#UN; #FirstWorldChessDay; #Relaxatio; #ReduceAnxiety; #SDG; #FIDE
Geneva/UN, Ju 21 (Canadian-Media): With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a pause for most sport worldwide, the UN has been celebrating a highly-competitive game that you can play safely indoors or online – with the added bonus of helping reduce anxiety, and improving mental health: Monday marks the first ever World Chess Day.
Teenage girls play chess at school in Sana'a, Yemen.
Image credit: © UNICEF/Moohialdin Fuad
“Today is a day of celebration for an intellectual game that for centuries has managed to entertain, stimulate and sometimes even confound millions of us, the world over”, Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General of UN Global Communications said, at a virtual commemorative event.
“And as we celebrate, we remind ourselves of the special value that a game such as chess is bringing to so many people during this awful COVID-19 pandemic”, she added.
In her keynote address, the UN communications chief noted that the pandemic represents a physical, social and economic crisis – imposing restrictions on everyone and rendering sports that can be played online, or at a safe physical distance, more important than ever.
“They feed our lifelong sense of play…nurture our passion and enthusiasm… refresh our minds and bodies…distract us from troubles, and reduce our anxieties”, said Ms. Fleming.
According to reports, the pandemic has spurred a surge in chess, with more players coming together online, to compete and enjoy the game.
The UN has long recognized that sport, along with the arts and physical activity, has the power to change perceptions, prejudices and behaviours, as well as to break down racial and political barriers.
Playing sport can break down discrimination, defuse conflict, promote education, sustainable development, peace and social inclusion – at local, regional and international levels.
Combining sport, scientific thinking and artistic flair, chess is one of the most ancient, intellectual and cultural of games, according to the UN.
It is affordable, inclusive and can be played anywhere; across barriers of language, age, gender, physical ability or social status.
And because chess promotes fairness and mutual respect, it can contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding among peoples and nations.
Supporting the global goals
Chess also offers important opportunities to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
“The UN is mainstreaming sport initiatives into its work towards development and peace, part of our wider efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”, affirmed Ms. Fleming.
This is being done by strengthening education; realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
“Increasingly people realize that sport can act as an enabler of sustainable development, peace and social inclusion”, she added.
A tool to improve the world
Moderating the event, Armenia’s UN Ambassador Mher Margaryan said that chess was an “essential part of Armenia’s culture, having earned our country, with a population of three million people, the title of Olympic and world champion”.
Arkady Dvorkovich, President of the International Federation of Chess (FIDE) noted that he looked forward to making chess “a tool to improve the world”.
Also taking part in the event, the fifteenth world chess champion, groundbreaking Indian grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand, reflected on the long history of chess as a masterful "game of strategy".
The General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution designating the 20th of July as World Chess Day, last year.
#OntarioEducation; #Racism; #Inequality; #Black; #Indigenous
Ottawa, Jul 12 (Canadian-Media): In its efforts to to advance equal 0pportunities for all students to succeed, new detailed changes in education system were announced Jul 9 by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Jamil Jivani, Ontario's Advocate for Community Opportunities, that will help break down barriers for Black, Indigenous and racialized students, media reports said.
Doug Ford. Image credit: Twitter handle
"Above all, our government will not tolerate racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia or hate in any form in our schools...to promote equality in education, we will ensure students from all walks of life are set up for lifelong success," said Ford in a news release.
"To racialized students in Ontario: we see you, and we value you. We will stand with all students on this journey to advance respect, dignity, and opportunity," said Lecce in a news release.
As part of the plan, the government is proposing beginning Sep 2020, through Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, to eliminate discretionary suspensions for students from kindergarten up to Grade 3 with serious offences in mandatory suspensions.
2018-19 suspension data reveals that over 65,000 elementary and secondary students in Ontario were suspended during that school year.
The government's commitment to providing $3.5 million to support the Black and Indigenous grad coach programs would provide wrap-around supports for students who are at risk of not graduating.
As part of the plan, Ontario government would start in September 2021 the process of ending Grade 9 streaming into applied and academic courses and instead introduce a new foundational Grade 9 math course for September 2021.
"We must recognize that today's changes are the result of our government and community members working together," said Jivani in the news release. "In particular, parents in Ontario's Black communities have been a powerful voice for change, providing their unique insights in how suspensions and streaming have disadvantaged black students. Thank you to every parent and community leader who engaged with us in this process."
The Ministry of Education's proposed additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training before the end of the calendar year and government is currently in consultation with teachers' federations, education workers' unions, and trustees' associations on the implementation of this critical initiative.
The Ministry of Education is providing, through the Grants for Student Needs program (GSN), a projected $40.9 million to help school boards implement suspension policies, including the hiring of professional staff.
School boards can use portions of their $10 million in new mental health funding to provide students, educators, and staff with the resources and training needed to implement the new suspension policies.
Ontario government had launched on June 24 the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, will provide advice on how young people can overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success.
All school boards in Ontario will be required to collect race-based data by January 1, 2023, in accordance with the Anti-Racism Act and Anti-Racism Data Standards.
#UN; #Turkey, #WorldHeritageList; #UNESCO; #HagiaSophia
Turkey/UN, Jul 10 (Canadian-Media): As the Turkish President signed a decree on Friday converting the ancient Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, the UN cultural agency (UNESCO) said that it "deeply regrets the decision" made "without prior discussion", having earlier in the day called on the State to abide by its “legal commitments and obligations” in accordance with it’s status as a museum, on the World Heritage List.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. Image credit: UN News/Jing Zhang
The majestic building was founded around 1,500 years ago as a cathedral and is widely regarded as the foremost example of Byzantine Christian architecture in the world. Following the rise of the Ottoman Empire, it became a mosque, but in 1934, was designated a secular museum, shared by Christians, Muslims and those of all faiths or none, alike.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the decree following years of campaigning by a cultural association, and the decision earlier in the day by a Turkish court, handing control of the building over to the nation’s religious directorate, according to news reports, allowing it to reopen for worship as a mosque.
Reacting to the decision, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, described the building as "an architectural masterpiece, and a unique testimony to interactions between Europe and Asia over the centuries. Its status as a museum reflects the universal nature of its heritage and makes it a powerful symbol for dialogue."
Call for dialogue
UNESCO said in a statement issued before the decree, that it had written to the Government and called for “dialogue” with the authorities, “before taking any decision that might impact the universal value of the site.”
Hagia Sophia, is part of the “Historic Areas of Istanbul”, and officially inscribed on the World Heritage List as a museum.
“This inscription entails a number of legal commitments and obligations. Thus, a State must ensure that no modification is made to the outstanding universal value of the property inscribed on its territory”, said the UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
No modification ‘without prior notification’
“Any modification requires prior notification by the State concerned to UNESCO and then, if necessary, examination by the World Heritage Committee.”
“Outstanding universal value” is the basis for the decision to inscribe any property on the World Heritage List, the statement continued.
“The texts adopted by the Committee specify that the ‘Historic Areas of Istanbul’ is inscribed notably for ‘its unique integration of architectural masterpieces reflecting the meeting of Europe and Asia over several centuries’ and because ‘Hagia Sophia became a model for an entire family of churches and later mosques, and the mosaics of the palaces and churches of Constantinople, influenced both Eastern and Western art’”.
The agency noted that in line with its designation, the Hagia Sophia “has a strong symbolic, historical and universal value.”
UNESCO called upon the Turkish authorities "to initiate dialogue without delay, in order to prevent any detrimental effect on the universal value of this exceptional heritage, the state of conservation of which will be examined by the World Heritage Committee at its next session."
“It is important to avoid any implementing measure, without prior discussion with UNESCO, that would affect physical access to the site, the structure of the buildings, the site’s moveable property, or the site’s management,” stressed Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture. Such measures could constitute breaches of the rules derived from the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the agency warned.
#Manitoba; #ManitobaSchools; #ManitobaSavings
Manitoba, Jul 8 (Canadian-Media): Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced on July 8, $48 million for school divisions to cover unanticipated costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and to reopen classrooms in September after the suspension of classroom learning during the past school year, media reports said
Kelvin Goertzen. Image credit: Twitter handle
“Our government’s goal is to focus school funding on classrooms to ensure Manitoba students can thrive and excel,” said Goertzen in a news release. “This is even more important as our province gradually emerges from the grip of COVID-19, and as we continue our plans to return to in-class teaching and learning this fall.”
Millions of dollars saved by the Manitoba government and the school divisions by limiting non-essential spending during the early days of the pandemic were invested in the improvements to technology for remote learning and the remaining savings will go toward costs to reopening classrooms in September as well as for public health measures that may be in place.
In addition, more than $4 million per year will be redirected to classrooms after Manitoba school divisions identified this sum in annual savings as part of an executive management streamlining across multiple public-sector organizations, Goertzen noted.
The fiscal sustainability measures have involved executive compensation, management streamlining and staff efficiencies. School divisions were directed to reduce their executive and senior management complements by 15 percent by Sept 1.
“This is good news for students and parents as it will mean more spent on improving classroom learning,” said Goertzen. “The government measures ensure fiscal sustainability will make a positive impact on Manitoba schools and the education of students across the province.”
Medium-sized and large school divisions were expected to reduce their numbers of positions by 15 percent, which in turn will reduce managerial salaries and operating costs by 15 percent, he added.
#Ontario; #Education; #Streaming; #Discrimination; #racism
Ottawa, Jul 6 (Canadian-Media): After many years' requests by educators and advocacy groups to end the practice of academic streaming in Grade 9, the Ontario government says it will eliminate this system, media reports said.
Stephen Lecce. Image credit: Twitter handle
Through the process of streaming, students must choose to pursue either an "academic" or "applied" track when they begin high school.
Black and low-income students have been affected by this system when it comes to graduation rates and the chance of going to a post-secondary institution.
In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Star, Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce called streaming a "systemic, racist, discriminatory" practice.
"It is clear there is systemic discrimination built within the education system, whether it be streaming of racialized students, suspensions overwhelmingly targeting Black and Indigenous kids, or the lack of merit-based diversity within our education workforce," Lecce said in a statement issued to CBC Toronto Monday.
Students and teachers deserve an education system that is "inclusive, accountable and transparent...and equally empower all children to achieve their potential," said Lecce.
The full plan to eliminate streaming which will be rolled out shortly, is expected to take effect by the 2021-2022 school year, said a spokesperson for Leccer.
Ontario is one Canada's few place that continues to separate students into the hands-on applied stream and the post-secondary-track academic stream as they start high school.
A 2017 report led by York University professor Carl James found that Black teens in the Greater Toronto Area were being streamed into applied course tracks at significantly higher rates than other students.
John Malloy, director of education at the TDSB, Canada's largest school board called the change "necessary and complex" and said "much support and accountability" would be required to ensure success for students.
James cautioned that streaming has been so ingrained in Ontario's secondary school system, it will take time and work to ensure it doesn't continue in more subtle ways.
"Since, culturally, there is the whole idea of streaming, we're going to have to have teachers — and students and parents, as well — start to rethink what it means to place students into a classroom where we're trying to capitalize on their abilities and strengths, and not be streamed into what teachers and others think are their abilities and strengths," he said.
Ontario's NDP education critic Marit Stiles called the move "an important first step" and added that her party will be "watching closely for details" as the policy is rolled out.
The practice of suspensions for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 that has been shown to disproportionately impact Black students, would also banned, said the Ministry of Education,
The 2017 study by James reported that 42 percent of all Black students in the Toronto, York, Peel and Durham school boards had been suspended at least once by the time they left high school.
The ministry says it will also ensure that educators who make racist comments or behave in a discriminatory way are appropriately punished.