I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

My parents bring school supplies and health necessities to rural China. “The Forgotten Schools of Ghost Town” is my calling, too. Four students walk up a barren mountain with dusty backpacks on their shoulders. We see them every year. The four are always...

Student reporter Luna Lee of Miss Porter’s School in the U.S. state of Connecticut gives a heart wrenching account of how children in rural parts of China willingly trek long distances in harsh conditions for an education housed in places few people would consider a school. Her first person story about a nonprofit run by her parents to help these schools and these young people demonstrates how in many places education is a privilege that people don’t take for granted.

Exercise: Students should consider whether in their own country education is considered a privilege or a human right. Have students look at this map of data from UNESCO of primary school completion rates and determine in what countries the fewest and largest percentages of students who go on to secondary education.

The Sri Lanka paradise I have known is now a bankrupt island

The Sri Lanka paradise I have known is now a bankrupt island

My family can barely make ends meet amid runaway inflation and shortages of foodstuffs. No wonder Sri Lanka has kicked out a corrupt ruling clan. Protesters take over the office of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, demanding he resign, Colombo, Sri...

News Decoder correspondent Feizal Samath provides an on-the-ground glimpse of life in Sri Lanka following months of inflation, essential shortages and protests that led to the ouster of the president and the ruling clan. Samath gives context to a situation that many outside of the region ignored until images of protestors storming the presidential palace flooded the media. By painting a picture of his own challenges in procuring fuel and everyday foods, Samath puts readers in the shoes of those whose lives have been disrupted by turmoil. 

Exercise: Ask students to imagine a part of the world different from their own and write a first-person narrative of what life looks like for a teenager there. How do the political and economic realities impact their family, their schools or their daily routines?

Immigrants: Often mistreated but crucial for our economies

Immigrants: Often mistreated but crucial for our economies

Immigrants around the world often face discrimination. But they can help drive economic growth and in my country are among the best educated. Protesters in Zurich demonstrate against an initiative that would limit the number of migrant workers in Switzerland, 9...

Many students have strong convictions about issues, so strong that their perspective can be clouded. So we encourage students to base their reporting on solid data and authoritative sources. In her story about immigrants in Switzerland, Nina Bugajska of Realgymnasium Rämibühl in Zurich cites a global polling company, a German data specialist, the Swiss federal statistics office and a Swiss consulting company, and she interviews a university professor, giving her a solid foundation for her look into the important role that immigrants play in Switzerland’s economy. Immigration is a topic that is easily manipulated by political demagogues, making Bugajska’s story a valuable contribution to clear thinking.

Exercise: Ask your students to choose a controversial topic and then find authoritative data, relevant to the issue, that is collected by official authorities, academics or private companies. They should then summarize what the data says about the issue.

In Ukraine war, Red Cross defends neutrality against critics

In Ukraine war, Red Cross defends neutrality against critics

For more than 150 years, the Red Cross has remained neutral in wars. Today, it still defends that stance against critics as Russia ravages Ukraine. A man presses paper with a red cross on it against the windshield of a bus as civilians are evacuated from Irpin, on the...

For many people, the war in Ukraine seems one of the latest litmus tests of ideological purity: One side is good, the other side bad. So it is with politics in many countries: One side is right, the other wrong. Nowadays it can be difficult, especially for youth, to understand why diplomats speak to all sides in an armed conflict, or why the Red Cross would remain neutral in Ukraine. In their story, Katharine Lake Berz and Daneese Rao, fellows at the University of Toronto, examine why the 159-year-old Red Cross, true to tradition, has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion so it can offer aid to victims on all sides of the conflict. It’s a valuable lesson for a world hungry for harmony.

Exercise: Have your students debate this resolution: “The Red Cross should condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.”

At-home learning offers glimmer of hope to Afghan girls

At-home learning offers glimmer of hope to Afghan girls

The Taliban have barred girls from schools in Afghanistan. So some of them gather secretly in homes in Kabul, drawn together by a former teacher. Hassan Adib leads a discussion of “Memories of a translator” by Mohhamad Qazi in Kabul, April 2022. (Photo by...

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan means millions of girls cannot attend school. Many young people outside of the country know this, but it is difficult for them to conceive just what this means for a young Afghan girl their age. In his story, Jalal Nazari, an Afghan now living in Canada where he is a Global Journalism Fellow at the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health, takes us inside Kabul homes, where about 30 teenage girls meet secretly twice a month to improve their reading and writing skills. To hear the girls and their teacher speak adds a highly personal dimension to a conflict that for many young people remains distant and abstract. The courage they show in the face of Taliban strictures is a reminder to young people everywhere that education is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

Exercise: Ask your students to interview their parents, asking them why education is important, and then to write an essay quoting their parents and adding their own thoughts.

Human Rights