Race Ruckus: An independent committee set up by the education ministry is investigating allegations that hundreds of Malaysian schools segregate students along racial lines, according to the New Straits Times. (Fifty-eight percent of the people in the Southeast Asian nation are Malay, 27 percent are Chinese, and 15 percent are Indian and other ethnicities.) Among the complaints, parents say many schools ban non-Muslims from Arabic classes. Principals deny any wrongdoing. “After considering [academic performance and gender], we also ensure there is a balance in the racial mix,” says Alimuddin Md Dom, president of the Conference of Secondary School Principals.
Paper Chase: The Israeli police want teachers to know cheating doesn’t pay. Investigators are cracking down on 12,000 government employees they claim have used fake credentials to get salary increases since 1985. This group includes teachers who allegedly paid $5,000 each for phony diplomas from Israeli campuses of both the University of Latvia and Vermont’s Burlington College, the Jerusalem Post reports. Police also allege that the head of the Histadrut Teachers’ Union, Avraham Ben-Shabbat, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the two institutions in return for helping them recruit students. Ben-Shabbat told reporters, “I am innocent,” but announced he was resigning his position to concentrate on clearing his name.
Under Siege: Catholic schools in north Belfast briefly became fortresses for their teachers in January after a Protestant paramilitary group issued a death threat against them. When a member of the Red Hand Defenders threatened to shoot anyone working in the schools for “antagonizing the loyalist community,” Belfast’s assistant chief constable ordered hundreds of police to escort students and teachers to schools and guard the facilities, reports the Belfast News Letter. Teachers released a statement saying, “We reject all attempts to split us into separate camps, and we reiterate our absolute determination to work together for the good of education . . . in an atmosphere free from terror.” The threat was retracted five days later after a public outcry and condemnation from other loyalists.
Class President: After nearly 14 years in exile in the United States, a former Ugandan president has returned to his home country to become a volunteer teacher, reports the Agence France-Presse. Godfrey Binaisa, who went back to Uganda last summer, recently announced that he would teach English to 5th and 6th grade students at the Kisigula Blessed Primary School when classes resumed in February. The 84-year-old was president for a year in 1979 until a palace coup ousted him. Although he has no teaching experience, Binaisa is motivated to instruct by example. “I wish all educated Africans could take up voluntary roles in their countries so that we can stop the dependence on Western countries,” he says.
Vol. 13, Issue 6, Page 9Published in Print: March 1, 2002, as Dispatches