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Questionable Duty: A Bombay teachers’ union has protested a government requirement that more than 30,000 teachers conduct a door-to-door survey while their students are occupied with city-supervised annual exams, reports the Times of India. The government ordered each teacher to visit 100 households with a survey designed to help the region determine the number of children who don’t attend school. Educators can be punished if they refuse to take part. “Time and again, teachers have been told to carry out duties other than teaching,” union leader Ramesh Joshi complains. Last year, tens of thousands of teachers missed class while counting people for the national census, tallying cable connections for a technology study, and collecting other information for the government.


A New Day: On March 23, thousands of Afghan schools opened for the first time in six years. To celebrate, interim leader Hamid Karzai declared a national holiday known as the Day of Education, which will be observed in March each year, the Xinhua News Agency reports. “Afghan children passed their days with guns, but now they will pass their days with pens,” said Karzai. The government’s back-to-school campaign has so far cost more than $22 million— money used for placement exams, catch-up courses for long-absent students, and school supplies—provided by international organizations such as UNICEF.


Power of the Pen: Despite the widespread use of computers, a psychology professor in Ontario warns that grades and self-esteem may suffer if children can’t write well with a pen, reports the Ottawa Citizen. Marvin Simner observed students at a public school and at a private one where children did writing drills for 30 minutes a day. The private school children wrote faster and more legibly, fared better on essays, and recorded more accurate notes, he claims. Simner argues that nice handwriting leads to higher grades because teachers—even if they’re not aware of it—give credit for presentation. Penmanship, he says, is “the same as skiing, tennis, or anything else. You can’t just dabble in it. You need practice.”


Oh, Bee-Have: Two hundred high school students, outraged that a teacher was being transferred to another school, released bags of bees in their headmaster’s office in March. The protest occurred during a ceremony to appoint a new school director, Keter Saina, reports the East African Standard. Education officials and guests fled from the school for safety, then returned under police guard. The angry students shouted at the head of the district education office and Saina, demanding that their transferred instructor not only be allowed to stay, but also be named headmaster. The students’ request was ignored, and they were sent home indefinitely.

—Katharine Dunn

Vol. 13, Issue 8, Page 13

Published in Print: May 1, 2002, as Dispatches
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