New school offers education ‘salvation’ for Syrian girls in Lebanon

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BAR ELIAS, Lebanon (Reuters) – A new girls’ school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s poor Bekaa region is aiming to give girls from conservative backgrounds the chance at a formal education.

Syrian refugee girls take a photo with Noura Jumblatt, founder of the NGO Kayany Foundation, at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the foundation in Bar Elias town, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Gaining access to education in general is difficult for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, but for girls from socially conservative families who disapprove of mixed schools, it is even harder.

Zahra al-Ayed, 14, and her sister Batoul, 17, were from a village in Syria’s northern Idlib province where women were expected to marry young.

But the experience of fleeing war and living in harsh poverty woke her parents to the life-changing importance of education, the girls’ mother Mirdiyeh al-Ayed said.

“My eldest daughter tells me that she will not marry until after she finishes her education. She even wants to travel abroad and learn,” she said.

Human Rights Watch organisation said in its latest report in April that more than half a million refugee children are out of school in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

In Lebanon, international donors paid for 200,000 public school spaces for Syrian children in 2015-2016, according to the HRW report, but only 149,000 children actually enrolled.

Lebanese and international non-governmental organizations have been striving to fill the gap, and to eliminate the legal, financial and language barriers preventing refugee children from getting their education.

For the al-Ayed family, used to Syria’s system of gender segregation after the age of 12, one big barrier to enrolling the girls was the lack of single-sex schools in Lebanon that accept refugees.

Syrian refugee girls are pictured at a school for Syrian refugee girls, built by the Lebanese non-profit Kayany Foundation in Bar Elias town, in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon October 19, 2017. Picture taken October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

SYRIAN REFUGEES

The new school that Zahra will attend is in Bar Elias in the Bekaa valley and was opened on Thursday by the Kayany Foundation, a Lebanese charity. It educates 160 Syrian girls aged from 14-18 who have missed school for several years.

Those who manage to pass the Lebanese system’s eighth grade exams – usually taken at the age of 14 or 15 – can join the local Lebanese public school in Bar Elias, which Batoul al-Ayed has done.

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The Kayany Foundation school teaches the official Lebanese curriculum, which includes science, mathematics, Arabic and English, in addition to vocational skills.

The school, built from colorful pre-fabricated classrooms, is its seventh in the Bekaa valley, where the majority of the Syrian refugee communities are located in Lebanon.

It was meant to address the Syrian parents’ concerns about sending their teenage daughters to schools for both girls and boys. All its teachers are women and it provides transportation for students between home and school.

“Education is salvation for the refugee girls,” said Nora Jumblatt, head of the Kayany Foundation, at the opening ceremony.

Funding for the school was secured for this year from international charity Save the Children and the United Nations Women For Peace Association, according to Kayany officials.

“I have a dream to become a pharmacist,” Rama, 19, who is preparing to apply for the eight grade exams at Kayany school said. In normal times, Rama would already have been applying for university at that age.

“I still want to go back to Syria and fulfill my dream there, in Damascus University,” she added.

[“Source-reuters”]

Sharjah Ruler says education key in fight against terrorism

Sharjah Ruler Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, second left, visits the Abu Dhabi tourist pavilion at the Frankfurt International Book Fair. Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism

Sharjah Ruler Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, second left, visits the Abu Dhabi tourist pavilion at the Frankfurt International Book Fair. Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism

It is through education, the Sharjah Ruler said, that we can rid the region of the scourge of terrorism.

“The most effective way to face negative forces is through education and upbringing from an early age, all the way through to university,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi as he addressed attendees of the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.

“This will empower individuals and develop their critical thinking and decision-making skills.”

Sheikh Sultan praised the constructive role Sharjah Youth and Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah organisations have played in encouraging education and creativity in the emirate’s young minds as he talked up the value of international book fairs.

“Taking part in different international fairs and exhibitions provides a platform to communicate with other cultures, enhance dialogue and promote the literary and scientific values of the Arab and Islamic world, as well as draw on international experience and expertise,” he said.

Concerned at the lack of appreciation shown to Arabic culture and literature in general, Sheikh Sultan hopes his visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair and his spearheading of the forthcoming Sharjah edition to be held on November 1 will act as a sign that writers’ and publishers’ work is valued.

“It is important that we are supporting authors, illustrators, publishers and other experts to develop the quality and quantity of literature,” he said.

“Sharjah’s cultural initiatives restore confidence and support intellectuals in the Arab world, many of whom had been disheartened with a lack of respect and recognition, in addition to the launch of children’s programmes, to build a new generation of writers, poets and intellectuals.”

Read more: Sharjah named World Book Capital for 2019 by Unesco

Sheikh Sultan also used the occasion to launch the German edition of his book, The Conflict between Power and Trade in the Gulf, which this year also received its English and French translation.

The event was part of a range of initiatives run by UAE cultural bodies in Frankfurt, led by the Sharjah delegation.

Wednesday also saw Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, as the founder of publishing house Kalimat Group, address a panel on the opportunities that literature translation presents.

She said international collaboration was key for regional publishers to evolve.

“The initial idea of using partnerships to have rights deals with different publishers really opens doors as a publisher, not only for cultural exchange but also to make sure that children in other parts of the world can understand more about our stories,” she said.

“It can act as an agent of soft diplomacy and make this world a better place.”

Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism was also present at Frankfurt, hosting a series of seminars emphasising German and Arabic cultural organisation and challenges facing the regional publishing industry.

Thursday saw Emirati author and academic Saeed Hamdan Altunaji and German literary scholar Klaus Reichert discuss the value of translating German literary classics to Arabic. Also on Thursday, the pavilion hosted a discussion on book piracy and intellectual property rights in the Arab world.

On the international front, blockbuster author Dan Brown launched the German translation of his latest novel Origins.

With the latest novel finding his hero, the symbologist Robert Langdon, solving a case involving clues found in modern art pieces, Brown told The National that the planned Guggenheim Abu Dhabi would have been an ideal setting for Origin.

“I have to admit that I saw the proposed blueprint for the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi and it will be one of the most spectacular buildings in the world,” he said.

“I think if that building was finished when I started this book there would have been a good chance the plot would have moved to Abu Dhabi. Call me when [The Louvre Abu Dhabi] is done. I want to see it.”

[“Source-thenational”]

Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab holds inaugural J-WEL Week

Members of J-WEL convene on MIT campus to explore new developments in brain science, pedagogy, and digital learning practices.

Today, the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) kicks off its first J-WEL Week, a semiannual meeting of members to explore new developments in brain science, pedagogy, and digital learning practices. The theme of the meeting is “The Power of Problem Solving.” During the four-day meeting, participants will use presentations on MIT educational research and teaching approaches as a jumping off point for articulating goals and action plans for their own organizations.

Sanjay Sarma, MIT vice president for open learning, describes the J-WEL approach: “Through J-WEL, we will forge new and long-lasting collaborations as we learn, share, and train together, using the assets developed at MIT as well as by leveraging the community convened by J-WEL.”

J-WEL Week is structured in three parallel, interwoven programs, one for each of the lab’s three collaboratives — pK-12, Higher Ed, and Workplace Learning. The program has been designed by J-WEL faculty directors professors Angela Becher, Eric Klopfer, Hazel Sive, and George Westerman, with the strategic leadership of J-WEL Executive Director Vijay M.S. Kumar, who each bring to the program decades of experience and passion across pre-K-12, higher education, and workplace learning.

Attendees at the first J-WEL Week come from 27 countries, including Australia, China, Colombia, Jordan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. The participants include university senior administrators, industry leaders, educators, government officials, and heads of leading foundations.

The event is being held at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and features some of the top educational innovators from the MIT community. The week will begin with a welcome from Vice President of Open Learning Sanjay Sarma and J-WEL Executive Director Vijay Kumar, followed by presentations highlighting unique aspects of the MIT educational approach. The next two days will include deeper dives for each membership collaborative: pK-12, Higher Education, and Workplace Learning, with attendees participating in modular breakout sessions that address their specific interest areas. Speakers throughout the week include MIT professors Martin Culpepper, Robert Langer, Mitchel Resnick, Laura Schulz, Emma Teng, and Karen Willcox.

J-WEL will work with educators, universities, governments, and companies to revolutionize the effectiveness and reach of education, and aims to prepare people everywhere for a labor market radically altered by technological progress, globalization, and the pursuit of higher living standards around the world. A guiding focus of J-WEL is populations underserved by education both globally and domestically, such as women and girls, a growing displaced population that includes refugees, and those underrepresented in STEM fields.

J-WEL was launched in May by Community Jameel, the social enterprise organization, and MIT. The chairman of Community Jameel is MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78, a life member of the MIT Corporation and 2016 recipient of the MIT Alumni Association’s highest honor for his history of service and philanthropy. J-WEL is named in honor of his father, the late Abdul Latif Jameel, founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel business, whose work to help the lives of tens of thousands of people is continued today by Community Jameel.

“Education and learning are fundamental to a strong society and economy,” says Fady Mohammed Jameel, president of Community Jameel International, “they promote employment and create increased opportunity for all.”

[“Source-news.mit”]

Education department warns new university is ‘fraudulent’

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

Shai Reshef: UoPeople is accredited in the US. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/SEAN GALLUP

South Africans love a freebie as much as anyone, but when a “tuition-free” university hit our shores recently, it rubbed higher education authorities up the wrong way.

On the eve of the launch of the University of the People (UoPeople) in SA, the department of higher education & training issued a media alert warning that the “fraudulent university” was not registered with the department as required by law, and that it could find no evidence that it was accredited with the US education department. UoPeople did not have the authority to enrol students or grant degrees in SA, it said.

Department spokesman Madikwe Mabotha says there is no evidence that the online American university is accredited in SA, and whether or not it is registered with the US education department has no bearing on its accreditation status in SA.

But the local department’s warnings fell on deaf ears, as the launch of UoPeople was covered by television and newspapers across the country, highlighting the desperate demand for fee-free higher education.

UoPeople president Shai Reshef says the university is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, an accreditation body that is approved by the US government. “University of the People has enrolled over 10,000 students from more than 200 countries. We are fully accredited in the US, and US higher education is generally well respected and recognised worldwide.”

In this country, the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) registers qualifications against its National Qualifications Framework, while the Council on Higher Education (CHE) accredits learning programmes and submits qualifications to the qualifications authority for registration under the framework.

SAQA advocacy, communications & support director Wellington Radu says genuine qualifications can be issued by an education provider only if it is registered with one of three quality councils in SA: Umalusi, the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations, and the CHE.

Mergence Investment Managers equity analyst Nolwandle Mthombeni, who works with private education groups, says: “In the context of [SA], it isn’t a recognised institution.”

Mabotha says fraudulent tertiary institutions are prevalent world wide. The problem is especially pronounced in the case of online distance learning companies.

“In this country, bogus operators hide behind so-called ‘international’ accreditation,” he says.

Though the department has shut down many bogus colleges, some operators change their modus operandi once they are caught. Some, like the Academy for Sexology in Pretoria, take their courses online; others change their names.

UoPeople’s Reshef insists the institution is accredited in the US. “At this point we have not felt the need to pursue accreditation in any other country,” he adds.

More than 400 local students have enrolled with UoPeople, even though some say it has not been transparent about its fee structure, as it is not completely cost free.

The university claims to have free programmes, but its steep processing fees mean it isn’t a cheaper education platform. UoPeople charges a nonrefundable US$60 “processing fee”. It also charges $100 for each exam and $200 for an MBA exam.

The average undergraduate student in SA has four exams per semester. Using this average, UoPeople’s cost per semester is actually more than R5,000, and this doubles for MBA students.

Reshef says these “modest fees” ensure that the university remains sustainable.

A registered student told the Financial Mail he is happy to have found an internationally recognised institution to further his studies. Registering was simple, he says, but little contact support is offered and students have to grapple with material on their own.

Another student says the model allows her to work full-time and study in between.

[“Source-businesslive”]