Afghan girls struggle with poor Internet as they turn to online classes

An Afghan school girl writes on a board as girls attend their classroom on the first day of the new school year, in Kabul, Saturday, March 25, 2023. (AP)
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An Afghan school girl writes on a board as girls attend their classroom on the first day of the new school year, in Kabul, Saturday, March 25, 2023. (AP)
Afghan girls struggle with poor Internet as they turn to online classes
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Girls attend class on the first day of the new school year, in Kabul, Saturday, March 25, 2023. The new Afghan educational year started, but high school remained closed for girls for the second year after Taliban returned to power in 2021. (AP)
Afghan girls struggle with poor Internet as they turn to online classes
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Afghan school boys arrive at Esteqlal High School in Kabul on March 25, 2023, after missing the official start of the new academic year that began on March 21 as the Taliban authorities did not make a prior public announcement of the reopening of schools. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2023

Afghan girls struggle with poor Internet as they turn to online classes

Afghan girls struggle with poor Internet as they turn to online classes
  • Taliban officials have closed girls’ high schools, barred their access to universities
  • But Taliban administration has allowed girls to study individually at home

KABUL: Sofia logs in to class on a laptop in Kabul for an online English course run by one of a growing number of educational institutes trying to reach Afghanistan’s girls and women digitally in their homes.
But when the teacher calls on Sofia to read a passage her computer screen freezes.
“Can you hear me?” she asks repeatedly, checking her connection.
After a while, her computer stutters back to life.
“As usual,” a fellow student equally frustrated with the poor communications sighs as the class gets going again.
Sofia, 22, is one of a growing stream of Afghan girls and women going online as a last resort to get around the Taliban administration’s restrictions on studying and working.
Taliban officials, citing what they call problems including issues related to Islamic dress, have closed girls’ highschools, barred their access to universities and stopped most women from working at non-governmental organizations.
One of the most striking changes since the Taliban were first in power from 1996 to 2001, is the explosion of the Internet.
Virtually no one had access to the Internet when the Taliban were forced from power in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
After nearly two decades of Western-led intervention and engagement with the world, 18 percent of the population had Internet access, according to the World Bank.
The Taliban administration has allowed girls to study individually at home and has not moved to ban the Internet, which its officials use to make announcements via social media.
But girls and women face a host of problems from power cuts, to cripplingly slow Internet speeds, let alone the cost of computers and wifi in a country where 97 percent of people live in poverty.
“For girls in Afghanistan, we have a bad, awful Internet problem,” Sofia said.
Her online school, Rumi Academy, saw its enrolment of mostly females rise from about 50 students to more than 500 after the Taliban took over in 2021.
It has had hundreds more applications but cannot enrol them for now because of a lack of funds for teachers and to pay for equipment and Internet packages, a representative of the academy said.

TOO HARD
Sakina Nazari tried a virtual language class at her home in the west of Kabul for a week after she was forced to leave her university in December. But she abandoned it in frustration after battling the problems.
“I couldn’t continue,” she said. “It’s too hard to access Internet in Afghanistan and sometimes we have half an hour of power in 24 hours.”
Seattle-based Ookla, which compiles global Internet speeds, put Afghanistan’s mobile Internet as the slowest of 137 countries and its fixed Internet as the second slowest of 180 countries.
Some Afghans have started calling on SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk to introduce its satellite Internet service Starlink to Afghanistan, as it has done in Ukraine and Iran, posting requests for help on Twitter, which he owns.
“We also call on Elon Musk to help us,” Sofia said.
“If they would be able to (introduce) that in Afghanistan, it would be very, very impactful for women.”
SpaceX spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.
Online schools are trying their best to accommodate Afghanistan’s pupils.
Daniel Kalmanson, spokesperson for online University of the People, which has had more than 15,000 applications from Afghan girls and women since the Taliban took over, said students could attend lectures at any time that conditions allowed them to, and professors granted extensions for assignments and exams when students faced connection problems.
The non-profit group Learn Afghanistan, which runs several community-based schools in which some teachers run classes remotely, makes its curriculum available for free in Afghanistan’s main languages.
Executive director Pashtana Durrani said the group also ensured that lessons were available via radio, which is widely used in rural areas. She was working with international companies to find solutions to poor Internet access but said she could not elaborate.
“Afghanistan needs to be a country where the Internet is accessible, digital devices need to be pumped in,” Durrani said.
Sofia said Afghan women had grown used to problems over years of war and they would persevere no matter what.
“We still have dreams and we will not give up, ever.”

 


Bangladesh power cuts may last two more weeks on fuel shortages

Bangladesh power cuts may last two more weeks on fuel shortages
Updated 52 min 39 sec ago

Bangladesh power cuts may last two more weeks on fuel shortages

Bangladesh power cuts may last two more weeks on fuel shortages
  • Bangladesh has suffered under severe power shortages since April as a searing heatwave spiked demand for electricity
  • The power losses threaten Bangladesh’s crucial apparel sector that accounts for more than 80 percent of its exports and supplies retailers

DHAKA: Bangladesh could face power cuts for two more weeks, its power minister said late on Sunday, as higher electricity consumption because of rising temperatures has caused a fuel shortfall for generation plants.
Bangladesh has suffered under severe power shortages since April as a searing heatwave spiked demand for electricity and then a deadly cyclone cut off supplies of natural gas to fuel plants. The country has also curtailed imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), its main power generation fuel, after record high prices in the second half of 2022 made the fuel too expensive.
“This condition may remain for another two weeks,” Nasrul Hamid, minister of state for power, energy and mineral resources told reporters.
“This problem is happening because we are not able to ensure an adequate supply of coal and gas,” Hamid said.
The power losses threaten Bangladesh’s crucial apparel sector that accounts for more than 80 percent of its exports and supplies retailers such as Walmart, Gap Inc, H&M , VF Corp, Zara and American Eagle Outfitters .
The loss of those exports will exacerbate issues around its dollar reserves, which have plunged by nearly a third in the 12 months to end of April to a seven-year low, and limited its ability to pay for fuel imports.
Hamid said the country’s power sector officials had been working to avert fuel shortfalls over the last two months, but higher consumption was making the task harder.
An impending shutdown of a key coal-fired power unit from Tuesday because of a fuel shortage over the next few days could further worsen the situation, a senior official from the power ministry said.
“Only rain can give us some relief as power demand decreases when it rains,” said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The frequent power cuts have also drawn criticism from opposition parties.”“The entire country is almost without electricity. People are getting sick in extreme heat,” said Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior leader of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party


Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi calls on US audience to stand up for ‘modern India’

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi calls on US audience to stand up for ‘modern India’
Updated 05 June 2023

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi calls on US audience to stand up for ‘modern India’

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi calls on US audience to stand up for ‘modern India’
  • The Congress Party defeated the BJP in recent state elections in the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka states, wins that came after a series of state elections defeats after Modi became India’s prime minister in 2014

NEW YORK: Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi pressed his criticism of the country’s leadership in a speech Sunday, calling for Indians in the US and back home to stand up for democracy and the Indian constitution.
Gandhi, a sharp critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was expelled from Parliament, accused Modi and his Bharativa Janata Party (BJP) of dividing the country and failing to focus on important issues such as unemployment and education.
“To be nasty to people, to be arrogant, to be violent, these are not Indian values,” Gandhi, 52, told a crowd of about 700 at the Indian Overseas Congress USA event at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. He spoke just after a minute of silence recognizing a massive train derailment in eastern India that killed 275 people and injured hundreds more.
Gandhi has been on a three-city tour of the United States, including speaking engagements at Stanford University in California and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, US congressional leaders have invited Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress later this month. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders announced the address as an “opportunity to share your vision for India’s future and speak to the global challenges our countries both face.”
Grandson of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi is a member of the Indian National Congress party. He is considered to be Modi’s main challenger in the upcoming 2024 elections.
“Modern India cannot exist without our constitution and our democracy,” he said Sunday. He also urged a stronger partnership between India and the US to offset China’s influence.
“One of the things we have to think about is the bridge between India and the United States,” he said. “How do we compete with the challenge the Chinese have placed on the table,” he asked, specifically citing issues of mobility and the world’s energy supply.
The Congress Party defeated the BJP in recent state elections in the Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka states, wins that came after a series of state elections defeats after Modi became India’s prime minister in 2014. Gandhi now holds no official position in his party. He gave up the post of party president after his severe defeats by Modi’s Hindu nationalist party in 2019 national elections, though his supporters hope the more recent results will impact the country’s 2024 national elections, which are likely to be held before May.
Gandhi suffered a serious setback in March when a court convicted him in a criminal defamation case for mocking Modi’s surname, a decision that led to him being expelled from parliament. He could lose his eligibility to run for a parliamentary seat for the next eight years if an appeals court doesn’t overturn his conviction. The conviction came in connection with a speech he gave in 2019.
Gandhi, who is not related to Mahatma Gandhi, also invoked the assassinated Indian leader’s name several times during his speech, praising his model of non-violence.

 

 


Russia says shoots down Ukraine-launched drones over Crimea, Kursk

Russia says shoots down Ukraine-launched drones over Crimea, Kursk
Updated 05 June 2023

Russia says shoots down Ukraine-launched drones over Crimea, Kursk

Russia says shoots down Ukraine-launched drones over Crimea, Kursk
  • The strikes came after multiple attacks on the Russian border region of Belgorod and oil infrastructure inside the country, as well as a drone strike on wealthy districts of Moscow earlier in the week

MOSCOW: Russia said on Sunday it intercepted nine drones over the Crimean Peninsula and one over the small town of Sudzha in the southern region of Kursk, in what have been nearly daily attacks inside the country or on Moscow-held territories.
Five drones were shot down and four were jammed and did not hit their targets in Dzhankoi in Crimea, said a Russian-installed official in the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
A Ukrainian-launched drone was downed over Sudzha later in the day, the governor of the Kursk region that borders with Ukraine said on the Telegram messaging app.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
The strikes came after multiple attacks on the Russian border region of Belgorod and oil infrastructure inside the country, as well as a drone strike on wealthy districts of Moscow earlier in the week.
Kyiv denied attacking Moscow and Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks elsewhere inside Russia and on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.
There were no casualties in the Sunday drone attacks, officials said. In Dzhankoi, windows were broken in several houses, Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea’s administration, said on the Telegram messaging app.
He added that one unexploded drone was found on the territory of a residential house, forcing the temporary evacuation of about 50 people in the area.
Russia has a military air base near Dzhankoi. Ukrainian officials have long said the city and surrounding areas have been turned into Moscow’s largest military base in Crimea.

 


Russian police arrest more than 100 Navalny supporters -group

Police officers detain a demonstrator in Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP)
Police officers detain a demonstrator in Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP)
Updated 05 June 2023

Russian police arrest more than 100 Navalny supporters -group

Police officers detain a demonstrator in Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP)
  • Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast corruption, said in April that an “absurd” terrorism case had been opened against him that could see him sentenced to a further 30 years in jail

MOSCOW: Russian police on Sunday arrested more than 100 people who had taken to the streets to mark the 47th birthday of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, a protest monitoring group said.
OVD-Info said in a statement that 109 people had been detained in 23 cities as of 10:42 p.m. Moscow time (1942 GMT). Authorities have clamped down heavily on signs of dissent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and in most cities, only a handful of people were held.
Navalny is serving combined sentences of 11-1/2 years for fraud and contempt of court on charges that he said were trumped up to silence him.
Footage from Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia’s two largest cities, showed police arresting individual demonstrators. One man could be seen briefly holding up a sign before Moscow police ushered him away, bent over, as he groaned in pain.
Another man, who held up a sign in English that read “Free Navalny,” was also arrested in Moscow.
In St. Petersburg, a woman accompanied by a child told reporters that “I’m against the war, that’s why they detained me with my underage kid.”
Navalny, who rose to prominence by lampooning President Vladimir Putin’s elite and alleging vast corruption, said in April that an “absurd” terrorism case had been opened against him that could see him sentenced to a further 30 years in jail.

 

 


Prigozhin says Kremlin factions are destroying the Russian state

Prigozhin says Kremlin factions are destroying the Russian state
Updated 05 June 2023

Prigozhin says Kremlin factions are destroying the Russian state

Prigozhin says Kremlin factions are destroying the Russian state
  • Prigozhin said a dispute between him and Chechen forces who are also fighting alongside the Russian army in Ukraine had been resolved

MOSCOW: Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Saturday that Kremlin factions were destroying the state by trying to sow discord between him and Chechen fighters.
That row had now been settled but infighting in the Kremlin had opened a Pandora’s Box of rifts, he said.
Prigozhin, a 62-year-old former restauranteur who founded the Wagner mercenary group and is a member of President Vladimir Putin’s wider circle, has gained widespread notoriety during the 15-month war in Ukraine.
His troops have spearheaded battles in the city of Bakhmut and elsewhere, but he has also rowed with the Russian military over tactics, logistical support and other issues.
Prigozhin said a dispute between him and Chechen forces who are also fighting alongside the Russian army in Ukraine had been resolved. But he laid the blame for the discord on unidentified Kremlin factions — which he calls “Kremlin towers.”
Their scheming had got so out of hand that Putin had been forced to scold them at a Security Council meeting, he said.
“Pandora’s Box is already open — we are not the ones who opened it,” Prigozhin said in a message posted by his press service. “Some Kremlin tower decided to play dangerous games.”
“Dangerous games have become commonplace in the Kremlin towers...they are simply destroying the Russian state.”
He did not identify the Kremlin faction but said that it continued its attempts to sow discord, it would have “hell to pay.” The Kremlin did not comment on his remarks.
Putin held a Security Council meeting of Friday about what he said were “interethnic” relations inside the country.
Prigozhin said Chechen remarks made about him sounded like something out of the early 1990s when conflicts gripped Russian cities after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Clearly the statements made were rather provocative, aimed at hurting me and freaking me out,” Prigozhin said.
Prigozhin also said any battle between Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s Akhmat special forces and Wagner would result in serious bloodshed but there was no doubt who would win.
He also again vented his anger about the current state of the war and the culpability of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
“The ministry of defense is not in a state to do anything at all as it de-facto doesn’t exist — it is in chaos,” Prigozhin said.
The defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Niether Shoigu nor Gerasimov have commented in public about Prigozhin’s comments.