Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Safety Is Syrian School's Biggest Challenge

Ghazal Al Tabaa /
The Little Village School outside of Damascus, Syria. In 2012, the school relocated to a new location inside the city for safety reasons.

By Leen Othman 
Junior Reporter
DAMASCUS, Syria – The ministry of education in Syria has a key motto: We raise, then teach. It is a sentence that all teachers have reiterated to our ears over the years, all confirming the one idea that they raise generations before teaching rudimentary sciences.
 Even discipline goes into a student’s report card with a mark.
To have such an educational purpose means a society is going beyond books and pens and laws in the process of schooling children. It also means that extraordinary conditions cannot stop progress.
It’s a decision that all schools in Syria took – to keep on learning.
There is no doubt that the ongoing conflict has changed things in Syria and affected the educational structure in all its forms for students, teachers, and administrators alike. They all had to face and conquer new obstacles on a daily basis to keep on learning.
A woman who is closely in touch with these challenges is Shahrzad Saati, who is head of the Arabic department in Little Village School in Damascus.
She’s been involved with both teacher and student education for years.
Saati described the great change that affected Little Village School. One of the biggest schools in Syria, it has the advantage of teaching both foreign and Syrian curriculums fully.
The biggest change the school went through, from Saati’s perspective, was when Little Village School moved two years ago from the suburbs into small buildings inside Damascus.
The move deprived students of the use of vast playgrounds, music halls, computer labs, and various amenities that offered a better learning experience.
Since safety is the primary obstacle, Saati said the school has provided some precautions. There are shelters, she said, and steps are taken to insure the roads are safe before buses drive off carrying students.
Perhaps the main precautionary measure was changing the school's quarters as a result of it neighboring a disputed area.
According to Saati, the crisis has caused numerous problems. Students suffer from psychological pressures, she said, and they can be tiring to both teachers and administrators, who try to work with the families to provide an atmosphere of guidance if possible.
Also, some teachers have suffered from different problems, she said, such as a demolished or burnt house and in some cases, a homeless family.
It’s all reflected negatively on their teaching performance, Saati said, and caused some of them to travel abroad in search of a new position.
Asked how she keeps political or other divisions at bay among both staff and students, Saati said parents were contacted when arguments between students arose on social media.  Then, the students were guided into accepting other opinions so they couldn’t create more problems with classmates.
As for the future of learning in Syria, the nation is still fine, according to Saati. The best proof of it, she said, are Syria’s sons who prove excellence and creativity wherever they go in the world.
Education in Syria might be long, difficult, and even dangerous to achieve, but it is obvious that all Syrians are not willing to let go of it.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Journalist James Foley Put His Life On The Line For Truth And Deserves Our Respect

Journalist James Foley in Tripoli, Libya in August, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Pedneault, used with permission through the website.

By Eli Winter
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – He risked his life for our news. I write this, sitting in a safe neighborhood in greater Houston, with headphones on and internet connected, far removed from any and all conflict, barring the occasional wars of words whenever my natural teenage instinct to disagree with most of what my parents say kicks in.
I write this blissfully unaware of the constant danger American journalist James Foley, who was beheaded today by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, endured throughout his reporting in the Middle East.
In a heartbreaking statement late Tuesday, his mother, Diane Foley, said her son “gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”
We must give journalists like James Foley the respect they deserve, and we cannot take them for granted.
James Foley in Aleppo, Syria in July 2012,
four months before he was taken
hostage. Photo by Nicole Tung, used
with permission through the website.
And yet, in our nation, which prides itself on giving its citizens the liberty to choose for themselves to read books and raise children – to say and do anything they want unless it would bring harm to others – our nation, bestowing upon itself the dubious honor of being leader of the free world, needs to practice what it holds so dearly to its heart.
The events spawned by the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have made this painfully clear to us. Reporters have been assaulted by police, recalling the 1968 riots at that year's Democratic National Convention.
Peaceful protesters have been tear-gassed, showing shades of the ongoing Syrian conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and those who view him as corrupt.
Our truth-tellers are punished for trying to do their jobs here, just as they are abroad.
James Foley's horrific murder shows how much power two little words, "free press," can have in nations where such a thing is only an idea at best. It also shows clearly the great lengths we go to – that we must go to – to maintain it.
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What If Your New College Friends Can't Find Your Home Country On A World Map?
YJI reporter Evangeline Han on her arrival in the United States on August 13, 2013, after a 32-hour journey with little sleep.

By Evangeline Han
SHAWNEE, Oklahoma, U.S.A. – A year ago, I flew from my home in Melaka, Malaysia to the United States to go to college at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. I did not know a single person in Oklahoma, I had never visited the campus for a tour, and I had never been to an American college.

If this sounds familiar, then you are probably an international student just like me.  And if you are going to be an international student, I have a few tips for you.
1)    Be excited. Going to college in a foreign country is an adventure. As an international student, you are special and unique. Some of your college friends have probably never traveled outside of their state. Whether it is your accent or looks, people around you will immediately notice that you are different. You bring diversity to your college.
 2)    Be prepared for weird questions. Since there may be many students at your college who have not traveled outside of their state, most students probably do not know where your country is on the world map. Lots of them will ask questions that might seem dumb, but just smile and answer politely. You can laugh about it with your international friends later.
3)    Be prepared to work hard. There is more responsibility and the stakes are higher since you are on a student visa. The last thing you want is to be put on a plane back home because you are failing your classes and not meeting the required number of credit hours you need as an international student. Not only are you adjusting to college life, but you are also adjusting to college life in a foreign country.
4)    Be prepared to make new friends. If you are planning to adjust quickly, make new friends. Some universities, like mine, have a strong international group. This means that the likelihood of your close friends being international students is higher. Sometimes, this can be easier since they are the ones who better understand your joys and struggles. If you find that the international students in your new university do not hang out together as much as you wish they would, do not fret. It is good to make friends who are locals.
Whatever happens in the next few months, remember that it is all part of the experience. Whether you want it or not, when you return to your home country, you will be a different person. You will have seen and experienced things that your friends back home have not.
Embrace it, have fun, and live life.
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Photo Stop: Fisherman's Bastion In Hungary

Dina El Halawany /
A popular lookout spot, Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary, draws a lot of tourists. YJI's Dina El Halawany took this photo on a recent visit.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Bridge That Connects Buda And Pest

Dina El Halawany /
Spanning the Danube River and connecting Buda and Pest, the Chain Bridge was rebuilt after being damaged in World War II.
Dina El Halawany /
A view from a Danube River cruise of the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest.
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Photo Stop: The Beautiful Palace And Gardens Of Schönbrunn In Vienna, Austria

Dina El  Halawany /
On her travels in Europe, YJI reporter Dina El Halawany of Alexandria, Egypt visited the Gardens Of Schönbrunn in Vienna, Austria and stopped to make this photo. 
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nigerian Students Learn How To Protect Themselves Against Deadly Ebola Virus

Festus Iyorah /
Students at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka joined in a campaign to raise awareness of the Ebola virus and how people can protect themselves from it.
Festus Iyorah
NSUKKA, Enugu, Nigeria – Students must be conscious and hygienic in order to curb the deadly Ebola virus, biochemistry, Professor Henry Onwubiko said Friday at a health conference at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka.
Onwubiko called on students and the university to attain consciousness and help keep the environment clean in this period of possible infection.
“The global world has really entered a period of insurgence in infectivity, a stage where viruses and pathogen thrives in the society and students needs to attain consciousness and be hygienic,” Onwubiko said.
Festus Iyorah /
Professor Henry Onwubiko
His lecture, “War against Ebola virus” was part of the health conference, which included the biochemistry department.
Before the conference, biochemistry students staged a campaign around the university hoisting placards and banner emblazoned with words sensitizing people on the deadly Ebola virus.
Ofurum who is also a third-year student of Biochemistry urged other department in the university to join the campaign against the Ebola virus disease and the university should also organize lectures, seminars and conference  to stop the deadly virus from spreading.
Festus Iyorah /
Students at the University of Nigeria in
take part in an educational campaign
to raise 
of Ebola.
Onwubiko, who is also a researcher looking into the disease, said the university has a big role to play to curtail this disease, including education, proper research and establishment of a disease control center.
“The university needs to be connected to the center of disease control and our laboratory needs to be equipped for proper research on the virus,” Onwubiko said. “The university should also help in orientating the students on how to increase their level of consciousness towards the virus.”
Festus Iyorah /
Okechukwu Ochulor
One of the conference organizers, 20-year-old Okechukwu Ochulor, said general ignorance about the Ebola virus spurred the biochemistry department to hold the event. He said there is a need to sensitize students on the proper measures to take in order to prevent the scourge of the virus from entering the university.
“The love we have for our fellow student is what motivated us to organize this conference,” Ochulor said.
Students who attended the conference were excited about the opportunity. 
“I feel good about this conference, though I’ve been hearing rumours about Ebola virus,” said Dominic Igwebuike, 22. Afterward, he said he’d learned a lot.
Festus Iyorah /
Dominic Igwebuike
“From this conference I’ve learnt that people can still survive this virus if reported on time, unlike before when I used to think that someone cannot survive the virus,” said Favour Ofurum, 20.
According to the World Health Organization, Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the other in Sudan.
Festus Iyorah /

Favour Ofurum
The virus, formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, has a death rate of up to 90 percent. It is transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids, according to the WHO, and there is not yet a vaccine to prevent it. Health workers and family members of those with the virus are most likely to become infected.
The Daily Sun, a national newspaper in Nigeria, recently reported that a nurse who had contact with an American doctor who died of Ebola, had skipped quarantine and travelled to Enugu, a few miles away from the Nsukka campus, which roused fear among students.
Aside from sensitizing people on what the World Health Organization has tagged the “most deadly virus,” the conference also dealt with how to prevent the virus from spreading.
Festus Iyorah /
Biodiversity conference participants at the
Nigeria in Nsukka.
Onwubiko said the university must take responsibility by clearing the environment, especially the toilets, where bodily fluids such as urine and saliva can be found. He also charged the university to take the campaign against the virus seriously.
To students, Onwubiko said education is more than reading and writing, but also means developing consciousness, and taking responsibility for taking care of themselves and others in order to stop the deadly virus.
Organizer Ochulor, who is a third-year biochemistry student, said students should dress properly by wearing long sleeves and hand gloves in order to avoid body contact. And, he said, security officials should ensure good seating arrangements in the buses and cabs that students use for transportation.
Ochulor said the university should take this spread of Ebola seriously through lectures and seminars on the virus.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Missouri Rioting Must Stop, For Michael Brown And For The Good Of St. Louis

By Sydney Hallett
Junior Reporter
ST. LOUIS, Missouri, U.S.A. – One city. One officer. One bullet. One teenager.
It started with the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Saturday, Aug. 9.
How it came to happen and what exactly happened that night isn’t clear, but the aftermath of Brown’s death fired up the people of Ferguson.
After Brown’s death, chaos erupted in some of the towns of St. Louis County – mostly Ferguson – leaving buildings burned and people angry.
It began with a peaceful protest on Monday with a handful of residents in that area gathering in a parking lot. It seemed to be dying down, but when night came on, police shot tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the large and unruly crowd.
Things got out of hand and another man was shot the next day. Police declared Ferguson in a no-flight zone for airplanes. Brown’s parents publicly begged for the violence to stop.
As I watched all of this happen on television and read about it in the newspaper, I could not believe it was happening a mere half hour away from my home.
Initially, it was on the local channels. The first image I saw was of looters in a Quik Trip convenience store, one of the 11 businesses were hit over four days. Then I saw the aftermath – the store burning.
I thought that it was just going to be a typical peaceful protest, but it got out of hand.
Then I started to see the story on national and international news networks, which I found both disturbing and disappointing.
Before Brown was killed, Ferguson was just another city in St. Louis County. It had the same crime rate compared to the average city in St. Louis County and was just a normal suburb. Now, it is seen as a horrific city that defines St. Louis as a whole.
As someone who lives in St. Louis, I hate to see my city portrayed this way. It brings down the reputation of my city as a whole and makes us look like we are violent citizens. There are people in Ferguson who want this to stop and are trying to help clean up the community, only to have it destroyed again, night after night.
As I write this late Thursday night, more tear gas is being thrown as violent protesters fight police officers who have never seen anything like this in Ferguson before.
Protesters and two journalists have been arrested, including reporter Wes Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post. Confusion spreads as reporters are being hit with tear gas and protesters are throwing whatever they can back at the police.
Those who choose to fight are a poor reflection on St. Louis, which is rapidly acquiring a horrible reputation of violence and rallies. After all this, I predict that people from outside the community will not want to visit St. Louis for fear of protests.
The rioting needs to be ended peacefully.  Michael Brown will not rest in peace until there is a full investigation into his killing – and justice prevails – and until the handful of violent people in Ferguson stop leaving their city in ruins.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Brazilian Presidential Candidate Dies In Crash

By Maria Luiza Lago
CURITIBA, Brazil – In an accident that shocked Brazilian people, presidential candidate Eduardo Campos died Wednesday in a plane crash in Santos, São Paulo.
News reports indicated that the 49 years-old presidential candidate died along with several others from his campaign and the plane’s pilots on the way to campaign stops. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Only 55 days away from the October 6 election, Campos was one of the main candidates vying for the presidency, along with President Dilma Rouseff and challenger Aécio Neves.
Rouseff declared three official days of mourning and she and the Neves temporarily stopped campaigning.
A photo of Eduardo Campos
from his official  Facebook page
Campo’s death will probably not impact the election since he was just building his career as a president.
His running mate, Marina Silva, might replace him on the ticket, but the party still has 10 days to decide. She was last year’s presidential candidate, but only won about 20 percent of the vote.
Rousseff’s party, the Workers Party, has been running Brazil for eight years, and polls show that her in the lead for the upcoming election.
Campos, whose ideas for national improvements included plans for youth, education and health, seemed to have a promising political career ahead of him. 
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Insider's Guide: Making The Most Of Your Year As A Foreign Exchange Student

Photo provided
Getting involved in a sport can be a way to learn about your host country and make new friends. Here, senior members of the spring track team at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut include Nathaly Gracia Rodriguez of Ecador. From left: Meghan Powers, Jessica Li, Emily Tomanelli, Nina Franzen, Emily Sweeney, Michelle Runge, Rodriguez, Codi Bierce and Cassie Schmitt.

By Nathaly Gracia Rodriguez
Junior Reporter
PUERTO DE MANTA, Manabi, Ecuador – If you’re lucky enough to be a foreign exchange student, I’ve got a few tips for having a great school year.
First of all, you should know that everyone loves exchange students! They are different from the rest of the school. They’re brave to go to a different place, learn about the world and use a new language. This is accompanied by the friendly personality that the exchange student possess.
Everywhere you go, whether it’s your class room, the lunch hall, gym class, or labs, always smile to teachers and students. This will show them your happiness and positivity. The smile is a simple act of courtesy, respect and kindness worldwide. 
Introduce yourself whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Let them know you are in the high school and that you would like to let them know you as a person and friend, not just as a visitor or tourist in their country.
Be knowledgeable about your country. Kids and teachers are going to ask you about your culture, your family and friends. Show them how much you love and care about your country. They’ll become interested in you, and will learn about you and your country as well as its culture.
During your first months, always have a dictionary with you. Try to talk to as many people as you can. With the dictionary, you’ll have easy access to the words that you don’t know. Talking to people will help you to pick up the language easily.
Ask people about themselves. Don’t let them ask just you about your life and things you usually do. Remember you are in their country, and you have to learn about them. The fact that you care about how they are doing will show them that you can be a nice person and a good friend.
Join a club or practice any sport. This is one of the best ways to make friends and enjoy the culture of your host country. It’s best to try something you never did back home because the point of an exchange is to experience new and incredible things.
In the classroom, try to participate and be part of the group activities. You will get more comfortable with your host language and spend time with your classmates.
My final piece of advice is not to let yourself feel sad or depressed about the fact you don’t know the language, and you are far from home. Life is full of challenges, and this is one of them. With a little bit of time, you will be fluent in the language and you will make memories that will never leave you. Changes are difficult to accept, but they are always for the best.  Good luck!
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It's Time - Don't Wait To Prepare For School

Sara O'Hagan /
Enjoy the summer while it lasts, as these young people were recently doing poolside in sunny Albuferia, Portugal.
By Sara O’Hagan
Junior Reporter
DERRY, Ireland – Summer is nearly over. Yes, I know it’s upsetting because it’s that time again: back to school. Well, here I am: 17 years old and ready to begin my final year at school.
After this final year, I’m thrown out into the world and am supposed to know what I want to do with my life.
Before beginning sixth form (the final two years of secondary school in Northern Ireland), I was incredibly nervous.
All my teachers repeatedly said, “This is where the hard work begins,” and “It’s a big jump” from the lower grades. Neither helped the anxiety I felt at the thought of starting sixth form. Work upon work upon work. I felt like it would be never ending.
Once I started sixth form last September, it was partly what it was described to be but, in a way, better.
The workload, of course, was heavy, but for me it seemed more manageable. Studying A-Levels only requires me to study three or four subjects so, obviously, I opted for three. 
At the start of the term I thought that it would make my life easier to find the motivation to do my work properly and thoroughly. One thing I can tell you is that scheduling your time is key. I learned down the line that this was the best option.
Another piece of advice I would give is not to procrastinate. Leaving work to the very last minute is never good, because then it starts to build up: this is something you most definitely do not want.
This advice may not help many of you as the UK school system differs from most places, but it is a concrete start. All in all, sixth form or senior year for the majority, is really not as bad as it seems. Work hard, get the grades, and get out. 
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Playing Roles With No Restraints, Robin Williams Left Us The Gift Of Laughter

Publicity photo

Robin Williams, left, and Matt Damon, in the film Good Will Hunting
By Eli Winter
Senior Reporter
HOUSTON, Texas, U.S.A. – Robin Williams died early Monday morning in what The New York Times reported was a suicide resulting from asphyxia. His death felt like losing a friend. To so many of us, he was just that.

His jokes were literally – at least on set – out of this world at times, with his role of Mork on the hit TV show “Mork & Mindy” or restrained by traditional values as a boarding school English teacher in 1989’s Dead Poets Society.
Williams could even seem supernatural to some when he played the wisecracking Genie in Disney’s blockbuster 1992 movie Aladdin.
But Robin Williams played his roles with no restraints, breathing life into his chosen characters with vigor and vitality, as he did in Bicentennial Man, in which he played a man who lives to be 200.
Publicity photo

Robin Williams as "Mork"
He helped tell stories of healing, both physical and mental, in Patch Adams and Awakenings, with roles in both films as doctors.
He showed us the lengths loneliness drives one to go in the gorgeous One Hour Photo, where he played a photo technician who grows obsessed with the family he was missing.
And he showed us both what to do and what not to do when suffering from an identity crisis, exhibiting the former in the universally acclaimed Mrs. Doubtfire and the latter in the universally panned Old Dogs.
Then there’s one of his most enduring roles, the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, where he plays a psychologist who helped Matt Damon’s character, Will Hunting, to find his true, authentic self after Hunting bristled from abuse at the hands of his father.
In one of the final scenes from that movie, Williams’ character reassured Damon’s, “It’s not your fault.” He told him everything would be all right.
And Hunting was initially ambivalent, even threatening to Williams’ character, but in the end he recovered. In the end he was all the better for it. And the same thing will happen here. Everything will be alright.
We are all the better for the life of Robin Williams – the inspiration he brought to so many, the laughs he allowed us to have, the genuineness with which his roles were presented. Let us celebrate his memory and his life, which ended far too soon.
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