Kosovo Initiates Campaign Against Human Trafficking

The observer in PristinaKosovo’s Ministry of Interior initiated a one-month nation-wide campaign against human trafficking, titled “Open Your Eyes.” The campaign intends to inform the general public with an emphasis on children, young adults, and women who are often targeted victims of sexual exploitation and forced begging.

According to Sasha Rasic, Deputy Minister of Kosovo’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the issue of human trafficking is the government’s number one concern. Mr Rasic explains, “the priority of MIA and the whole government is fighting for the prevention of this phenomenon. Kosovo has moved with determination towards Europe and during this road we must face all challenges and one of those undoubtedly is respect of human rights and preservation of human dignity for all.”

A 2012 assessment organized by the U.S. Department of State revealed that the government of Kosovo has not fully complied with the UN’s minimum standards for prosecuting trafficking cases. As a result, Kosovo’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Bajram Rexhepi, has announced the approval of a new law that intends to meet the legal standards set by the European Union in punishing the guilty and in preventing human trafficking.

Through this law we aim to implement legal provisions which give rights, obligations and responsibilities to local competent authorities, not only in prevention and fighting trafficking in human beings, but also with special focus protection of victims of trafficking” said Mr Rexhepi.

According to Mr Rexhapi, last year’s human trafficking rate rose 18% compared to previous years. In 2013, 150 people were arrested while 48 victims have been placed under protection.

In lieu of the campaign, students and young adults of Kosovo made a “human circle against trafficking with human beings.” The circle symbolizes that a community working together can prevent the exploitation of women and children. 

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Tuition Hike in Armenia Leads to Student Protests

At the College

The recent tuition hike in many of Armenia’s schools of higher education has led to student protesting from August 13th onwards. In response, the Armenian Minister of Education justifies the tuition hikes as being beneficial for universities. However, he claims that he is open to discussing different proposals.

Plans to raise tuition fees in Armenia by thirty percent have caused students to protest in the capital city of Yereva. Students have been gathering in front of the Education and Science Ministry since August 13th. This hike in tuition, according to protestors, could have devastating effects on those seeking university education.

Additionally, protestors are suspicious of the current use of tuition; they do not believe an increase is necessary to contend with administrative and professor salaries, technical upgrading, and social issues. They are hoping for investigations by the Finance Ministry Control Inspectorate into the use of such funds.

Students all over Europe have become increasingly concerned with these developments and are supporting the struggle of the Armenian National Student’s Association (ANSA) through petitions, letters, and appeals.

In response to student protests, Armenia’s Minister of Education, Armen Ashotyan, has claimed that current budgets for universities do not cover future developments and technologies that are needed to provide better quality education. Ashotyan also believes that tuition hikes at specific universities will attract foreign professors and experts to Armenian universities. He has claimed that he is looking into possibilities to strengthen state funding to those that need help covering tuition. He also claims to be open to meeting with students to review proposals and has promised to hold public hearings.

Armenia’s student revolution joins a growing body of international protests led by youth–many of them, including the Chilean student movement, have seen success in recent months.

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The Kilogram is Getting Heavier

Kilogram of ConservatoireAccording to a group of scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, the original kilogram may getting heavier. The International Prototype Kilogram (IPK or Le Grand K, as it is also known), a platinum and iridium cylinder, is the standard kilogram against which all other measurements of mass are set. It was built in 1875 and is stored in the International Bureau of Weights and Measurements in Paris.

Now, Peter Cumpson and Naoko Sano, two investigators from Newcastle University, believe that it may gaining weight. The team of scientists have performed a series of x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy in surfaces similar to the IPK, trying to determine the amount of carbon-based contaminants they contain. The investigators concluded that the contamination caused a slight increase in the surfaces’ weight. The same phenomenon is probably happening to the IPK, the scientists believe. Over time, the IPK may have gained a few micrograms.

Although this may seem insignificant, the truth is that only a few micrograms can have a significant impact in many fields. Besides, the replicas (40 replicas of the IKP where made in 1884 and stored in different locations around the world) may also be suffering from the same phenomenon but at different rates. Because of that, it is probable that currently the kilogram and its replicas have slightly different weights.

The scientists believe that it is possible to remove the contaminants from the IPK by giving it a suntan. They where successful at removing the carbonaceous contaminants from the surfaces they analyzed by exposing them to a mixture of UV and ozone Using the Theta-probe XPS machine.

The article describing the investigation is available in the Journal Metrologia.

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France: How Necessary is Homework?

A recent report headlined in the Refondons l’école Rebuild Education Inquiry states that French President François Hollande vows to put an end to homework, one of several reform changes designed to boost the country’s education ranking among European countries.


Hollande argues that homework imparts an unfair advantage onto the wealthy, since they are more likely to have a better home environment, with parents who have the time and resources to help their children.

Ironically, the greatest criticisms to Hollande’s plans have come from the country’s poor, who claim that homework provides disadvantaged children with a necessary sense of structure and purpose that they wouldn’t normally get elsewhere.

“Mostly, wealthy people don’t want homework because when the kids are at home, they make sports or dance or music. They go to the museums, to the theater. So they have this access to culture, which is very important. In poor families, they don’t have that, so the only link they have with culture and school is homework,” says Emmanuel Davidenkoff, editor-in-chief of L’Etudiant.

”An education programme is, by definition, a societal programme. Work should be done at school, rather than at home, in order to foster educational equality for those students who do not have support at home.”–President François Hollande.

Perhaps the most significant question to ask: what are the supposed short- and long-term effects of having no homework? Children may initially be happier to have more time and less pressure, which helps to ignite their curiosity and willingness to self-discover. On the other hand, homework – when used appropriately – is meant to clarify and expand upon what is learned in school while adding intellectual depth and stability through consistent application. What happens when these students, who have had little experience doing homework, enter the workforce and are asked to meet deadlines or sit at a desk for eight hours a day?

The reform only works if educators are able to manage a satisfactory balance between work and play in the classroom. If successful, it may actually help teachers become more innovative in their lesson planning and classroom management strategies. However, as it stands, there aren’t any comprehensive plans in place to guide teachers in adapting to a never-before-seen no-homework system.

Will Hollande’s plan still be as effective, without first applying this kind of support?

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Thousands of Students in Spain Protest Education Spending Cuts

Barcelona Student Protest

In Spain, the government recently announced plans to cut spending on education. The action quickly caused students to hold a nationwide protest against the cut. Led by the Students’ Union, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of major cities in Spain. The demonstration included students from secondary schools and universities. These protestors argue that the cuts put students at a greater risk of unemployment in the future.

The budget cut will ultimately raise public university fees, while reducing the number of faculty and classrooms. Scholarships and grants will also be reduced. Similar effects were seen to arise from previous spending cuts to education. Back in 2010, almost $6.5 billion was cut from education. This brought on great changes in classrooms: thousands of teachers lost their jobs, scholarship offerings decreased, and tuition fees rose.

The cut was initiated by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as a means of reducing the public deficit. With a high probability of bankruptcy, Spain is under pressure to organize their public finances, especially with its near-25 percent unemployment rate. Students and other protestors argue that, by cutting the budget, employment will not increase.

UNESCO released a report showing figures of student performance and employment probability for new graduates. The report was less than appealing. One in three students in Spain, between 15 to 24 years old, does not complete their secondary education. This is higher than the European average of one in five. It is argued that students are stopping their education to seek employment. However, the rate of youth unemployment is over 50 percent.  Without proper education, employment opportunities for students are becoming even more scarce. According to UNESCO, not giving students education will cause them to “not take advantage of their potential, lose employment opportunities and stops them helping their respective countries back to prosperity.”

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A Diamond Planet: A Discovery that May Change the Way We See Planets

55 Cancri A recent study conducted by a team of investigators from Yale University in the US and from the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie in France suggests the existence of a planet in the Milky Way made mostly out of carbon.

The planet, known as 55 Cancri e, has twice the Earth’s size and eight times its mass. It is located 40 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Cancer. It is one of the five planets orbiting the star 55 Cancri, which is visible to the naked eye from our planet.

The planet has a hyperspeed orbit, only 18 hours, and a temperature of 2,150 degrees Celsius (13,900 degrees Fahrenheit).

The scientists conducting the investigation believe the planet has a unique constitution, very different from the Earth’s. They believe the planet is made mostly by iron, silicon carbide, carbon, and other silicates. They estimate that with such an amount of carbon in the planet, at least one-third of its mass could be diamond (one of the forms of stable carbon)

This discovery may change the way astrophysicists understand planetary systems and their evolution. According to the lead author of the research, Nikku Madhusudhan, “This is the first glimpse of a rocky world with a fundamentally different chemistry from Earth’s,” and this means that the distant rocky planets can no longer be assumed to have chemical constituents and atmospheres similar to Earth’s. A carbon-rich composition could also influence the planet’s thermal evolution and plate tectonics with several implications to its eventual life forms.

The study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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Last First Day of School Coming Up for Many Russian Universities

Russian Dolls Lined Up

There are too many universities in Russia. This is the opinion of senior education officials, who have watched the number of colleges and institutes skyrocket from 300 at the time of the USSR’s collapse to 3,000 at present. According to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the current surplus decreases overall educational quality and produces graduates who fail to match the market’s needs. A new draft law, “On Education in the Russian Federation,” was submitted to the Duma last week with provisions for reorganizing education at all levels.

In the new educational landscape, efficiency is to be the name of the game. The University World News reports that education and science minister Dmitry Livanov predicts a one-in-five closure rate for Russia’s universities during 2013-2014. Some of these institutions will be closed outright, while others will undergo mergers in the way weaker corporations slide under the umbrella of larger, more powerful competitors.

“Carthage must be destroyed, and a significant proportion of universities that fail to meet the required standards need to be reorganized and ultimately closed down, of that I am absolutely convinced,” said Medvedev in an Open Government panel discussion with experts on education.

Other items written into the bill include an increase in the number of schools providing free education and the shifting of funds from municipal to federal coffers. The new law will replace and synthesize major educational laws from 1992 and 1996, which lack comprehensiveness and are now outdated.

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NGO Provides Sex-Ed for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Prison Inmates

Every human being has a right to education, especially when it comes to his or her own health. Same goes for the inmates of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s correctional facilities. Guided by the fact that sexually transmitted diseases know no boundaries, association “XY” based in Sarajevo, BiH, has been providing sexual education and training in BiH prisons for more than two years.
Red Ribbon In the past month alone, through its project “Maximizing coverage of effective prevention of HIV among at-risk population” financed by the Global Fund, association “XY” has organized trainings for inmates of four correctional facilities giving them knowledge and skills to become peer trainers and continue educating other inmates at their facilities. Forty-Seven inmates, in total, have gone through these training sessions, learning about STDs, in particular HIV/AIDS, how they’re transmitted and how to prevent contracting them.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Bosnia and Herzegovina is low. According to the latest data, at the end of 2010, there were only 170 registered HIV infected people, out of which 109 have developed AIDS. However, there’s a general stigma about HIV/AIDS, as well as discrimination against people suffering from this disease, that needs to be addressed by raising awareness and increasing education on this issue. Many people are still ignorant about HIV/AIDS and how it’s transmitted, including medical personnel. Research conducted by the Federal Institute of Health of BiH shows that 47.8% of the questioned health workers believe that HIV can be transmitted via mosquito bite, 60.4% avoid contact with personal items of patients with HIV/AIDS, while a staggering 99.5% condemns HIV positive people.

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