Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 67

Muslim schools caught up in France's fight against Islamism

By Juliette Jabkhiro

A middle school student wearing a hijab raises her hand during an Islamic ethics class at the Averroes school, France's biggest Muslim educational institution that has lost its state funding on grounds of administrative failures and questionable teaching practises, in Lille, France, March 19, 2024. REUTERS/Ardee Napolitano

PARIS, June 3 (Reuters) - Last year, Sihame Denguir enrolled her teenage son and daughter in France's largest Muslim private school, in the northern city of Lille some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from their middle-class suburban Parisian home.

The move meant financial sacrifices. Denguir, 41, now pays fees at the partially state-subsidised Averroes school and rents a flat in Lille for her children and their grandmother, who moved to care for them.

But Averroes' academic record, among the best in France, was a powerful draw.

So she was dumbstruck in December when the school lost government funding worth around two million euros a year on grounds it failed to comply with secular principles enshrined in France's national education guidelines.

"The high school has done so well," Denguir told Reuters in a park near her home in Cergy, calling Averroes open-minded. "It should be valued. It should be held up as an example."

President Emmanuel Macron has undertaken a crackdown on what he calls Islamist separatism and radical Islam in France following deadly jihadist attacks in recent years by foreign and homegrown militants. Macron is under pressure from the far right Rassemblement National (RN), which holds a wide lead over his party ahead of European elections this week.

The crackdown seeks to limit foreign influence over Muslim institutions in France and tackle what Macron has said is a long-term Islamist plan to take control of the French Republic.

Full story at Reuters (June 2024)

Stanford University team apologises over claims they copied Chinese project for AI model

• Artificial intelligence model Llama 3-V drew global attention for its powerful performance when it was launched last week

• But after questions were raised, the developers admitted it’s ‘very similar’ to a project developed by Tsinghua and ModelBest

By Dannie Peng

Two Stanford University computer science students worked on the new AI model, Llama 3-V. Photo: Shutterstock

A Stanford University team has apologised after being accused of plagiarising the open-source work of Chinese scientists to create a new artificial intelligence model.

The AI model, called Llama 3-V, drew global attention for its powerful performance when it was launched on Wednesday last week.

But on Sunday, two Stanford students involved in the project admitted that “our architecture is very similar” to another model, MiniCPM-Llama3-V 2.5.

“We want to sincerely apologise to the original authors,” Stanford computer science undergraduates Aksh Garg and Siddharth Sharma said in a statement posted on X on Monday.

They said the original model had been taken down.

Llama 3-V was developed by Garg, Sharma and another researcher, Mustafa Aljadery, who is not from Stanford. The three researchers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Launching Llama 3-V last week, they claimed it could be trained to rival the performance of cutting-edge AI models such as GPT4-V, Gemini Ultra and Claude Opus at a cost of just under US$500.

Soon after its release, Llama 3-V made it into the top five trending list on Hugging Face, a popular artificial intelligence platform.

But questions were raised within the AI community over whether a large part of the new model might have been stolen from MiniCPM-Llama3-V 2.5. That model was jointly developed by Tsinghua University’s Natural Language Processing Lab and ModelBest, a Beijing-based AI start-up founded in 2022.

Content posted by one whistle-blower on open-source platform GitHub suggests the model structure and code of the two projects are almost identical.

Liu Zhiyuan, co-founder of ModelBest, said in a WeChat post on Monday that he was “relatively sure” that the new model had stolen from their project.

Full story at South China Morning Post (June 2024)

Louisiana Requires All Public Classrooms to Display Ten Commandments

Gov. Jeff Landry of Louisiana signed legislation requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in every public classroom in the state.Photo Credit: Michael Johnson

By Rick Rojas

Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation on Wednesday requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in every public classroom in Louisiana, making the state the only one with such a mandate and reigniting the debate over how porous the boundary between church and state should be.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, vowed a legal fight against the law they deemed “blatantly unconstitutional.” But it is a battle that proponents are prepared, and in many ways, eager, to take on.

“I can’t wait to be sued,” Mr. Landry said on Saturday at a Republican fund-raiser in Nashville, according to The Tennessean. And on Wednesday, as he signed the measure, he argued that the Ten Commandments contained valuable lessons for students.

“If you want to respect the rule of law,” he said, “you’ve got to start from the original law giver, which was Moses.”

The legislation is part of a broader campaign by conservative Christian groups to amplify public expressions of faith, and provoke lawsuits that could reach the Supreme Court, where they expect a friendlier reception than in years past. That presumption is rooted in recent rulings, particularly one in 2022 in which the court sided with a high school football coach who argued that he had a constitutional right to pray at the 50-yard line after his team’s games.

“The climate is certainly better,” said Charles C. Haynes, a senior fellow at the Freedom Forum and a scholar with an expertise in religious liberty and civil discourse, referring to the viewpoint of those who support the legislation.

Still, Mr. Haynes said that he found the enthusiasm behind the Louisiana law and other efforts unwarranted. “I think they are overreaching,” he said, adding that “even this court will have a hard time justifying” what lawmakers have conceived.

The measure in Louisiana requires that the commandments be displayed in each classroom of every public elementary, middle and high school, as well as public college classrooms. The posters must be no smaller than 11 by 14 inches and the commandments must be “the central focus of the poster” and “in a large, easily readable font.”

Full story at The New York Times (June 2024)

German school system overwhelmed by migrants, warns president of German Teachers’ Association

Germany's education system is breaking down in large part due to mass immigration

By John Cody

The German education system is facing a serious crisis as increasingly more and more students are speaking little or no German at all, warns Stefan Düll, the president of the German Teachers’ Association.

“Due to immigration in 2015, the war in Ukraine and other immigration, new people are constantly coming into the system, but the system is slow to keep up because it is moving too fast,” said Dülli, who told new agency DTS that the school system was overloaded due to excessive immigration.

The president says that a high proportion of these children speak little or no German, which is putting an enormous burden on teachers.

“After all, they don’t speak Farsi or Ukrainian. How are they supposed to teach them?” he asked.

He said that students are also less motivated. “The higher the percentage of immigrants, the more difficult it is to motivate the class,” stated Düll. In his opinion, the high number of immigrants could also lead to “the group of illiterates becoming larger.” As Remix News reported last year, 25 percent of 4th graders cannot read in Germany.

“In the end, the lack of reading skills not only endangers the social participation of many people but also Germany as a whole as a business location,” said Susanne Lin-Klitzing, who serves as the chairwoman of the German Association of Philologists.

Full story at Remix News (June 2024)

Schoolboy attacked with metal pole on Auckland bus

By Jaime Lyth

The schoolboy had three teeth knocked out and two more damaged when he was randomly attacked on a bus in Auckland.

• A woman used a metal rod to attack a 16-year-old boy on an Auckland bus.
• The victim lost three teeth and had two more damaged in the attack, which involved the woman yelling racial slurs.
• Police say they are working hard to locate the person responsible and are seeking assistance from the public.

A 16-year-old schoolboy has been left with facial injuries after a brutal attack by a woman with a steel rod on an Auckland bus.

Only one person intervened in the racially motivated attack at about 9am on Friday that resulted in the boy having three teeth knocked out and a further two teeth damaged.

“I was taking the bus to Panmure, and just past Pakuranga Plaza, a woman started verbally abusing me and then immediately started to physically abuse me,” the schoolboy, who asked not to be named, told the Herald.

The woman started yelling racial slurs at the Chinese-New Zealand boy before attacking him with a metal rod, unprovoked.

“I was just listening to music, scrolling my phone, and then it happened.

“She just stood up and hit me.”

The schoolboy has lived in New Zealand for seven years, almost half his life, and said this was the first time he had experienced a racially motivated attack.

The metal rod that was used to attack a young boy on an Auckland bus on Friday. Photo / NZME

“I completely lost three [teeth] and I’ve broken two.”

“I can’t repair them right now ... I have to wait for the wound to heal.”

He felt “embarrassed” after the attack because he would probably have to wear fake teeth until he turned 18.

Full story at The New Zealand Herald (July 2024)

Over 30 students caught using forged credentials to enrol at University of Hong Kong Business School

HKU Business School said it had in May launched a probe into the credentials of all students currently enrolled in master’s programmes after finding out that some had hired agents to produce fake documents to secure admission.

By Irene Chan

Over 30 students were found to have used forged degree credentials and other documents to enrol in master’s programmes at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Business School.

In a statement sent to HKFP on Friday, HKU Business School said it had in May launched a probe into the credentials of all students currently enrolled in master’s programmes after finding out that some had hired agents to produce fake documents to secure admission.

The University of Hong Kong on October 10, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The school said the police had started investigating the incidents, but as the agents involved in the forgeries were believed to be located in mainland China and overseas, it was challenging. No Hong Kong agents had yet been identified.

In response to enquiries from HKFP, the police said a 24-year-old mainland Chinese woman had been arrested on June 22 and a 34-year-old mainland Chinese woman had arrested on July 3 in connection with the case.

The 24-year-old was charged over using false documents and the case has been mentioned in court, while the 34-year-old had been detained for investigation.

Students at the University of Hong Kong. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

HKU Business School said that it had not reached a decision regarding how to deal with the students using forged documents.

“The school has been focusing on investigating the illegal agents, to pursue their legal responsibilities. We hope the investigation can raise awareness, with potential customers of these illegal agents realising that what they will finally get is not a diploma from HKU, but a criminal record, or even worse, imprisonment,” the school said in the statement in Chinese.

It also stated that HKU Business School was one of the top business schools in the world. “Because it is hard to enrol, and there are so many applications, HKU Business School has become the target of illegal agents.”

Full story at Hong Kong Free Press (July 2024)

Nazi song row student group suspended by university

By Susie Rack

The University of Warwick's students' union has suspended the activities of a Conservative Association group after a "reprehensible" video was shared online

A university has suspended a student group while it investigates a video that appears to show members dancing to a Nazi marching song.

The University of Warwick described the video, which was shared on social media and in the media, as "reprehensible" and launched an inquiry.

The University of Warwick Conservative Association (UWCA) has apologised over the footage, which apparently shows attendees at a dinner it hosted dancing to Erika, a popular World War Two song for Nazi soldiers.

"Antisemitism has no place on our campus," a university spokesperson said.

"Warwick SU has suspended the activities of Warwick Conservative Association while the investigation is carried out." As dinner attendees dance while the music plays, shouts of "sehr gut" - German for "very good" - can be heard on the video.

Full story at BBC News (July 2024)

Half of nursing students in England have considered quitting, survey finds

Figure suggests 32,000 students could walk away, mostly over costs and fears of burnout

By Andrew Gregory

Nearly six in 10 respondents said they were deterred by low morale and burnout among qualified nurses. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Almost half of nursing students in England have considered quitting before they graduate amid the worst workforce crisis in NHS history, according to the largest survey of its kind.

Applicant numbers have fallen significantly since the end of a grant to support nursing students in 2017. Now a report by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), seen by the Guardian, suggests that as many as 46% of those enrolled – about 32,000 students – could walk away.

The cost of living was the top reason for students considering an early exit, with seven in 10 (70%) citing “financial difficulties” as a factor. Nursing students have to pay university fees of more than £9,000 a year.

“I had a realisation that when I qualify and get paid, after I pay off my percentage of tuition I am left with the same pay I was earning at McDonald’s at age 18,” said a third-year undergraduate in Lancashire.

“I wasted so much time and put my sweat, blood and tears into something that is burning me out before I start and isn’t even paying enough. It makes me sad for myself that this is the profession I chose.”

Nearly six in 10 respondents (58%) said witnessing low morale and burnout among qualified nurses had also prompted them to consider ditching their nursing degree.

Prof Nicola Ranger, the acting general secretary and chief executive of the RCN, said: “Nursing is a highly skilled and amazing profession, but the next generation of nurses are considering walking away before they have graduated.”

She said immediate action was necessary from the next government to prevent a mass exodus of nursing students.

Full story at The Guardian (July 2024)

School in China makes students stand to eat in canteen, separating boys from girls

• School says decision intended to make students stretch their legs after spending all day studying

By Iris Jiang

In a Chinese school, students are required to stand while eating in the canteen, with segregated arrangements for boys and girls. Photo: SCMP composite/Baidu/Douyin

A secondary school in central China is facing criticism after a video emerged of employees forcing students to eat while standing next to a table, separating them by gender.

The school canteen in Henan province was equipped with rows of tables without chairs that required the students to stand and hunch over as they ate, according to a viral video on Douyin, China’s TikTok.

The video was uploaded by a part-time employee, surnamed Li, who attends Donghua University in Shanghai, and was visiting the secondary school to help students with their university applications.

The school defended its decision to remove chairs from the canteen, saying that although they initially had seats, they decided that removing them “was more beneficial than harmful”.

Administrators said the chairs had previously tripped students several times, so standing while eating was “safer”.

The school also added that students needed to stretch their legs and move around after sitting too long in classrooms.

Some have explained that the separation of male and female students aims to deter early romantic relationships to prioritise their studies. Photo: Baidu

Li explained that separating the male and female students was meant to prevent early romantic relationships. It is common for parents in China to dissuade teen relationships so their children can focus on their studies.

In the video caption, Li compared the school to a famous military-style secondary school in China, which is extremely controversial in the country.

“I would call this school a slightly better version of Hengshui,” Li wrote.

At Hengshui Secondary School, students follow strict rules and regulations, with the primary goal of achieving high scores on the gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam.

Full story at South China Morning Post (July 2024)