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Published in Print: May 1, 2004, as Dispatches

Dispatches

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JAPAN

Don’t Re Mi: Here’s one song Julie Andrews wouldn’t be caught dead singing. The Mainichi Daily News reports that an elementary school principal taught 4th grade students a macabre version of "Do, Re, Mi," the chirpy song from The Sound of Music. The principal, who was substituting for the class’s absent teacher, substituted new lyrics, all of which were related to death. The principal says he did so only because "the kids were all a bit bored." Singing the song in Japanese, the principal made references to skulls, hearses, and mummies before ending the song by saying to pupils, "All right, now let’s die." School board members were not pleased.


FRANCE

Dress Code: French classrooms will take on a decidedly more secular appearance this fall. Under a bill passed by both houses of the French Parliament and signed by President Jacques Chirac this past March, students in public schools will be barred from wearing Islamic head scarves, Jewish skull-caps, large Christian crosses, or any other religious apparel. The Associated Press reports that the penalties for refusing to remove such items will range from a warning to suspension. French officials say the legislation will protect France’s secular tradition and tamp down religious fundamentalism, but Sisters in Islam, among other religious groups, have called the law hypocritical. "In banning the wearing of ‘ostentatious’ religious symbols in schools, the French Republic has undermined its own fundamental belief in liberty, equality, and fraternity," the group wrote to the Malaysian paper New Straits Times.


GERMANY

High Times: As a practical joke, a student at the Herder Grammar School in Lüneburg, Germany, let his teachers eat cake but neglected to tell them that cannabis was among its main ingredients. According to the Irish News, the 19-year-old’s drugged chocolate cake sent 10 teachers to the hospital. It was among several baked goods available for sale in the school’s staff room, where teachers ate and paid for them as part of a fund-raiser to benefit a children’s charity in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The student was not expelled but must perform community service and pay a fine.


KENYA

Homework Bound: It took a lawsuit against the Kenyan government to manage it, but 72 orphaned children are finally in school after officials at several public primary schools in Nairobi were forced to enroll the HIV-positive students. The Nyumbani Children’s Home sued on behalf of the group after they were denied admission for the third year in a row, according to the German wire service Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The government had been insisting that the children were denied admission because of classroom shortages. "There’s no discrimination, whatever status," said Joseph Meya, an undersecretary at the education ministry.

—Urmila Subramanyam

Vol. 15, Issue 6, Page 17

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