dubai on March 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2018
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British inner-city teacher named world’s best, wins $1 million prize

DUBAI: Briton Andria Zafirakou, who works in a school in one of the UK’s poorest areas, on Sunday won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2018 at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai.
The arts and textiles teacher from the Alperton Community College of Brent, an inner-city school in London, was among 10 finalists from around the globe for the annual award. Thirty thousand candidates were in the running.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and British Prime Minister Theresa May were among the first to congratulate her.
“Congratulations to Andria Zafirakou for having won the Global Teacher award,” tweeted Sheikh Mohammed after handing her the prize.
He said teaching “is the greatest job” ever, and described teachers as “stars.”
May, in a video message broadcast at the gala event, said: “Being a great teacher requires resilience, ingenuity, and a generous heart. These are the qualities that you share with your students everyday.
“So thank you for all you have done and continue to do.”
Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton raced to the venue to deliver the trophy while South African comedian Trevor Noah hosted the event which included a performance by Oscar-winning actress and Grammy award winning singer Jennifer Hudson.
Brent, where Zafirakou teaches, is considered an ethnically diverse and disadvantaged area and many of her students come from impoverished homes.
The area is also rife with gang violence and Zafirakou faced “a daunting task when she joined the school,” the organizers said in a statement.
“But throughout the school and on the streets she is driving change” working “closely with the police to identify potential issues and (gang) recruiters.”
She redesigned the school’s curriculum “to resonate with an ethnically diverse student body” and learnt the basics of some of the 35 languages spoken at the school to communicate with parents and students.
Zafirakou also “reworked the school’s timetable to allow girls-only sport, important in a conservative community. The result? A cup-winning girls’ cricket team,” the statement said.
Her hard work paid and placed Alperton Community College “in the top five percent in England and Wales for improving pupils’ achievement.”
The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation organized the event, the fourth time it has handed out the prize for best teacher.
The winner will walk away with $1 million which will be paid in equal instalments over 10 years on one condition — she continues teaching for at least five years.


Soviet-era motorcycle sidecars add to Cuba’s retro appeal

Updated 21 March 2019
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Soviet-era motorcycle sidecars add to Cuba’s retro appeal

  • Ranging from rusting relics to the pampered and the pristine, hundreds of old motorcycle sidecars rattle through the streets of Havana

HAVANA: Cuba’s love affair with 1950s-era American cars is still intact, but the communist-run island also has a lingering attachment to a stalwart of Soviet-era leftovers, the motorcycle sidecar.
Ranging from rusting relics to the pampered and the pristine, hundreds of old motorcycle sidecars rattle through the streets of Havana.
The retro appeal gets a lot of attention from tourists “but here it’s common, normal,” says Enrique Oropesa Valdez.
Valdez should know. The 59-year old makes a living as an instructor teaching people how to handle the sidecar in Havana’s traffic, where riders seem able to squeeze the machines through the narrowest of gaps.
And they’ve built up an intense loyalty among the mend-and-make do Cubans.
“They’re very practical,” according to Alejandro Prohenza Hernandez, a restaurateur who says his pampered red 30-year-old Jawa 350 is like a second child.
Cheaper and more practical than the gas-guzzling, shark-finned US behemoths, the bikes are used for anything from the family runabout to trucking goods and workers’ materials.
“A lot of foreigners really like to take photos of it,” says Hernandez. “I don’t know, I think they see it as something from another time.”
Cuba lags several decades behind the rest of the world due to a crippling US embargo, so the makers’ badges on the ubiquitous sidecars speak of a bygone world.
Names like Jawa from the former Czechoslovakia and MZ from the former East Germany, as well as antiquated Russian Urals, Dniepers and Jupiters.
Havana’s military acquired them from big brother Moscow at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s, for use by state factories and farms. Over the years, they gradually filtered down to the general public.
That’s how Jose Antonio Ceoane Nunez, 46, found his bright red Jupiter 3.
“When the Cuban government bought sidecars from the Russians in 1981, it was for state-owned companies,” he said.
Later, the companies “sold them on to the most deserving employees,” he said. His father, who worked for a state body, passed the bike on to him.
“Even if the sidecar gets old. I’ll never sell it because it’s what I use to move around. It’s my means of transport in Cuba, and there aren’t many other options,” said Nunez.
Valdez himself has a cherished green 1977 Ural.
“I like it a lot, firstly because it’s the means of transport for my family, and secondly because it’s a source of income.”
And it costs less than a car, still out of reach of many Cubans.
Settled on the island with his Cuban wife, 38-year-old Frenchman Philippe Ruiz didn’t realize at first how ubiquitous the motorcycle sidecar was.
“When I began to be interested, I suddenly realized that I was seeing 50 to 100 a day!”
Renovating a house at the time, he saw that many sidecars were being used to transport building equipment.
Through an advert on the Internet, he bought a blue 1979 Ural a few months ago for 6,500 euros.
“It’s a year older than me and in worse shape,” he said. “Soon he had to strip the bike down and “start repairing everything.”
With few spare parts available in Cuba, “people have to bring them in from abroad,” which slows down repairs.
But he has no regrets. An experienced motorcyclist, he’s discovered a whole new side to his passion by riding the Russian machine.
“It’s very funny, it’s a big change from the bike because we cannot turn the same way, we can’t lean, so you have to relearn everything but it’s nice.”
“It’s especially nice with the family because you can put a child in the sidecar, my wife behind, and suitcases,” he said.
In future he hopes to take advantage of the interest in the old bikes to rent it out.
“I think it will be a bit of a change from all the convertibles here.”