Free bicycles help keep Indian girls in school
The daily trip to high school was expensive, long and eventually, too much for Indian teenager Nahid Farzana, who decided she was going to drop out. Then, the state government gave her a bicycle. Two years later, she is about to graduate from high school and wants to be a teacher.
The eastern state of Bihar has been so successful at keeping teenage girls in school, the bike giveaways have spread to neighbouring states. Now the Indian government wants to expand it across the country in hopes it might help improve female literacy. Before starting the program in 2007, officials in Bihar, one of India’s poorest and least developed states, despaired over how to educate the state’s females, whose literacy rate of 53 per cent is more than 20 points below that of its males.
“We found that the high school dropout rate soared when girls reached the ninth grade. This was primarily because there are fewer high schools and girls had to travel longer distances to get to school,” said Ms Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s principal secretary overseeing education.
Poor families could not spare the money for transport, or were reluctant to let girls travel so far away, fearing for their safety. The program was an instant success, with the number of girls registered in the ninth grade in Bihar’s state schools more than tripling in four years, from 175,000 to 600,000.
“The results are remarkable. The school dropout rate for girls has plunged,” says Ms Singh.
In remote villages, along dusty potholed lanes surrounded by sheaves of waving wheat, gaggles of school girls can be seen jauntily cycling to school. The program has also raised the status of girls, who are often seen as a burden in son-obsessed India, where parents have to pay such hefty dowries to marry off their daughters that the family is often indebted for decades. Now, girls are bringing an asset to the family, Ms Singh said.
Mr Mohammed Jalaluddin, who runs a tea stall in Rampur Singhara, says his daughter’s bike is used by the entire family. Nizhat Parveen, his 16-year-old daughter, drops her brother at his school on the way to hers. When she returns, the family uses the bicycle for chores, from shopping for groceries to making food deliveries from the tea shop.
Bihar is also giving free school uniforms to girls to keep them in school. The bike grant money is put into a joint bank account in the names of the student and her parents, and school administrators monitor whether the girls buy bicycles and use them, or if the bike is sold and the girl ends up leaving school, Ms Singh said. But mostly, the program operates on the honour system.
Like bees to honey, kids and dirt are inseparable – and teachers across Canada are turning that impulse into an educational one.
School gardens have become so popular that an Ottawa-based charity launched a school garden network Tuesday, complete with case studies, lesson guides and rabbit-proofing advice for teachers. The launch comes weeks after Manitoba completed its first survey of school gardens, and professors from two Ontario universities initiated research into the learning potential of some seeds and a patch of dirt.
Little is known about the number or type of school gardens in Canada, but researchers and policy makers are working to catch up to a movement that has been quietly growing over the last decade. They believe that local food campaigns, neighbourhood greening projects and a new emphasis on environmental sustainability in school curricula could be behind the trend.
Maurice DiGiuseppe, one of the Ontario professors, has noticed a shift: School gardens used to be more common in elementary schools and they were filled with decorative plants and flowers. But he’s seeing more and more high schools growing produce and herbs in courtyards and greenhouses.
“What they’re starting to change into now is not just plants and greenery for aesthetic or environmental purposes,” said Dr. DiGiuseppe, a member of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s faculty of education. “We’re starting to see more gardening for educational and social purposes.”
It was about five years ago that the trash-ridden courtyard at Windermere Secondary School in Vancouver was turned into a garden. The school now has 13 plants beds, a greenhouse and an aquaponics system – a mini nutrient recycling system filled with plants and fish that comes in handy each semester when a new batch of Grade 10 science students get to learn about the nitrogen cycle.
Some of the produce – tomatoes, kale, garlic and basil, among others – is served in the school cafeteria. In the spring, students raise money for supplies by selling seedlings to teachers.
Henry Lau, a Grade 12 student at Windermere, spends nearly every school day in the garden.
“I’ve grown pretty attached to it,” the 18-year-old said. “It’s definitely nice to get your hands dirty.”
When Mr. Lau first started at Windermere, he says he didn’t know anything about gardening, but this fall he’ll enter his first year at the University of British Columbia’s food nutrition and health program.
It can be a struggle for schools to get a garden started, according to Tim Woods, executive director of Nutrients for Life. His charity is the one that recently launched a school garden network.
The site offers solutions to the most common problems teachers face, including how to ensure all the plants don’t die over the summer holidays.
Many teachers make a case for helping a generation who are spending too much time indoors get a little dirt beneath their fingernails. But research suggests that contact with nature improves attentiveness, retention of curriculum and emotional development. Gardens also fit neatly into the latest pedagogical trends, including experiential and play-based learning.
Friday morning, kindergarten students at Winchester Public School in downtown Toronto dashed between mint, zucchini and tomato plants. They collected samples of important parts of a garden in resealable bags.
Five-year-old Niya Ibrahim was filling her bag with dirt when she spotted a snail on a wooden garden post.
“I’ve never touched a snail before,” she said.
Niya lives on the eighth floor of an apartment building and has never had a garden of her own, but she had lots of ideas about snail ecology. “Is it like a worm? Does it clean the dirt?” she said.
Her teacher, Kim Atwill-Bradbury, says this experience-based kind of learning makes a big impression. She lets their curiosity and their imaginations guide them, and then brings them back to the classroom for a lesson.
“It’s a way to make teaching more authentic,” she said.
Students at Milestones Community School in Leesburg use yoga to fill a state mandated 30-minute exercise period
Schools adding yoga to phys-ed classes
A former physical education teacher is helping to bring a successful project of teaching yoga to high school students to schools across New Brunswick.
Jenny Kierstead works with Breathing Space Yoga in Halifax and helped design the Yoga grade 11 and 12 curriculum for the Nova Scotia Department of Education.
The program’s success is now prompting schools across Canada to pick it up.
She said Nova Scotia was the first place in North America to offer yoga as a high school physical education credit.
Classes are already available across Nova Scotia as well as at Kennebecasis Valley High School in the Saint John area.
Kierstead said she’s already taught more than 200 teachers to implement this course and they are seeing impressive results in the classroom.
“Kids are being kinder and more compassionate and we’re noticing that the whole culture of schools is changing,” she said.
“So teachers are finding it easier to really deliver the message of kindness, compassion and respect.”
The former physical education teacher said the results are having positive effects beyond the classroom.
“There was a testimonial written from a girl who’s had a very challenging upbringing with alcoholism and whatnot. And she’s noticing through yoga that she’s actually able to sleep through the night,” she said.
She’s now helping to bring the practice to New Brunswick high school students.
People from all over New Brunswick are enrolling in the $250 workshops in Moncton, which will run on weekends through August.
The yoga classes will be offered in the schools in September.
Kierstead said she believes the classes are an important addition to a physical education curriculum.
She said there are benefits to students who normally do not participate in gym classes and other activities.
“Students are more fit, especially the students that typically sit on the sidelines in phys. ed. Girls are responding very positively to it because of its non-competitive nature,” she said.
“It’s a very complete form of physical activity. So it’s targeting the big physical challenges that kids have today: obesity, diabetes and inactivity.”
Greenest in the class; Every hour is Earth Hour for the students who protect the planet all the time
Israel joined world nations this week for Earth Hour, but some high schoolers always have the well-being of the planet in their sights.
Sulam TzurSulam Tzor school at Kibbutz Gesher ZivKibbutz Gesher HaZiv, for example, has already won several prizes for being one of the greenest schools in Israel. Sulam Tzor recycles 32 types of waste, from including the cafeteria’s fryer oil to electronics, plastic, paper, cans, and cellular phones. Each classroom is equipped with three recycling bins: one for organic waste, one for paper, and one for batteries. Rainwater is used in the toilets.
But the school’s crowning green glory is its solar energy system, which is located on the roof and produces 150 kilowatts, providing the school with free electricity. Principal Regina Aviram would like to see a similar system installed on the roof of the soon-to-be-built amphitheater, which would produce another 150 kilowatts.
The Environmental High School at Midreshet Sde Boker also serves as an example of going green. Three years ago, the school began building an eco-friendly park that uses purified wastewater. Students have even started a compost pile that produces organic fertilizer from food waste collected in the dining hall – which is all cooked in solar-operated ovens.
“The school focuses on the environment all day. We study and work on ecology, protecting the soil and the water,” explained 16-year-old Nitzan Gat.
*edit* Spellings were corrected. Thanks, ronbarak!
Flowers, confetti on first day of school in North Korea
North Korean students in Pyongyang celebrated the first day of their new school year this week with flowers and confetti.
It’s a moment marked by ceremony for students entering a school for the first time, whether it’s primary school, a university or something in between.
It’s a tradition for the parents of primary school students to pin flowers on their new school uniforms. At middle school, older returning students do the honors for their new classmates.
At Pyongyang Middle School No. 1, which late leader Kim Jong Il attended as a teen, older students showered their new schoolmates with confetti Monday and pinned bright pink flowers on their chests.
Mothers wearing traditional Korean dresses posed for snapshots with their children, then squeezed into the back of classrooms as the students took their seats and opened up notebooks for the first day of school.
At the front of the room was a big whiteboard, with the portraits of late President Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall above it. At the back was a billboard with hand-painted instructions on rules and policies.
“I promise on behalf of my classmates to study hard,” one student said in a brief ceremony in the courtyard outside the school.
Cooking school spreads immigrants’ skills and ethnic recipes
If you want to learn how to make Vietnamese egg rolls, you can always check out a cookbook, a food blog, or perhaps a site like Epicurious.
But Linh Nguyen — who is teaching a cooking class here in San Francisco — says that that’s not really the way to do it. In fact, her family doesn’t even own a cookbook.
“In a Vietnamese house, there are no measuring spoons or measuring cups,” says Nguyen. “Everything is sort of just done by the handful, or the bowlful. And the recipes are all sort of passed down from one person to another.”Nguyen teaches for Culture Kitchen, a company that hires first-generation immigrants as cooking instructors. Unlike Nguyen’s family, Culture Kitchen teachers do write down recipes.
(click-through for full story)
Used shipping containers find new use as classrooms
Let’s be clear. The idea of recycling shipping containers as bespoke pieces of micro-architecture is by no means unique to Tsai Design Studio, but its Safmarine Container Project - real, built, and in use - is no less admirable as a result. The 39-foot (12-meter) long, 538-sq foot (50-sq m) container is living a second life as a classroom for 5-6-year old pupils at the Vissershok School, Cape Town, South Africa.
The most radical addition to the container is a horizontal solar shade - an expansive second roof above the container preventing solar radiation directly arriving at the classroom’s outer surfaces thanks to the buffer of air between. This is an essential measure in warmer climbs as steel is an efficient conductor of heat. Were the building to be used at night it would probably have required extensive insulation too.
Windows and doors are obviously a requirement, but windows have been added to both sides to allow the through-ventilation of the space.
Attention has been paid to the surrounding site. A sloping embankment afforded the opportunity for the creation of an outdoor mini amphitheater, and an outdoor play area has been included, inspired by student Marshaan Brink’s design, an entry in a competition held by Woolworths, who along with AfriSam and shipping company Safmarine, co-sponsored the project. A vegetable garden has also been planted.
Of course, any opportunity to reuse containers in the developing world (or, technically in South Africa’s case, a newly industrialized world as of last year) should be seized where budgets are tight. But that’s just as true for the so-called developed world, too.
(click-through for full story; click here for photo gallery)
PICTURED ABOVE: Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane delivers her State of the Province speech, Monday February 21, 2012.
Gauteng education system commended
Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has described education in the province as a major success story.
Delivering her State of the Province Address in Mamelodi, Pretoria, on Monday, Mokonyane cited improved access to schooling and an increasing matric pass rate as evidence of the strides made in education in the province.
“We have vastly improved access to schooling - we achieved a gross enrolment ratio of 84% in primary schools and 83% in secondary schools by 2010,” she said.
In addition, there was a significant improvement - from 57% in 2008 to 75% in 2011 - in the percentage of learners who complete schooling at matric level.
(click-through for full story)
South Africa youth showing improvement in school
More youngsters in the country’s schools are completing Grade 9 - from 80% in 2003 to 88% in 2010 and more are also successfully completing their Grade 12 with over 24% qualifying for Bachelor of Arts studies at universities, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Friday.
South Africa has also doubled Grade R enrolment from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 last year, with over 12 million learners now being accommodated in the country’s schooling system.
“We have built a relatively stable schooling system that has extended the right to basic education… we are set to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals on expanding access to education,” Motshekga said.
(click-through for full story)
This comes after Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti during his visit to the area announced that they are going to build a structure which will host a computer laboratory, cultural centre, community hall and a library.
“We’ve a good working relationship with Apple Computer and we’ve an agreement with them to supply computers in 13 rural schools across the country.
“Just like in other areas, we will do the same here and this will help young people in this village connect with the rest of the world,” he said.
Afghan academy seeks to ease pain of war with music
A cacophony ranging from Asian string instruments to the delicate cadences of classical piano pours out of a two-story building in central Kabul.
Here, at Afghanistan’s sole music academy, students are taught music with the hope it will bring comfort in the face of war and poverty, bringing back cellos and violins to revive a rich musical legacy disrupted by decades of violence and suppression.
“We are committed to build ruined lives through music, given its healing power,” Ahmad Sarmast, head of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, told Reuters.
USDA sets guidelines for healthier school meals
The new meal requirements are part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by Michelle Obama.
(click-through for full story)
Editor’s Note: We LOVE the idea of campaigning for healthy and hunger-free kids; we wish the war on obese kids would go away, though! Shaming fat people (of any age) isn’t very good for their mental health, which is just as (if not more) important as their physical health. Marilyn Wann (and a LOT of her followers) are taking a stand against shaming and for body peace for all.
Okay, okay, we’ll get off our soapbox and back to the regularly scheduled good news.
The Department of Home Affairs aims to speed up visa applications for the 2012 academic year to make life a little easier for foreign academics and students.
In line with the department’s commitment to efforts to recruit “critically skilled” foreign nationals, it will assist foreign academics and students who require work and study visas, Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni said on Thursday.
Gauteng to get 36 new schools this year
(click-through for full story)
To most people Oprah Winfrey is known as one of the world’s most powerful media moguls. But to the students who attend her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, she’s simply “Mom Oprah.”
Like any parent, Winfrey beamed and cried as she watched 72 of her “daughters,” the school’s first class, graduate yesterday.