Lebanon schools to reopen in cooperation with the Red Cross

Lebanon schools to reopen in cooperation with the Red Cross
A worker cleans classroom desks in a school closed due to the coronavirus, Sidon, Lebanon, February 29, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 April 2021

Lebanon schools to reopen in cooperation with the Red Cross

Lebanon schools to reopen in cooperation with the Red Cross
  • Minister of Education Tarek Majzoub said the move to return to blended learning is related to the rate of vaccination among teachers
  • Schools in Lebanon have relied on online learning since the beginning of the year – a surge in COVID-19 cases in schools following the holidays brought about their closing

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Education Ministry has decided to reopen all schools for blended learning as of April 21, after closing for more than three months.

Minister of Education Tarek Majzoub said the move to return to blended learning is related to the rate of vaccination among teachers.

But the head of the Lebanese Doctors’ Syndicate Sharaf Abu Sharaf warned that since the vaccination process started in February, it has covered only “5 percent of the Lebanese, with 10,000 persons working in the health sector who have still not received the vaccine.”

Majzoub said: “The education in Lebanon is in danger, especially the good education that used to be equally provided for poor, middle, and rich classes

“The harsh economic conditions have affected everyone. Therefore, we must cooperate to save the academic year. We have nothing left in Lebanon but education, and our goal as a ministry is to save this academic year.”

The ministry has announced the schedule for the official exams, which will be taken in person. The Grade 12 Baccalaureate exams will take place on July 26, and the required curriculum will be reduced. The exams, according to the minister, will not be “formal,” but “the difficulty level will be studied.”

The government canceled the official exams last year, instead granting certificates to students in line with their grades in school and from online learning.

The Grade 9 Brevet exams will be replaced by school tests, which will be prepared and controlled by the ministry. The exams will take place on July 12.

Schools in Lebanon have relied on online learning since the beginning of the year. A surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in schools following the holidays brought about their closing. Some private schools and universities violated closures by imposing attendance, while abiding by COVID-19 precautionary measures.

Abu Sharaf, who is also a pediatrician, said that “closing educational institutions has increased psychological problems among students, such as stress, introversion, social media addiction, obesity, and domestic violence. Western reports have even shown an increase in the suicide rate, in addition to a significant fall in the intellectual development of students, especially those under the age of 10.”

The decision to return students to schools excludes those with health issues, who can continue learning remotely. However, the return does not exclude students with special needs, those who have learning disabilities, or public schools’ students enrolled in the afternoon shift, such as Syrian refugees.

The return to schools has been taken during a crippling financial and economic crisis in Lebanon that has further deteriorated during the education shutdown.

A draft law proposed in July 2020 to allocate 500 million Lebanese pounds ($327 million) to support the education sector is still awaiting approval by parliament.

Majzoub said: “The country is going through a very delicate and exceptional situation, both on the health and economic levels. It is very easy for us to stop the whole education process and grant students pass certificates instead of going through the whole examination process, but this is not the ministry’s mission.”

He added: “A total of 17,000 vaccines have been secured for the teaching staff, to cover high school teachers in the first phase. The World Bank has supported us to become a priority in vaccinations, as well as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Lebanese Red Cross. 

“However, the committee following up on the COVID-19 preventive measures said that not receiving the vaccine does not mean we cannot resume classes, in line with the preventive and precautionary measures.”

The ministry has introduced a new operation room to follow-up on news regarding blended education. It will work in cooperation with the Red Cross around the clock.

Majzoub’s decision has angered some parents and teachers, who accused him on social media of being “oblivious to the people’s situation and the impacts of his decision.”

Teachers expressed fears over “being unprotected” and expressed concern over “receiving AstraZeneca, the vaccine that has been allocated for them, due to reports about the possibility of the vaccine causing blood clots.”

Complaints against the minister’s decision were also made by some parents who said they are no longer capable of providing transport fees for their children to and from school, and others who said they cannot even give their children money to buy lunch at school.

Due to the worsening economic collapse, more than 50 percent of the Lebanese and 97 percent of Palestinian and Syrian refugees now live under the poverty line.

Jennifer Moorehead, director of Save the Children Lebanon, warned on April 1 that “the education for thousands of children in Lebanon is hanging by a thread.”

She added: “Many of them might never come back to school, either because they have missed so much learning already or because their families cannot afford to send them to school.”

According to the NGO: “Children not enrolled in schools are at a higher risk of falling victim to child labor, child marriage, and other forms of abuse and exploitation.”


Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery
Updated 09 May 2021

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery

Syria says fire erupts in main Homs refinery
  • The fire erupted in a distillation unit due to a leak in a pumping station
  • There was a large fire and blast at Homs in January this year
AMMAN: Syrian authorities are working on extinguishing a fire that erupted in its main Homs refinery in the west of the nation, state media said on Sunday.
The fire erupted in a distillation unit due to a leak in a pumping station, it said without elaborating.
State television showed live footage of fire engulfing parts of the refinery with black smoke plumes in the distance as firefighters tackled the flames.
There was a large fire and blast at Homs in January this year involving a nearby crude oil loading station and dozens of trucks that transport petroleum products across the country.
Both Homs refinery and Banias on the Mediterranean coast have faced supply shortages in recent months due to erratic supplies of Iranian crude oil to the sanctions-hit country that relies mainly on Tehran for its energy needs.
Syria has over the past year two years faced months of gasoline and fuel shortages, forcing it to ration supplies distributed across government-held areas and to apply several rounds of steep price hikes.

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
Updated 09 May 2021

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

UAE administers over 11 million COVID-19 vaccine doses
  • UAE announced 1,735 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 534,445

DUBAI: The UAE has administered 11,126,889 COVID-19 vaccine doses so far with an additional 78,342 jabs provided to residents overnight, bringing the country’s distribution rate to 112.50 doses per 100 people.

Health officials have embarked on a rapid vaccination campaign to stem the spread of coronavirus, and the country has one of the highest proportions of the population inoculated

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said the vaccination program was in “line with plan to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to all members of society and efforts to reach acquired immunity resulting from the vaccination,” a report from state news agency WAM said.

This will help reduce the number of cases and control the COVID-19 virus, the reported added.

Meanwhile, the UAE announced 1,735 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 534,445, as well as three new deaths overnight.

The number of coronavirus-related fatalities is now at 1,610.

The MoHAP also noted that an additional 1,701 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 514,769.


Algeria remembers victims of French rule

Algeria remembers victims of French rule
Algerian youths pose beneath a street name plaque honouring an Algerian lawyer killed by the French during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence in Algiers. (AFP file photo)
Updated 08 May 2021

Algeria remembers victims of French rule

Algeria remembers victims of French rule
  • The crackdown led by French General Raymond Duval left as many as 45,000 dead, according to Algerian official figures

ALGIERS: Algeria on Saturday honored thousands killed by French forces in 1945, as the North African country waits for Paris to apologize for its colonial era crimes.
Pro-independence protests broke out after a rally on May 8, 1945 marking the allied victory over Nazi Germany.
The rioting triggered two weeks of bloody repression in which French troops massacred thousands of mostly unarmed Muslim civilians, a key chapter in Algeria’s long independence struggle.
On Saturday, thousands of people took part in a march of remembrance following the same route through the northeastern city of Setif as the May 8 rally 76 years ago, official media reported.
Led by scouts, participants laid a wreath at a monument to Bouzid Saal, a 22-year-old man shot dead by a French policeman in 1945 for refusing to lower his Algerian flag — the first casualty of the violence.
The crackdown led by French General Raymond Duval left as many as 45,000 dead, according to Algerian official figures.
French historians put the toll at up to 20,000, including 86 European civilians and 16 soldiers killed in revenge attacks.
The killings had a transformative impact on the nascent anti-colonial movement, setting the scene for a full-blown independence war nine years later that finally led to independence in 1962.
Algerian officials have continued to call for a full apology from France for its colonial era policies, and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has described the 1945 killings as “crimes against humanity.”
Government spokesman Ammar Belhimer repeated that demand on Saturday, calling for “the official, definitive and comprehensive recognition by France of its crimes (along with) repentance and fair compensation.”
He also called for help dealing with the toxic waste left behind by 17 nuclear tests France carried out in the Algerian desert in the 1960s.

 


Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters
Members of the Tripoli Protection Force, an alliance of militias from the capital city, patrol an area south of the Libyan capital. (AFP file photo)
Updated 09 May 2021

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters

Militias briefly take over Tripoli government headquarters
  • The takeover underscored the tough road ahead for the interim government, which has been tasked with steering Libya through general elections due at the end of the year

CAIRO: In a show of force, armed militiamen briefly took over a hotel in the Libyan capital of Tripoli that serves as headquarters for the interim government, officials said Saturday.
Friday’s development came after the three-member presidential council earlier this week appointed a new chief of the intelligence agency, Libya’s version of the CIA. The militias, which control Tripoli, were apparently unhappy with the choice of Hussein Khalifa as the new spy chief.
Presidential council spokeswoman Najwa Wheba said no one was hurt in the takeover of Hotel Corinthia, in the heart of Tripoli. The hotel was mostly empty on Friday, the Muslim weekend.
After a while, the militias left the hotel, according to an official at the Interior Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations. Khalifa and the militia leaders were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.
The takeover underscored the tough road ahead for the interim government, which has been tasked with steering Libya through general elections due at the end of the year. The government has struggled to unite the conflict-stricken nation ahead of the vote.
Wheba said the presidential council has no permanent headquarters and that the hotel is one of the places where the council convenes. Videos circulating on social media show militiamen at the entrance of the hotel.
On Monday, Najla Al-Manqoush, the foreign minister of Libya’s interim government called for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries, including Turkish troops, from the oil-rich North African country. That was seen as a rebuke to Turkey and angered pro-Turkey factions in western Libya.
UN Security Council diplomats say there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Sudanese, Chadians and Russians.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed.


Israeli violence against Al-Aqsa worshippers condemned

Israeli violence against Al-Aqsa worshippers condemned
Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, on May 7, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2021

Israeli violence against Al-Aqsa worshippers condemned

Israeli violence against Al-Aqsa worshippers condemned
  • The UN Security Council Resolution 2334 considers all settlements, including those in Jerusalem, illegal

JERUSALEM: Israel braced for more protests on Saturday after clashes at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound left more than 200 people injured.

The unrest followed Friday prayers when Israeli riot police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinians as violence erupted outside Islam’s third holiest site.

At least three people were seriously injured when Israeli troops used rubber bullets to disperse worshippers at the UNESCO world heritage site.

Israeli forces stormed the mosque’s plaza and fired sound grenades inside the building, where throngs of worshippers, including women and children, were praying on the last Friday of Ramadan.

The clashes came amid soaring tensions over Israeli restrictions on access to parts of the old city during Ramadan and the threat of eviction hanging over four Palestinian families in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.

The Israeli violence drew worldwide condemnation.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the Kingdom “rejects Israel’s plans and measures to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem and impose Israeli sovereignty over them.”

The UAE “strongly condemned” the clashes and potential evictions, and a statement by Khalifa Al-Marar, the foreign affairs minister, urged Israeli authorities to reduce tensions.

The UAE stresses the need for Israeli authorities to assume their responsibilities in line with international law to provide protection to Palestinian citizens, a statement carried by state news agency WAM said.

Wasfi Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the reconstruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab News that there was no excuse for the Israeli action.

“What happened on Friday night is inexcusable. Violating the mosque’s sanctity during the last 10 holy days of Ramadan is illegal and a clear violation of the right to worship. Its status quo must be protected.”

Kailani, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf Council, said Israeli forces not only violated the peace of worshippers but also destroyed mosque property, including its clinic and gates.

Hijazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem Merchants Committee, told Arab News that attacks by Israeli forces were meant to intimidate Palestinians following threats by Jewish extremists of a large-scale infiltration into Al-Aqsa on what they call Jerusalem Day.

“However, the people of Jerusalem have broken the barrier of fear and are no longer afraid of Israeli soldiers or Israeli prisons,” he said.

Risheq called on Arab and Islamic countries to help Palestinians defend the mosque.

The late-night clashes in the old city of Jerusalem followed days of tension in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where Israelis are trying to evict an entire Palestinian community and hand over their properties to ultra-extreme Jewish settlers.

The Waqf Council, Jordan, the US, EU, and European and Arab countries issued statements denouncing the violence in the city.

The US called on all parties to avoid actions that could damage final status talks between Israel and Palestinians, including settlements.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2334 considers all settlements, including those in Jerusalem, illegal.

Israeli police issued a statement saying officers were attacked with stones and firecrackers and had to restore order.

A police statement claimed that 17 officers were injured, with at least half requiring further attention.

Palestinian citizens of Israel traveled in at least six buses to show their support for worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, but were barred entry near the village of Abu Ghish.

After they disembarked and began to walk the remaining 20 km distance to the site, local residents came to pick them up in private cars.