Kenya teacher from remote village crowned world’s best, wins $1m

Teacher photoPeter Tabichi gives away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students [Jon Gambrell/AP]

A maths and physics teacher from a secondary school in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley has won the $1m Global Teacher Prize for 2019, organisers have said.

Peter Tabichi, who is giving away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students, received the prize at a ceremony on Saturday in Dubai, hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter … This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.

“This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything,” he added after beating nine finalists from around the world to claim the award.

The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation, which organises the event and handed out the prize for the fifth time, praised Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent”.

All this combined, it said in a statement, “has led his poorly-resource school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions”.

Tabichi, 36, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent.

Around 95 percent of the school’s pupils “hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home,” the statement added.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” the statement read.

To get to school, some students have to walk 7km along roads that become impassable during the rainy season.

The school, with a student-teacher ratio of 58 to 1, has only one desktop computer for the pupils and poor internet, but despite that Tabichi “uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students”, the foundation said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video message, saying “your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent”.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/kenya-teacher-remote-village-crowned-world-wins-1m-190325054958871.html

Child workers in Vietnam stay safer knowing labor rights, self-defense tactics

Vietnam photoNguyen Thi Tien, 15, left, sells fruit on a road near An Lo market in Thua Thien Hue Province. At a recent workshop run by the Filles de Marie Immaculée sisters in Hue City, Vietnam, Tien was trained in how to deal with abusive adult customers. (Joachim Pham)

by Joachim Pham

On a cool evening in early February, Ho Thi Mai Lan smilingly invited three beer drinkers to buy salted peanuts and baked rice paper at an open-air bar along An Cuu River in Hue City.

One of the men pretended to show interest in the 14-year-old girl’s wares, asking the price while he was fixing her with an unblinking gaze and touching her hand.

Lan, a food street vendor who makes 50,000 dong ($2.15) per day, signaled to her friends, who were also selling food nearby. They rushed to surround the men, drawing attention by loudly exhorting them to buy food.

Flustered, one of the men immediately bought a packet of salted peanuts for 65 cents and chased the kids off.

Lan said that in the past, not knowing how to avoid such incidents, she had to suffer maltreatment and abuse from those who bought her food.

But, after help from the Filles de Marie Immaculée (Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception), she is better equipped to handle risky situations.

The sisters organized a special workshop in January in Hue City to arm child workers, orphans and other children at risk to fend off harm and understand their rights.

Nguyen Thi Tien, 15, confidently sells fruit by herself on the street to make more income after she finishes her work at a produce shop at An Lo Market in Phong Dien district of Thua Thien Hue Province.

Tien, an orphan, earns 1.1 million dong ($47) per month to support her ailing grandmother, who is 81. Tien says she once was physically attacked by a drunken man and, after that, did not dare to travel alone.

“I have phone numbers of some Catholic volunteers, social workers and fellows to call them in case I am bullied, abused or unfairly treated, so I no longer fear strangers,” says Tien.

The young woman, whose parents died with HIV/AIDS, dropped out of school when she was in second grade. Every day she pedals five kilometers from her home to the market and passes through a cemetery, putting her at risk of physical attacks.

Lan and Tien joined 50 others like them for help from the Filles de Marie sisters at the training session in Hue.

Sr. Maria Nguyen Thi Phu, an organizer, says the workshop teaches skills and practical knowledge about children’s rights to child laborers and orphans vulnerable to physical and sexual attacks.

Phu says, through pictures, video clips and group discussion, the children learn their rights to protection from discrimination, abuse, exploitation and abandonment. They learn about their rights to express their thoughts about youth issues, enjoy basic living standards and receive health care.

The nun says the workshop offers participants training on how to work in groups, listen to other people, observe situations and present their views. Then they turn to roleplaying exercises to practice what they have learned.

Participants played a game called “fish catcher.” A boy was blindfolded and directed by some girls to collect “fish,” represented by pieces of paper strewn on the ground, while other players shouted loudly. The boy, who was pretending to be an attacker, was confused by too much information and noise. The game taught the children how to fluster a potential predator.

Phu says children are also taught how to deal with potentially violent incidents and being exploited in the workplace. Many children do heavy work at construction sites, harvest rice, look after animals or wash dishes at restaurants but are paid half or two-thirds of what adults make for doing the same work, she says.

According to Thua Thien Hue Province data, 4,600 children have to work to support their families, live in slums or are affected by HIV/AIDS. An average of 33 cases of child abuse are reported every year in the province, higher than in much larger provinces, 2017 records show.

In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security estimates that 1,579 children in Vietnam were victims of sexual abuse, rape, murder, violence or trafficking. Many cases went unreported because they happened in remote areas or were hidden, experts say. In 2017, Vietnam had 23.9 million children under 15.

Nguyen Tan Tai, 17, a workshop participant, said the session taught him his rights and offered useful tips that had been completely unfamiliar to him.

Tai shared his family stories with others at the workshop. He says he saw his stepfather, who was addicted to alcohol and drugs, regularly beat his mother and abused his younger sister while shouting at him. The stepfather died of AIDS in 2017.

Tai also said in 2015 he worked four months at a construction site in Da Nang City, and a builder denied him his wages. “But I did not know how to make him pay me,” he said.

The youth, who now works for a computer shop, said that last year his younger sister and he joined a church-run club for at-risk children. They were taught vocational skills, and their mother was given seed money to buy clothes to sell at the market for a living.

Phu, who is in charge of underprivileged children in Hue, said 30 members from the club established in 2017 gather to play games, draw pictures, share problem-solving skills, and go camping. All these activities aim to unite the young members so they can help each other to overcome challenges and protect themselves from abuses.

The nun said it is difficult to approach children who are from various locales and work at places far from their homes. Many refuse to reveal their backgrounds for fear of discrimination, ill treatment or bullying by others.

“We must be patient and need more time to work with those marginalized children and offer them chances to live a life of dignity,” Phu says.

She says nuns also provide basic education and vocational skills at eight parishes to some 100 children who left school early. They are sent to work in safer places or with employers that have ties to the sisters.

Phu says the nuns plan to hold more workshops and educate local communities about children’s rights in the future so as to prevent cases of child abuse.

 

 

 
https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/child-workers-vietnam-stay-safer-knowing-labor-rights-self-defense-tactics?utm_source=MARCH_21_GSR+DIGEST&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email

Amid continued Midwest flooding, Catholic groups step up to help

Nebraska photoFlooding in Bellevue, Nebraska, March 2019. Credit: Aspects and Angles / Shutterstock.

By Michelle La Rosa

Omaha, Neb., (CNA)- As devastating flood waters continue to rise in parts of the Midwest, Catholics are working to raise funds for both short-term aid and long-term rebuilding efforts.

“Please join Archbishop [George] Lucas in praying for all those displaced or otherwise affected by the ongoing flooding,” said the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska.

A special collection in Omaha this weekend will help fund recovery efforts. Parishes have been asked to evaluate needs in their communities and request funds for both immediate recovery needs and long-term rebuilding.

“Grants may be distributed to purchase water, food, shelter, cleaning supplies, tools, building materials, and tuition assistance for displaced employees,” said archdiocesan spokesman Deacon Tim McNeil said.

He added that funds can go not only to the immediate needs of parishes, but to help with broader community assistance.

Nebraska has been among the hardest-hit states by severe flooding in recent days, although several other Midwestern states have also been affected as a “bomb cyclone” tore through the region last week, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain. The floods that have resulted have washed out roads, destroyed homes, and burst dams, compounding the damage throughout the area.

The majority of counties in Nebraska are currently under a state of emergency, as are nearly half of the counties in Iowa.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the storm has already caused “the most extensive damage our state has ever experienced.” Repairing damaged infrastructure could take months, and agricultural losses in ranching and growing crops could reach nearly $1 billion.

As residents scramble to evacuate, watching their livelihoods wash away in front of their eyes, their neighbors are doing what they can to offer support.

Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska is currently holding a bottled water drive to help students at Peru State College, who have been displaced for several days and are facing contaminated water for the foreseeable future.

The organization is also accepting donations to aid those who are suffering from the flooding.

“It is at times like these that we are all called to help our friends, relatives and neighbors who are suffering,” Catholic Social Services said in a statement. “Please help us help those who have lost so much.”

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Elkhorn, Nebraska, is teaming up with Bethany Lutheran, Brookside, Peace Presbyterian and COPE to help with long-term rebuilding support for flood victims.

Proceeds from the March 15 Lenten Fish Fry at St. Patrick’s were donated to flood relief efforts.

Meanwhile, northwestern counties in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are in the path of the flood waters.

“The towns are preparing,” said Kevin Murphy, executive director of marketing and communications for Catholic Charities in the diocese.

He told CNA that the major highway in the area has been closed, as the Missouri River is expected to reach near-record flooding levels.

Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph could also be feeling the effects of the flooding in a very direct way – the organization’s satellite office in Buchanan County sits just about 5000 feet from the river.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” Murphy said.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, offered his prayers as the floods continue, while also calling Catholics to participate in relief efforts.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and the damage caused by the flooding throughout the Midwest these past few days,” he said in a March 19 statement.

The bishop prayed “that those affected by the floods will find the strength to rebuild.”

“We trust that the Lord will console them in their suffering,” he said. “Let us answer the Lord’s call to love one another and generously support our neighbors in this time of need.”

He noted that Catholic Charities USA is collecting funds to help flood victims throughout the entire region.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-continued-midwest-flooding-catholic-groups-step-up-to-help-64023

Filth, mold, abuse’: report condemns state of California homeless shelters

image

A man sleeps on the sidewalk in Hollywood. Tens of thousands of people are homeless in California. Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Carla Green in Los Angeles

When she first moved into the Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter, Jan was optimistic. The southern California homeless shelter, which had just opened a couple months prior, seemed clean and well-organized. “It was so fun,” she said. “There was karaoke.”

But things quickly went downhill, said Jan, who asked that we only use her first name for fear of retribution over speaking out about the shelter conditions.

“Within a month, everything was rotten,” she said. “There was filth and mold and abuse by the staff. Mold on the floor of the bathroom, mold by the microwave … The only time it looked nice was when somebody would come to see it, like the media or someone from the board of supervisors.”

Bridges at Kraemer Place is one of three California shelters condemned for its bleak conditions in a new report from the ACLU. All are in Orange county, one of the wealthiest counties in California, which has been ravaged by a homelessness crisis. Last year there was an outcry after bus stops abutting Disneyland, one of the county’s largest employers, were stripped of benches that homeless people slept on, and local authorities were criticized for evicting hundreds of people living in a riverbed without offering them an alternative place to stay.

The ACLU report details a dizzying list of abuses and unlivable conditions, as reported by shelter residents, volunteers and staff.

The shelters were racked by infestations of rodents, roaches, bedbugs and other pests, and plagued by a culture of neglect and abuse by shelter staff, the report alleges.

“The shelters … fail to conform to standards set forth by international human rights law, which establish the minimum standard of living adequate for health and well-being,” its authors write.

“To the extent that the county or its agents have subjected people experiencing homelessness using emergency shelters to foreseeable harm and failed to intercede, it is responsible for state-created danger.”

The report includes a list of 10 recommendations to improve shelter conditions, including uniform health guidelines and due process for sanctions within the shelter system.

In response to the report, the county issued a statement saying officials are “committed to ensuring our emergency shelters are safe for all our clients”, and that they would take time to review the report before responding in detail.

This is not the first time that Orange county has been criticized for its treatment of the homeless.

Homeless advocates say the county and its cities are violating their responsibility to provide housing – or, at a minimum, shelter beds – for people living on the streets. Both the county and several of its cities are facing lawsuits alleging that they are mistreating homeless residents, in part by failing to provide enough shelter beds for them.

But the ACLU report demonstrates that itis not just the availability of shelter beds – but the quality of the shelters themselves – that’s important.

“Some of these violations [are] so egregious that they’re just hard to digest,” said Eve Garrow, a policy analyst at the ACLU of Southern California and co-author of the report.

Shelters are supposed to be humane places that actually help people and help them recover from life on the streets,” she said. “It was rather shocking to find out that not only were these shelters not living up to their promise, they’re actually harming the people they’re supposed to be serving.”

In a few cases, residents have died on shelter premises. The report notes that there were seven recorded deaths at one shelter, and another four people who died either in transit from the shelter to the hospital, or upon arrival at the hospital from the shelter.

It wasn’t long after Jan moved into Kraemer Place that she saw her first death. The man who died had been a friend of hers, she said. His name was Robert Estle.

“He said to me ‘If I don’t get out of here ‘into housing’, the only way I’ll get out is in a body bag,” Jan said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Estle died in a shelter bathroom in April 2018. Jan knew something was wrong when the bathroom door was locked overnight, she said.

“I’d been telling [shelter staff], ‘break down the door, something’s wrong’,” she said. “They didn’t do anything.”

When they finally opened the door, Estle was found dead, Jan said. Kraemer Place did not respond to a request for comment.

Igmar Rodas is a former resident of The Courtyard, another shelter profiled in the ACLU report. Rodas, who identifies himself as a homeless advocate and reporter, was living in his car before he moved into the shelter about three years ago. He saw similar conditions to what is detailed in the report, he said, “especially around the port-a-potties, it was full of feces. Varmints, rodents, roaches”.

Residents’ personal property was kept in trash bins, Rodas said. “One time I saw this big old rat coming out of one of the trash bins.”

“Let me put it this way. I interview people, and I ask them ‘why don’t [you] stay at The Courtyard?’ You know what they say? ‘I feel safer on the streets’.”

The Courtyard referred a request for comment to the statement issued by Orange county.

Both Rodas and Jan have moved into housing now – “by the grace of God, I got out”, Jan said – but because of their experience with the shelter system, they have both dedicated themselves to changing Orange county’s shelter system for the better.

“Now I’m blessed, but not everyone’s blessed,” Jan said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/16/homeless-shelters-orange-county-aclu-report-condemns

Australia Aboriginals win right to sue for colonial land loss

imageChris Griffiths and Lorraine Jones were two of the plaintiffs who brought the case to court [Northern Land Council]

By Bill Code

Sydney, Australia – The  High Court of Australia has handed down the biggest “native title” ruling affecting Aboriginal ownership of the land in decades, amid claims that billions of dollars in compensation will need to be paid by governments to indigenous groups.

“Native title” refers to the rights of Australia’s indigenous people to their traditional land and water recognised by Australian common law.

Lawyers, including those representing mining companies, said the ruling in favour of the Ngaliwurru and Nungali Aboriginal groups – from a remote part of the Northern Territory – paved the way for billions of dollars in compensation nationally.

“The High Court’s decision will likely to trigger compensation applications from many of the hundreds of native title holder groups around Australia,” said Tony Denholder, in the wake of a case that a federal court ruled on in 2016 – before the High Court became involved.

The Native Title Act came about after the landmark “Mabo” decision in 1993 overturned the British claim that Australia was “terra nullius” – nobody’s land. It found that Aboriginal rights to some, but by no means all land, survived colonisation and were not “extinguished”.

Since then, Aboriginal groups have been able to file native title claims over large parts of the country.

Now, the High Court has handed down another landmark ruling on the matter of paying compensation for the loss of those rights – the loss of economic income related to the land and the loss of a spiritual connection to the land. Or in other words, putting a financial price on the severing of cultural ties.

In 2016, the Ngaliwurru and Nungali Aboriginal groups awarded $2.3m in damages because the federal court found that their native title rights were “extinguished” by the Northern Territory government when it built roads and infrastructure through their country near Timber Creek in the 1980s and 90s.

About $1m of that was for “spiritual harm”, which the Northern Territory and Federal governments argued was excessive. But the High Court this week disagreed.

Megan Brayne, a native title lawyer and director of the Comhar Group, told Al Jazeera it was the most important native title ruling in more than 20 years.

“This is a very important case because it is the first time the High Court has set out the principles for compensation. State lawyers will be particularly interested in analysing their compensation liabilities,” she said.

“Where companies are operating on land post-1975 there will be lawyers looking at this.”

Racial discrimination act

That 1975 date is key because it is the year Australia brought in the Racial Discrimination Act – 18 years before the Native Title Act, but just as important.

“Only then did governments have to treat the property rights of Aboriginal Australians the same as other Australians,” explained James Walkley, a native title lawyer with Chalk and Behrendt.

“Since the first colonisation of Australia, Aboriginal people have been dispossessed of property and culture, [but] only since 1975 has the loss of native title become compensable.”

Unwittingly, state and territory governments, or mining and pastoral companies working with the blessing of the government, continued to “extinguish” native title by their activities, right up until that landmark Mabo ruling and the Native Title Act in 1993.

Others step forward

The Ngaliwurru and Nungali groups were assisted in their fight for compensation by the Northern Land Council – the major Aboriginal representative group on land matters in the Northern Territory – which took the case to court.

Interim CEO Jak Ah Kit confirmed other groups were in the works waiting to take advantage of the ruling.

“Already I’ve been notified of other groups,” he told Al Jazeera.

“This is a ruling that brings a different light on native title and the cultural and spiritual loss, let alone the inability to take any economic opportunities [from the land]. We need to revisit those cases where they were unjustly compulsorily acquired by governments, and we’ll then need to take instructions from them,” he said.

“The whole board game changes.”

Brayne said while the ruling provides “significant guidance” in looming court cases, there were still many matters left open by the case, not least how to determine the appropriate amounts of compensation.

She remained hopeful agreements could be found before the more costly path of litigation.

“If not, we can expect there’ll be more matters before the courts,” said Brayne.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/australia-aboriginals-win-sue-colonial-land-loss-190315062311052.html

Catholic leaders speak out against ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

imageCredit: Herika Martinez /AFP/ Getty Images

Washington D.C., Mar 14, 2019 / 06:32 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders released a statement this week in disagreement with the United States’ expansion of a policy that restricts asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States. We urge the Administration to reverse this policy, which needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols,” the statement read.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, released the joint statement on March 13.

First implemented in January, the Migrant Protection Protocols require asylum seekers at the San Ysidro border crossing to remain in Mexico while immigration courts process their case – a procedure that may take years. In previous administrations, asylum seekers were often permitted to remain in the U.S. while awaiting their court dates.

The U.S. government announced Tuesday that the program would now be expanded to the border crossing in Calexico, which is about 120 miles outside of San Diego. Department of Homeland Security officials stated that 240 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico since the policy was enacted. They anticipate that the number will grow significantly as the program expands.

In February, a lawsuit was introduced in federal court challenging the policy, which is known unofficially as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The suit claims that the program puts asylum seekers at risk because of Mexico’s dangerous conditions. A federal judge has not yet announced whether an injunction will be granted to block the policy while it is being considered in court.

The Associated Press reported that Mexico’s Foreign Relations and Interior departments objected to the policy update, which they say was made unilaterally by the United States. However, citing “humanitarian reasons,” the departments said a majority of the asylum seekers returned to Mexico will be allowed to stay.

Vasquez and Callahan also voiced opposition to the policy, emphasizing the rights of the people seeking shelter from harsh conditions, especially from the dangers witnessed in Central America.

“We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives,” the statement read.

The Church leaders reiterated the call of Pope Francis to protect and welcome immigrants and encouraged the government to respond with policies that best promote human dignity.

“Our government must adopt policies and provide more funding that address root causes of migration and promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods,” they said.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-leaders-speak-out-against-remain-in-mexico-policy-59110

Bishop objects to death sentence for Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia photoSaudi Arabia flag. Credit: Hugo Brizard/YouGoPhoto/Shutterstock.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (CNA). A bishop in the Philippines is speaking out against the death penalty of a Filipino woman who has been condemned to death in Saudi Arabia.

“We turn to God in prayers that He may move the [Saudi] government to be merciful and grant clemency,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Filipino bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, in a statement this week.

“She has to be helped and assisted. Let us try everything to save her,” he said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

On Feb. 28, the Saudi Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of an unnamed Filipino woman, who was convicted in 2017 for killing her employer. The woman claimed to have acted in self-defense against an abusive employer.

Santos encouraged the Philippine government to do whatever it can to save the woman and conduct a “thorough investigation” behind the woman’s arrival in Saudi Arabia. Reports suggest that she arrived in the country as a minor.

“Placement agencies should be made accountable for whatever happens to [Filipino workers] sent to other countries,” the bishop said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

He stressed that agencies and recruiters should be held liable for abuse of the employees they place.

ABS-CBN News reported that the case has also been directed to the chair of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking, which is part of the Philippine Department of Justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it would do all it could to save the woman, who has so far been assisted by Consul General Edgar Badajos.

The department released a statement saying it “will exhaust all diplomatic avenues and legal remedies to save a Filipina in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi Court of Appeals affirmed her death sentence on Thursday.”

The case followed an execution in January, when a 39-year-old maid from the Philippines received the death penalty for a murder that took place in 2015. Details about the case were not released.

About 500,000 Filipinos are believed to be working in Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been accused of poor work conditions and inadequate religious freedoms.

In 2016, Bishop Santos had encouraged the Philippine embassy in the country to protect Filipino workers. That year, a Filipino woman had died as result of the injuries she received from rape, allegedly at the hands of her employer.

That same year, a mass execution of 47 men was carried out in Saudi Arabia in January. One of the men was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and long-time activist for Shi’a rights in the country.

Princeton Professor Robert George, then-chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the execution of Sheik al-Nimr raised religious freedom concerns and did not meet capital punishment standards set by the international human rights law.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-objects-to-death-sentence-for-filipino-woman-in-saudi-arabia-53659