Arab countries need to improve education systems, says UN official

Arab countries need to improve education systems, says UN official
Teachers cannot be replaced by robots. However, robots can help teachers to perform better. (Pexels)
Updated 10 December 2018

Arab countries need to improve education systems, says UN official

Arab countries need to improve education systems, says UN official
  • GCC countries were spending the same amount of money on education but only the UAE was making an impact
  • “We need to use technology to improve social and communication skills”

DUBAI: Arab countries need to improve their education systems, a leading UN official has said, with only the UAE performing impressively in the sector. 

Hany Torky, the UNDP’s chief technical adviser, said GCC countries were spending the same amount of money on education but only the UAE was making an impact.

“So far the UAE has appeared as a leader in knowledge not just in the Arab countries but also across Asia. No other country has performed so well as the way UAE has done and continues to do that,” he told Arab News. “The reason can be the quality of teachers, corruption, using resources in the right manner, quality of students. All these factors count for a lot.” 

He was speaking to Arab News while sharing the latest results of the Global Knowledge Index, which this year placed the UAE 19 out of 134 countries.  It ranked 13 in pre-university education and 20 in higher education.

Torky said the idea of education needed to be redefined in the region because of technological breakthroughs including artificial intelligence, virtual reality and coding. 

“We need to use technology to improve social and communication skills. Teachers cannot be replaced by robots. However, robots can help teachers to perform better.”

Saudi educationalist Omar Farooqi said a teacher’s role would change dramatically and they would become more like guides or advisers.

“The problem comes in the form of parents and top-to-bottom implementation of technology in schools,” he told Arab News, “otherwise if you look at the youth population in the Arab world, it is larger than the adult population. Therefore, these children have grown with technology in their hands and on their fingertips. They are more than willing to embrace it.”

The UAE was quick to adopt technology and trends faster than anywhere else in the Arab world, he added, and technology was also a way to revamp the curriculum in public sector schools.

“The Public (school) sector needs a complete revamp of standards from top to bottom of school operations. Private schools, on the other hand, are heavily geared primarily toward commercial success. Therefore the quality of education versus tuition fees is not appropriately balanced. Once it is balanced out, then there is cause for optimism for the private sector to take the lead in helping the public system set higher governance standards through strong strategic collaboration,” said Farooqui.

The Global Knowledge Index is produced annually by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation in partnership with the UNDP. 


Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel, Israeli military says

Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel, Israeli military says
Updated 6 min 50 sec ago

Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel, Israeli military says

Rocket warning sirens sound in northern Israel, Israeli military says
  • The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon

JERUSALEM: Rocket warning sirens sounded in northern Israel near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, the Israeli military said.
There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The military said in a statement the alerts sounded in at least three communities near the border with Lebanon.
The border has been mostly quiet since Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets.
But small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past, and two rockets were launched at Israel on July 20, causing no damage or injuries. Israel responded to that incident with artillery fire.


Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid
Updated 28 min 50 sec ago

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid

Pope Francis back to full-time work with call for Lebanon aid
  • ‘Today I appeal to the international community to help Lebanon along the path to resurrection through concrete gestures, not just words’

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis returned to work full-time on Wednesday following a colon operation, urging the international community to help a struggling Lebanon.
The 84-year-old took time to bless children and pose for selfies in the Vatican at the weekly general audience one month to the day after the delicate operation, which saw him hospitalized for over a week.
“Today I appeal to the international community to help Lebanon along the path to resurrection through concrete gestures, not just words,” Francis said.
Lebanon was Wednesday marking a year since a cataclysmic explosion ravaged Beirut, killing at least 214 people in its worst peace-time disaster, when the country’s economy was already in tatters.
The spiralling economic crisis has been branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst since the mid-19th century. Lebanon has also had to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
Francis said he hoped an international conference co-hosted by France and the UN on the day of the anniversary to raise humanitarian aid proves “productive.”
According to the Vatican News portal, the general audience marked the resumption of normal activities for the pope, who underwent planned surgery for inflammation of the colon at Rome’s Gemelli University Hospital on July 4.
Francis, who had previously been in fairly good health, had been taking it easy since the operation although he led the Sunday Angelus prayers both from hospital and from the Vatican window on his return.


As COVID-19 surges in Tunisia, oxygen is in short supply

As COVID-19 surges in Tunisia, oxygen is in short supply
Updated 04 August 2021

As COVID-19 surges in Tunisia, oxygen is in short supply

As COVID-19 surges in Tunisia, oxygen is in short supply
  • Traders have seized on an opportunity for profit, buying supplies of oxygen and other treatments and then renting them or selling them at higher prices
  • Tunisia consumed between 25,000 and 30,000 liters of oxygen daily before the pandemic

KAIROUAN, Tunisia: As Tunisia faces a surge of COVID-19 cases, demand for life-saving oxygen has grown higher than the supply, leaving patients desperate and family members angry at the government as they say they are forced to find oxygen on their own.
As the misery grows, traders have seized on an opportunity for profit, buying supplies of oxygen and other treatments and then renting them or selling them at higher prices. The profitable enterprise that is growing online has prompted citizens to call on authorities for intervention.
“I was subjected to various types of blackmailing. People were trading and brokering with everything. Believe me, with everything,” said Abdou Mzoughi, 43, whose nearly 80-year-old mother died June 26 from COVID-19 after he spent six days trying, but failing, to get the lifesaving oxygen treatment she needed.
“We were looking for a bed with oxygen in any hospital,” he said. He couldn’t even find her a place in a field hospital, or obtain a larger oxygen concentrator for at-home treatment.
The pandemic comes as the nation in North Africa — the only success story of the Arab Spring of a decade ago — finds itself beset by overlapping political and economic crises. Last month President Kais Saied fired the prime minister, froze the parliament and took on executive powers in what he says is a bid to save the country. He began ruling by decree after nationwide protests over the nation’s deteriorating social and economic situation — topped by the raging coronavirus epidemic.
Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, has reported more deaths per capita in the pandemic than any African country and has had among the highest daily death rates per capita in the world in recent weeks. More than 20,000 Tunisians have died so far, and the vaccination rate remains low.
Mzoughi said the market price of oxygen has more than doubled as demand grows in Kairouan, an ancient desert city that is considered among the holiest in Islam and is recognized by UNESCO for its rich architectural heritage. It is also one of the poorest cities in Tunisia.
Renting an oxygen concentrator can now cost up to $200 a week — an amount that Mzoughi roughly makes in a month with a steady job in the regional office of an online newspaper.
Now he visits his mother’s grave daily and describes still being in a state of shock over her death.
Private hospitals and clinics are also witnessing unprecedented pressure and intense demand for resuscitation and oxygen beds. That has caused a shortage of liquid oxygen in hospital tanks, and prompted the health authorities to request supplies from Algeria to enhance its strategic stock and avoid interruption in health units.
It has also led to the use of spare oxygen bottles, or the transfer of some patients to other hospitals.
Authorities have now ordered private clinics to contribute oxygen until there is a return to the normal oxygen supply pattern.
Tunisia consumed between 25,000 and 30,000 liters of oxygen daily before the pandemic. Now, the North African nation consumes 10 times the amount, between 230,000 to 240,000 liters of oxygen per day. Meanwhile, it’s production capacity is only at 100,000 liters per day, according to the Ministry of Health.
An especially moving video posted in mid-July on social media showed a man described as an official of Mateur Hospital, in the north, collapsing in tears because there was no oxygen for his patients. The video, posted by a Tunisian journalist, made the rounds at home and was widely picked up by French media.
However, the ministry denies claims that the health system in Tunisia is collapsing, saying it has received adequate aid from Arab and European countries, including oxygen machines, vaccines and field hospitals.


One killed in fire on military bus in Damascus - state media

One killed in fire on military bus in Damascus - state media
Updated 04 August 2021

One killed in fire on military bus in Damascus - state media

One killed in fire on military bus in Damascus - state media

BEIRUT: One person died and three were injured when a fire broke out on a military bus in a heavily fortified army compound in Damascus early on Wednesday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
One source at the site of the explosion suggested an electrical fault had set the petrol tank on fire, the agency reported.
The explosion happened in the bus while it was near the entrance of a heavily fortified Republican Guards housing compound in the west of the Syrian capital, SANA said.
Another source with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named, said at least five military personnel were killed and 11 other personnel were wounded in the blast.
Blasts in Damascus have been rare since forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad took control of rebel enclaves around the city.
Ten years into Syria’s conflict, President Bashar al-Assad has survived the insurgency which started with peaceful protests in March 2011.
He now holds sway over most of the country, helped by Russia’s military presence and Iran’s Shi’ite militias.
There have been several attacks this year on army vehicles in eastern Syria by suspected Daesh militants who still operate in the sprawling desert area. 


UAE expands provision of COVID-19 booster shots

UAE expands provision of COVID-19 booster shots
Updated 04 August 2021

UAE expands provision of COVID-19 booster shots

UAE expands provision of COVID-19 booster shots
  • The booster shot would be available to people considered at high risk three months after their second vaccine dose
  • The regional tourism and business hub has among the world’s highest immunization rates

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will start providing a booster shot against COVID-19 to all fully vaccinated individuals in the Gulf Arab state, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) said on Tuesday.
It said on Twitter the booster shot would be available to people considered at high risk three months after their second vaccine dose, and six months for others.

The Gulf state, which has approved five types of COVID-19 vaccines, had in June begun providing booster shots to those initially immunized with a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
The regional tourism and business hub has among the world’s highest immunization rates. Around 79 percent of the population of roughly 9 million had received one vaccine dose, while some 70 percent had been fully vaccinated, according to latest official data.