Rectifying Islam: Oppression of the Uighurs

Since the 2009 riots in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has systematically enforced restrictions on the civilian practice of religion. The Communist government, officially atheist, has undertaken a measurable crusade against several major religions, most recently Islam. For Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighur population, this has resulted in a dramatic ban on all religious practices that guide children towards separatism and extremism, including major religious events like Ramadan.

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In a recent Independent article, Dearden highlights the flagrant dereliction of justice inherent in China’s practices. The government has called upon the people of Xinjiang to report their neighbors, friends, and family should they take part in “luring minors into religious activities”. This subjective legislation is meant to punish Muslim Uighurs based on unsubstantiated hearsay, the result of which threatens to forcefully remove children from their homes into specialized schools to “receive rectification”. In a departure from previous bans on promoting extremist beliefs and dress, China has taken its first step towards controlling social dimensions of child development traditionally held by parents and guardians.

The notion of removing students from their homes and schools only to be put through a state-controlled rectification process is an eerie thought that could have a transformative effect on the future of schooling in China. Instead of providing a support environment that strengthens community ties and promotes children’s rights to an appropriate education as they see fit, the government has imposed specious legislation to grant themselves total control over the well-being of the Muslim children of China.

Although troublesome, the need to “rectify” Muslim children aligns with recent political trends seen from the problematic super power. The continued efforts to enforce hegemony over their own civilians has the potential to create a devastating quagmire in the field of education specifically. The Uighur people of China’s Xinjiang province are in desperate need of support from the international community, which now has the moral imperative to intervene on their behalf.

Source(s):

Dearden, Lizzie. 2016. China bans parents from ‘luring children into religion’ in Muslim province. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/islam-muslims-in-china-law-xinjiang-rules-education-children-parents-banned-luring-uighur-a7365351.html

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A State of Lawless Violence

Recent coverage of the epidemic of violence in the Philippines has exposed the current Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte as a ruthless governing entity à la Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists. Yet lost amid the coverage of political assassinations, death squads, and the systematic cleansing of drug addicts, is the rampant abuse of children.

A recent ABS-CBN interview with Lotta Swylander of Unicef Philippines highlights the results of a Unicef report on child abuse in the Philippines. The three-year study, conducted by over 200 researchers on 4,000 children across all socio-economic backgrounds, indicated “very high” levels of violence against children.

Some key components of the findings:

1) 3 out of every 5 children experience real physical violence

2) 1 out of every 10 children experience sexual violence in the home

3) 26% of boys have been sexually abused by a family member

The impact of this violence on children’s ability to access quality education is immeasurable. A great deal of research suggests that such abuse has a strong negative impact on children’s psycho-social development. Furthermore, educators cannot expect victims of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse to be adequately prepared to learn in school. The report does little to uncover the causes for such dramatic numbers of abuse but points to strict cultural concepts of discipline and the belief that a child is the property of a parent.

The lack of basic rights for Filipino children is made even clearer by the government’s near abandonment of approximately 1.8 million disadvantaged children. An LA Times article, published shortly after the Unicef report, estimates that millions of children are being abandoned by a government who fails to design policy to provide basic needs for children who have been abandoned or neglected. The article outlines the complex and bureaucratic adoption process that deters hopeful parents, the horrid conditions of their orphanages (likening them to concentration camps), and the lack of educational opportunities afforded to disadvantaged children.

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A child in the ‘Smokey Mountain’ slums of Manila. Source: Sab, Just One Way Ticket

Although the articles draw upon vastly different themes, they share a similar critique: The Filipino government is making little effort to improve the profoundly debilitating treatment of children and safeguard their most basic of human rights. Widespread violence and neglect have left children of all backgrounds in a subordinate and powerless position while perpetuating the discriminatory cultural perception of children as “property” of their parents. The Philippines need to initiate a fundamental overhaul of their policies to protect and to provide for their children. If the current administration has no intentions of doing so, international intervention is a moral imperative.

References:

ABS-CBN News.‘Very high’ levels of violence against children in PH: UNICEF exec.  May 3, 2016. Retrieved from http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/05/03/16/very-high-levels-of-violence-against-children-in-ph-unicef-exec

Kaiman, J. & de Leon, S. The Philippines has 1.8 million abandoned children. Heres what keeps many from adoption. LA Times. May 28, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-philippines-orphans-adv-snap-story.html

Challenging The Conflict Discourse: Education policies for disabled children

Conflict can take many forms. For this reason, problematizing development discourse is crucial to defining it’s many dimensions and generating new ideas for solving inveterate issues within global education. The UNESCO Education for All movement, agreed upon by 164 nations of the UN in 2000, outlined an ambitious plan to provide basic quality education to all children and adults by 2015. As it currently stands, many nations have failed to provide policies for educating children with disabilities, highlighting a major conflict in policymaking worldwide. Furthermore, it begs the question: How can policymakers at both the international and local level reconcile the conflicting interpretations and motivations informing their education policies?

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Child with cerebral palsy at the Palsigunung rehabilitation center in Jakarta. Source: Beawiharta, REUTERS 2010

According to a recent article by the Thompson Reuters Foundation, over half of the world’s 65 million school age children with disabilities are being left behind in education. They are being systematically written off by policymakers concerned with their (children with disabilities) potential as a “worthy investment” (Tabary, 2016). This dehumanizing process of elimination is all too familiar in a field where development policy is largely established in the neo-liberal tradition of human capital theory. Children with disabilities are essentially considered subordinate investments due to their inability to enter the workplace. This article references a recent UNESCO report that cites a major trend in defunding education in international aid programs. In a reaction abreast of the current economically focused policies of education and development, inclusive education advisors are positioning their arguments as wise investments. Nafisa Baboo of Light for the World, explains that inclusion of disabled children is not only cheaper than segregation but it can lead to less societal discrimination. Stigma against the disabled is especially ripe within developing communities and increasingly apparent in policymaking.

Kashmir Government  Fails To Support School For Disabled
Blind student. Source: Yawar Nazir, Getty Images

While many government policies dutifully account for the education of all children, in practice there is a disproportionate gap in education for children with disabilities. According to a Huffington Post article, one reason for this gap in developing countries is the lack of inclusive education policies, such as IDEA (1975) in the US that has worked to include almost 96% of disabled children within regular classes throughout their school day. Antia (2015) posits that rather than being a sound investment, inclusive education is a moral imperative for policymakers.

Although international movements, such as Education for All (2000) have provided an impetus for governments to design inclusive education policies, policymakers have failed to produce. This conflict in policymaking is rooted in an outdated, yet widely accepted, theory of children being considered as investments. This logic has led to the failure of policymaking in developing nations to produce substantive education policy to serve children with disabilities. Be it stigma against the disabled, or misguided motivations, there is conflict in international education policy. As Antia (2015) rightfully suggested, policymakers across the globe have a moral imperative to rejuvenate their efforts to produce quality inclusive education.

 

References

Education for All Movement. UNESCO. (2000) Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/

Tabary, Zoe. (2016). Half of the world’s disabled children are out of school – report. Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved from http://news.trust.org/item/20161017000359-br3vh/

Antia, Shirin D. (2015). Education For Children With Disabilities Is A Global Right. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shirin-d-antia/education-for-children-wi_b_8854920.html

Colombia’s Invisible Battle: Educating the displaced

After 5 decades of low-intensity warfare, Colombia has tentatively elected not to demobilize and integrate over 7,000 FARC soldiers into society. The much anticipated plebiscito, or vote to pass the brokered peace agreement, resulted in a marginal victory for the “no” camp. The refusal to end the conflict is nothing short of a tragedy for the nation’s over 6 million internally displaced peoples (IDP).

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Data Map of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Source: Benjamin Hennig

Colombia has only recently been surpassed as the nation with the greatest IDP population, an issue made nearly invisible by the country’s recent economic growth. The IDPs lack the resources or support to exercise their right to education or labor, perpetuating the long-held sentiment that Colombia’s formal economy has essentially abandoned them. To address this issue, in 2012 the Santos administration passed the Free Education Policy, ensuring that primary and secondary education would be tuition-free for all of the nation’s 8.6 million children. However, free education doesn’t beget equal opportunity and the IDPs have become the unintentional victims of poor forethought and institutionalized discrimination.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), dutifully reported the often overlooked struggle that these IDPs face in receiving equal education. Being born into conflict has denied IDPs the opportunity at literacy, subsequently forcing the more vulnerable women and children into child labor and sexual exploitation (see Edet blog below).  Their inherent disadvantages result in a lack of financial resources and while education is free, the costs to obtain it are not. Students need uniforms, books, and transportation to schools which are often inaccessible for IDPs. COHA’s criticism is sound when you consider that most IDPs also lack the necessary national identification card which permits free education and health benefits. The tuition-free education inherently disadvantages IDPs and further perpetuates gender discrimination.

Fighters from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), stand in line during opening of ceremony congress at camp where they prepare for ratifying a peace deal with government, near El Diamante in Yari Plains, Colombia
Female soldiers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Yari Plains, Colombia. Source: John Vizcaino, Reuters

 

The Atlantic recently published an article that gives teeth to the argument of institutionalized gender discrimination penetrating Colombia’s social fabric. Interestingly, they make their case through a lens that COHA artfully avoided; the internally displaced, reintegrated female guerrillas. Having been recruited at a young age, taken far from their homes, and subjected to an altogether different form of education, demobilized female guerrillas face a litany of socio-cultural barriers upon reintegration. In addition to the stigma of betrayal, females are expected to pursue an education only insofar as they are prepared to fulfill their role as home-dwelling caregivers with an elusive standard of beauty. Free education policy provides no practical path to success for this overlooked portion of IDPs but instead perpetuates the issue by funding ads that promise them they can “smile and become the mother (they’ve) always dreamed of being“.

Both articles highlight the woeful social unpreparedness of the Colombian government to address the root cause of IDP education: there is a lack of focus on basic human rights in policy development. Their disjointed notion of Education For All doesn’t provide a pathway to success for IDPs. It lacks a focus on the basic democratic principle of human rights in policy development to eliminate stigma and promote community engagement, as is evidenced by the fact that 60% of the population didn’t even cast a vote in the recent plebiscito.

*For a further investigation into the impact of internal displaced women, read Edet’s A Bleak Future: No homes, no schools.

 

References:

Højen, Louise. (2015) Colombia’s “Invisible Crisis”: Internally Displaced Persons. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.coha.org/colombias-invisible-crisis-internally-displaced-persons/#_edn25

Alpert, Megan. (2016). To Be a Guerrilla, and a Woman, in Colombia. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/09/farc-deal-female-fighters/501644/

The World Bank. (2015). GDP per capita, PPP (current international $). Retrieved at http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD?end=2015&locations=CO&start=2000

Alsema, Adriaan. (2012). Colombia implements free primary and secondary education. Colombia Reports. Retreived from http://colombiareports.com/colombia-implements-free-primary-and-secondary-education/

UNESCO. (2000). Education for All Movement. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/

 

Chicago’s Treadmill of Violence Leaving Children With Invisible Scars

560. Since January of this year there have been 560 recorded homicides in the city of Chicago – greater than those of New York and Los Angeles combined. The month of August alone saw the highest murder count per month in over 20 years. Homicide has become tragically viral, spreading throughout the south and west side neighborhoods of Chicago like a plague. The impact of such widespread violence has penetrated the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in a profound way, victimizing low-income, segregated neighborhoods in particular.

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Neighborhood Homicide Report, 2016. Source: Chicago Tribune

In a desperate attempt to halt the violence, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has called for a crusade of sorts to provide young people in these neighborhoods with “a moral compass”. Last week, USA Today outlined Emmanuel’s proposal to hire 1,000 new officers and direct city funding to the Becoming A Man (BAM) mentoring program in order to help over 7,000 youth in the CPS system overcome this treadmill of violence. While some argue that re-upping the Chicago police force is no panacea, the BAM mentoring program has the potential to serve a crucial audience, the CPS student youth population.

The victims that this violence impacts are disproportionately low-income, black young men, 47% of whom ages 20-24, are neither in school nor employed. The sad truth is that violence in these neighborhoods clearly resonates within the local schools. A US News article recently cited multiple bodies of research suggesting that community violence reduces children’s attention spans, negatively impacts the way they process emotional information, and dramatically decreases scores on standardized tests. It notes the decreased ability of children to safely travel to and from school, a problem it suggests is remedied by local volunteer-led programs like Safe Passage and BAM. While BAM provides counseling and healthy decision-making models to at-risk students in schools, Safe Passage places over 1,000 volunteers at high crime locations in order to deter criminal activity and provide students safe travel to and from schools.

Emmanuel’s support for BAM did not come in the wake of these studies. In fact, the second term mayor of Chicago has received harsh criticism for this decision, citing that this move was made in order to preserve what few black Chicagoan votes he has. His critics are quick to point out his inability to acknowledge that the impoverished communities are the result of the circular crime wave and it’s direct impact on learning within schools. The implementation of programs such as BAM and Safe Passage do little to impact policy decisions. Rather they develop much needed engagement within the communities and the schools themselves, providing young black men in particular the agency to determine their own future.

As the coverage points out, the $36 million investment in BAM is only part of the solution: active community engagement with programs such as Safe Passage is a necessary supplement. There is no single solution to quell the violence and provide safe learning environments for Chicago’s youth, the situation requires a dual, government-community effort.

 

References:

Chicago Tribune. Crime in Chicagoland. September, 2016 Homicide Count. Retrieved from http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/homicides

Madhani, Aamer. USA Today. Emanuel: Violence-plagued Chicago needs to bolster ‘moral compass’. September 23, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/09/22/emanuel-violence-plagued-chicago-needs-bolster-moral-compass/90872358/

Camera, Lauren. US News. Chicago Violence an Extracurricular Back to School Burden. September 8th, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-08/chicago-violence-an-extracurricular-back-to-school-burden

Refugee Education in Sweden: A kaleidoscopic view

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Graph of Swedish asylum seekers. Source: Migrationsverket

In 2015, Sweden witnessed a historic number of applications from asylum seeking migrants. Of the nearly 163,000 applications, over 40% were from children, and at least half arrived in Sweden without guardians. The vast majority of refugees are coming from environments of intense conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey. This influx of migrants has posed a challenge to Sweden’s limited educational and residential infrastructure and is steadily challenging the nation’s reputation as one of the world’s most welcoming states.

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Swedish “polis” escorting migrants recently off a train. Source: Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency 

A recent Al Jazeera investigation into the “turning tide” of perspectives towards migrants, explains the developing concerns held by certain Swedish nationals. The video catalogs a series of interviews with native Swedes, columnists, professors, and politicians painting a grim perspective of the growing rise in anti-immigrant sentiment. The interviews artfully depict the residential and educational problems Sweden faces in absorbing the refugees, often citing the recently increased crime rate as justification for the general sense of fear. In the case of the small community of Ostra Goinge, there is simply not enough housing, jobs or resources to provide a new life for the migrants. More importantly, in the eyes of the local Swedes, stretching existing resources to accommodate for immigrant children would signify a diminished focus on their own children’s education.

The investigation fails to provide a balanced view of Swedish efforts in providing education for immigrant children by presenting a seemingly ubiquitous fear amongst Swedes, average citizens and politicians alike. It hints at migrant profiling by police and border control, a significant rise in the right-leaning Sweden Democrat party proposing to “pause” the immigrant flow and the need to foster better “social integration”.

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Swedish school. Source: David Ramos/Getty Images

By contrast, an article published by The Guardian nearly two months later, lauds the exhaustive efforts of Swedish schooling at providing equal education for the migrant children. Rothschild shows the reader a more familiar Swedish utopia, an exemplar welfare state trialing initiatives “…to ensure newly arrived children do not fall through the gaps and all schools bear the pressure equally”. Swedish schools like Falksbergsskalon are providing bilingual education in both Swedish and Arabic to migrant children in hopes of integrating them socially by developing academic skills and promoting language practice. Government efforts include bussing migrants to different schools and implementing school migrant quotas as early as November 2016 in order to spread the perceived burden equally amongst districts. The issues Sweden faces are complex yet we are shown several hopeful quotes from happy, socially-integrated migrant children who believe their future is bright.

The kaleidoscopic view of Sweden’s immigrant influx epitomizes the refugee crisis that has engulfed Europe and continues to influence global refugee dialogue. As evidenced by the Al Jazeera investigation, there seems to be a similar rise in fear, isolation and concern over stretching resources in the world’s most welcoming state. Yet, according to Rothschild, there is a silver lining embodied by innovative educational reform. Whether or not the glass is in fact half-full, Sweden faces a more pressing metaphysical dilemma: how will it retain its national identity in the face of extreme internal pressure and social reorganization?

 

References:

Jamjoom, Mohammed.  Sweden’s backlash: Why the tide is turning for refugees. April 9th, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/inthefield/2016/04/sweden-backlash-tide-turning-refugees-160408180758209.html

Rothschild, Nathalie. On the Frontline: How Swedish schools are helping refugees. June 22nd, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/jun/26/on-the-frontline-of-integration-how-swedish-schools-are-helping-refugees

Graph:

The Swedish Migration Agency. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.migrationsverket.se/English/About-the-Migration-Agency/Our-organisation.html