#Toronto; #TPH; #TDSB; #ClosureOf8Schools; #Covid19Outbreak
Toronto/Canadian-Media: Toronto District School Board (TDSB) announced on Sunday evening the closure of eight schools, on the advice of Toronto Public Health (TPH), until Jan 4. due to COVID-19 outbreaks at the facilities.
Image credit: TDSB website
TPH said that they would investigate these outbreaks during the closure period.
The eight schools include Thorncliffe Park Public School, Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy, City Adult Learning Centre, Humewood Community School, R H McGregor Elementary School, David Lewis Public School, Grenoble Public School, and Oakridge Junior Public School.
Ryan Bird, spokesperson for the TDSB said that schools will be closed to all students and staff and added that the TDSB will continue to update school communities on the status of the schools.
#BCSchools; #CommunityGamingGrants; #Covid19Pandemic; #ExtracurricularActivities; #PACs; #DPACs; #BCFoodBanks
British Columbia/Canadian-Media: Funding of $11 million through Community Gaming Grants is being given to school groups throughout the province of British Columbia (BC) during 2020-21 school year to promote availability of extracurricular activities when students can safely participate, media reports said.
Image credit: BC Govt website
BC Schools are funded each year through parent advisory councils (PACs) and district parent advisory councils (DPACs) to promote activities that benefit the social, cultural and physical health and well-being of students.
Realizing the difficulty for PACs to raise funds in their communities during the vulnerable situation, Andrea Sinclair, president, BC Confederation of PACs, also acknowledged Community Gaming Grants' continuous financial support activities for students and parents during the 2020-21 school year in funding more than 1,300 PACs DPACs in the province.
BC Confederation of PACs. Image credit: Facebook page
Acknowledging the hard work and creativity of the PACs for their continued efforts to safely engage students in extracurricular activities during this difficult year, Josie Osborne, BC's Minister of Municipal Affairs said,
“These activities contribute significantly to students’ health and wellness by providing opportunities to connect, play and learn.”
Extracurricular experiences provided through Community Gaming Grant funds for students in K-12 include support student publications, grad ceremonies and sports or playground equipment as well as writing, drama and music clubs.
"While things look different this year, B.C. PACs are doing wonderful work to ensure students have extracurricular outlets where they connect with each other and share the things they enjoy together,” said Jennifer Whiteside, BC's Minister of Education
The Community Gaming Grants program distributes $140 million each year to support approximately 5,000 not-for-profit community organizations throughout the province.
Food Banks in BC during the COVID-19 crisis were also supported in March 2020 by the Province's $3-million emergency grant from the Community Gaming Grants program.
#UN; #Journalists; #PressFreedomChampions; #UNESCO; #WorldPressFreedomConference
UN/Canadian-Media: Prominent journalists and champions of press freedom from across the world are examining ways to overcome increasing challenges facing the media during a two-day online conference organized jointly by the UN’s cultural and educational agency, UNESCO, and the Netherlands.
A mural on a blast wall in downtown Kabul commemorates journalists killed in Afghanistan in 2016. Image credit; UNAMA/Fardin Waezi
he World Press Freedom Conference 2020, which began on Wednesday, features interactive panels and discussions covering issues such as investigating the killings of journalists, online violence against women journalists, and the media’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not only are journalists conveying vital information during the pandemic, they also help us distinguish all manner of truth from falsehood, which is fundamental to our social contract”, said Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General.
“Yet, journalists continue to be targeted, harassed and attacked. In recent years, threats against them have grown because they disrupt, because they tell the truth. Or, to put it simply, because they do their job.”
No ‘press’ without ‘freedom’
Between 2010 and 2019, nearly 900 journalists were killed in the line of duty, according to UNESCO data; crimes that mainly go unpunished. Women journalists have faced harassment, including physical or sexual threats, whether online or in real life, while the pandemic has added to the already precarious financial situation of the media industry.
There can be no “press” without “freedom”, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, stressed, acknowledging how he counts on the media to keep him informed about what is happening at home and around the world.
Mr. Blok said he had spoken earlier on Thursday with young journalists from Ethiopia and Libya “and I really could tell them from the bottom of my heart: We need you. We need you to know what is happening in your country, and to do what we have to do as ministers.”
Corrosion and contagion
During the first panel, Elisabeth Bumiller, Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Times, spoke of the “rough four years” American media had to weather, covering the Trump administration.
“He has called us ‘the enemy of the people’, he’s used the term ‘fake news’, which has been repeated by 50 Presidents, Prime Ministers and other government officials around the world”, she said.
Although these attacks have had what Ms. Bumiller described as “a corrosive effect” on the media in the United States, she reported that The Times has nonetheless seen record levels of readership and digital subscriptions.
However, Sudanese-born journalist Nima El Badir, a Senior International Correspondent with CNN in London, was wary that the “contagion” of populism is still spreading across the globe.
“I worry that we are taking a breath and kind of exhaling a little too early”, she said. “The sense that we get is that there is a contagion; that the lessons of the populist leadership, of the populist wave – whether in the US, the UK, or Europe – has been learned very well by leaders around the world.”
Democracy in danger
Ms. El Badir pointed to the situation in Ethiopia, where a communications blackout has been imposed in the north since the start of the Tigray crisis a month ago.
“How can President Trump, how can Prime Minister Johnson, how can any of the many leaders within the European Union, speak out about lack of access when they themselves would love to nothing more than exactly the same? If they could shut us down, they would”, he claimed.
For Maria Ressa, Editor-in-Chief of the Philippines online news website Rappler, the rise of populism, and attacks against journalists, have been enabled by technology.
Ms. Ressa, who has been arrested nine times, believes people must give consideration to their news sources. Social media penetration in the Philippines is high, she said, describing it as “Facebook country.”
“Well, our dystopian present has now hit many democracies around the world, and we’ve got to do something about this”, she warned.
“And that is to make sure that news reaches you; that the platforms, the social media platforms, because of their business model, that they do not insidiously manipulate us to tear democracy down.”
#UN; #UNICEF; #Covid19Pandemic; #LargeScaleSchoolClosure; #UNHCR; WFP; #UNESCO
UN/Canadian-Media: Countries fighting the coronavirus should not impose nationwide or large-scale school closures, which is the wrong response and compounds the societal cost of the disease, with 320 million children locked out of school at the start of December, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.
Six-year-old Ugyen Jigme Yoedzer from Bhutan says his teacher has been a source of inspiration during the COVID-19 lockdown. Image credit: © UNICEF
“What we have learned about schooling during the time of COVID is clear: the benefits of keeping schools open, far outweigh the costs of closing them, and nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs”, Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education, said in a statement.
Closing schools did not help in the fight against COVID-19, but simply removed a system that provides children with support, food and safety as well as learning, UNICEF said. Instead of shutting them, governments should prioritize school reopening and make classrooms as safe as possible.
Don't scapegoat schools
“Evidence shows that schools are not the main drivers of this pandemic. Yet, we are seeing an alarming trend whereby governments are once again closing down schools as a first recourse rather than a last resort. In some cases, this is being done nationwide, rather than community by community, and children are continuing to suffer the devastating impacts on their learning, mental and physical well-being and safety”, Mr. Jenkins said.
November saw a 38 per cent jump in the number of children affected by school closures, UNICEF said, after a big wave of re-openings the previous month.
“In spite of everything we have learned about COVID-19, the role of schools in community transmission, and the steps we can take to keep children safe at school, we are moving in the wrong direction - and doing so very quickly”, the top education official added.
Reopening plans must include expanded access to education, including remote learning, and rebuilding education systems to withstand future crises, UNICEF said.
The agency cited a recent study using data from 191 countries, published by the independent non-profit foundation, Insights for Education, which showed no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates in the community.
The UN agency, together with the UN educational agency UNESCO, the refugee agency UNHCR, the UN World Food Programme and the World Bank, has published a Framework for Reopening Schools, with practical advice covering areas such as policy reform, financing requirements, safe operations and reaching the most marginalized children, who are the most likely to drop out of school altogether.