Thursday 25 April 2013

Rescuers use massive strips of cloth as escape chutes after textile factory in Bangladesh collapses killing at least 159 people.

Around 2,000 workers were in the eight-storey building when it collapsed without warning yesterday morning.

Police said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning after crack was detected on Tuesday.

At least 159 people died yesterday when a factory building which supplies clothes to Primark collapsed in Bangladesh.

Matalan also took orders from one of the factories in the building until two months ago, while campaigners said the brands Benetton and Mango also used suppliers in the block – although this was denied by the retailers yesterday.

Survivor Shaheena Akhter, 23, said: ‘Some of us did not want to work fearing something might happen, but the garment factory people told us that we had to join our work otherwise we will lose our jobs.’ The tragedy highlights the unsafe conditions many endure in factories making clothes for Western companies.

A Primark spokesman said: ‘Primark has been engaged to review the Bangladeshi industry’s approach to factory standards. ‘Primark will push for this to also include building integrity.’ Two factories in the building – New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms – were making clothing for Mango of Spain and Benetton of Italy, according to campaign group Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity. But the companies denied their clothes were being made in the building. 

Tessel Pauli, a spokesman for the Clean Clothes Campaign, said: ‘These accidents represent a failure of these brands to make safety a priority.’

“These accidents represent a failure of these brands to make safety a priority. They know what needs to be done and they are not doing it,” Pauli told AFP.
Bangladeshi unions and rights activists have also reacted furiously, calling for an end to the impunity the country’s garment manufacturers enjoy.

Noam Chomsky on Intellectual Property

From the Q&A period of a speech by Noam Chomsky at Washington State University on April 22, 2005

“IP” or Intellectual Properties. Do you feel that they are an integral component to personal freedoms or a detriment? And what place does Intellectual Property have in public and academic settings?
That’s a very interesting question. It has an interesting history. The World Trade Organization, the Uruguay round that set up the World Trade Organization imposed, it’s called a “free trade agreement”.  It’s in fact a highly protectionist agreement.  The US is strongly opposed to free trade, just as business leaders are, just as they’re opposed to a market economy. A crucial part of the Uruguay round, WTO, NAFTA, and the rest of them, is very strong (what are called) intellectual property rights. What it actually means is rights that guarantee monopoly pricing power to private tyrannies.

So take, say, a drug corporation. Most of the serious research and development, the hard part of it, is funded by the public. In fact most of the economy comes out of public expenditures through the state system, which is the source of most innovation and development.  I mean computers, the Internet.  Just go through the range, it’s all coming out of the state system primarily.  There is research and development in the corporate system, some, but it’s mostly at the marketing end.  And the same is true of drugs.

Once the corporations gain the benefit of the public paying the costs and taking the risks, they want to monopolize the profit.  And the intellectual property rights, they’re not for small inventors. In fact the people doing the work in the corporations, they don’t get anything out of it, like a dollar if they invent something.  It’s the corporate tyrannies that are making the profits, and they want to guarantee them.

The World Trade Organization proposed new, enhanced intellectual property rights, patent rights, which means monopoly pricing rights, far beyond anything that existed in the past.  In fact they are not only designed to maximize monopoly pricing, and profit, but also to prevent development.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Indian Man Offers Underprivileged Children Free Education under a Bridge

A torn rug to sit on, a metro bridge for a roof, a patch of wall painted black for a blackboard and a shopkeeper for a teacher. This may look like a scene out of a Hindi movie but is the everyday reality of 39 children from villages near the Yamuna bank.

"Our teacher has told us that when poverty strikes, you should open your mind, and that can be done only through education," Abhishek, 15, a student of Sharma's now attending a government school, told the Indian Express. He aspires to be an engineer when he grows up.

Rajesh Kumar Sharma, 40, offers a free education to New Delhi's slum children under a metro bridge.

Over 30 local Indian children have been attending his open-air, dirt-floor school since it opened three years ago.

A Vocation for Teaching

Children attend class at the Dongzhong (literally means in cave) primary school at a Miao village in Ziyun county, southwest China's Guizhou province. The school is built in a huge, aircraft hanger-sized natural cave, carved out of a mountain over thousands of years by wind, water and seismic shifts.

The Dangerous Way to School

Children in Indonesia have been filmed risking their lives by crossing a collapsed suspension bridge to get to school.

Three bridges in the district of Lebak have given way recently due to flooding.

When the 162m-long bridge that connected Ciwaru village to Sibagi village broke, school children were left with few alternatives for getting to lessons on time.

Kids travel to school via a precarious, high-altitude zipline of 1,300ft, carrying their younger sibs in hemp sacks and slowing their descent with a wooden fork.

Muhammad Ikhwan, a 10-year-old student, said he felt forced to choose crossing the collapsed bridge rather than walking 5km. "It's far if we don't use the bridge. Yes, it's about 5km to walk," he said.

It's exam season in Guinea, ranked 160th out of 177 countries on the United Nations' development index, and schoolchildren flock to the airport every night because it's among the few places where they'll always find the lights on.

Groups of elementary and high school students begin heading to the airport at dusk, hoping to reserve a coveted spot under the oval light cast by one of a dozen lampposts in the parking lot. Some come from over an hour's walk away.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

16 April Campaign. International Day against Child Slavery

It is not child work, it is child slavery

In this new century, we can still witness one of the most shameful situations of our time: there are 400 million enslaved children between 4 and 14 years old around the world, 165 million are under 5. Wars, prostitution, labour exploitation, starvation, ill-treatment… are the normal day for millions of children. Children’s exploitation continues increasing (it is multiplied in the impoverished South and it reappears in the enriched North) as a consequence of international trade, the technological monopoly, the passivity and cynicism of international organisms worldwide, economic policies imposed by international financial institutions (WB, IMF, etc.) and their complicity with governments who favour multinational companies.

The 16th of April of 1995, a Pakistani boy called Iqbal Mashi, Catholic militant of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan was murdered at the age of 12 by the mafia of carpets after receiving many threats for having closed companies in which all the workers were young slaves. His example spread internationally; he was awarded a prize in Stockholm and Boston and dedicated the money to open a school; he stated his intention to become a lawyer to continue fighting against child slavery.

In memory of Iqbal, a symbol of 400 million child slaves, we demand the 16th of April be set as the International Day against Child Slavery.

The Christian Cultural Movement and Solidarity Youth Path have posed this proposal in Spain and Iberoamerica:

ZARA Accused of Slave Labor

The High Street fashion giant Zara is facing accusations of child labor and use of sweatshops in South America. This is not the first time the retailer has been confronted with such criticism. However, according to Inditex, the brand’s parent company, the workshops in question do not produce Zara apparel.

After a tip-off from the local workers’ rights group, La Alameda, Argentinean authorities moved in on three sweatshops on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. According to the group, they found immigrant workers, including children, mostly from Bolivia, who were working in poorly lit, unventilated workshops for meager wages and lived in cramped quarters.

“Our complaint was upheld by the inspectors themselves in the City Government,” Lucas Schaerer, spokesman for La Alameda said. “Zara manufactures in two clandestine textile workshops listed in our criminal complaint filed in the anti-trafficking prosecution (UFASE),” he added. They found men and children who lived in the place where they worked. The spokesman also claimed that the workers had no official documents and were held at the factories against their will and were not allowed to leave their workplaces without permission.

Gustavo Vera, a spokesman for the NGO, claimed the workers were made to start at 7 a.m. and work until 11 p.m. without breaks for six days a week.

Monday 15 April 2013

16 April: International Day Against Child Slavery




After an extensive study of what he calls the "New Slavery in the Global Economy," Kevin Bales makes the following statements in his 1999 book Disposable People:

"Slavery is not a horror safely consigned to the past; it continues to exist throughout the world, even in developed countries like France and the United States. Across the world, slaves work and sweat and build and suffer. Slaves in Pakistan may have made the shoes you are wearing and the carpet you stand on. Slaves in the Caribbean may have put sugar in your kitchen and toys in the hands of your children. In India they may have sewn the shirt on your back and polished the ring on your finger. They are paid nothing."

"Slavery is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they've finished with their slaves, they just throw these people away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery, but about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money."

Types of child slavery include: agriculture, mining, textile industry, prostitution and pornography, making bricks, serfdom, scavenging, selling children for their organs... 

Just one of the millions of cases:

Sunday 7 April 2013

Assembly-line Teaching Approach

The traditional school structure emerged as a parallel to the factory model: a division of labour, mechanical routines and large-scale production as the most efficient way to make things. The products could be automobiles or productive citizens.

Considering students have different classes a day of about 50 or 60 minutes each, in rooms where they are sitting in orderly rows, writing down notes and completing repetitive exercises in preparation for exams. This is an efficient method of material production, but it's no way to educate human beings.

The "products" these industrial-era schools release into our communities cannot be agents of change and often lack the ability to collaborate with others and engage in the critical analysis necessary to make this world a better place. 

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Schools in Finnland

Education counsellor Reijo Laukkanen says:

“Finnland is a society based on equity.. .Japan and Korea are highly competitive societies - if you're not better than your neighbor, your parents pay to send you to night school. In Finland, outperforming your neighbor isn't very important. Everybody is average, but you want that average to be very high."

Eeva Penttila, Head of International Relations Helsinki Education Department:

“The State wants the citizens to be happy, to have a high quality of education and also to have a very good self-esteem, those are our main goals…”

“In kindergarten, they have a curriculum but it’s based on play, not on academic learning…Kindergarten and pre-school (6 year olds) are not compulsory.”

“The teachers’ profession here is valued in our country…We value education because we value those who are teaching us… (Teachers have autonomy to decide how their classrooms are run) …when you have autonomy, you have a huge responsibility.”

(There’s no students’ national assessment) “We only have one national test… at the age of 18.” (There are no standardized tests) “There’s ongoing self-assessment…The school board decides a self-assessment plan for their students.”

Timo Lankinen, Director General of the Finnish National Board of Education:  

“We have had big reforms…with vocation educational training…Finnish basic education…is based on giving high standards for all…we empower teaching profession and give high-quality teacher education…We also intervene early if there are children lagging behind. There’s an individual approach and we highlight active role of students a lot…If you look at learning environments in Finnish school, we have relatively small class sizes. So, there’s a possibility to individualize attention for each child. Also… relatively small school sizes.”

What is Finland's “Secret” to Success in Education?

For the last number of years, Finland has led the world in the performance of 15-year-old kids when it comes to literacy, numeracy, and science. In Finland, children are not required to attend formal schooling until the age of seven.

There are no private schools in Finland – all students receive a free education from the age of seven until they complete their university studies. Yes, you read that correctly: university education is completely state-funded. They also all receive free school meals, resources and materials, transport and support services.
Student excellence was never a particular priority–so when Finnish students topped the first ever PISA tests in 2001, it came as huge surprise to both the Finnish government and the international community.
Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility, about Finland’s success in education:
No Standardized Testing
Students do not have any mandatory exams until, as a high school senior, they are required to take an exam for entrance into university.
The Prestige of Teaching
In Finland, teaching is a prestigious career; as a childhood aspiration, it is mentioned in the same breath as any other career. "When we compare teachers to other professions in society, we compare them to lawyers or doctors or architects," Dr. Sahlberg said.

Teacher Autonomy