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Serbia: Thousands rally against President Aleksander Vucic | News

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Thousands of people took to the streets of the Serbian capital Belgrade for the third consecutive week to protest against the government of President Aleksandar Vucic.

More than 5,000 people marched towards the Serbian state broadcaster RTS on Saturday – widely seen as supportive of Vucic – before moving to the government headquarters.

The protests, which first began in response to the beating an opposition politician, Borko Stefanovic, during a rally in a southern city, have escalated, and now include calls for greater accountability and more freedom of speech. 

Stefanovic was approached by a group of young men in hoodies who smashed his head and briefly knocked him unconscious.

Al Jazeera’s Marko Subotic, reporting from Belgrade, said the number of protesters on Saturday exceeded those seen in previous weeks.

“This was the largest protest of citizens because they are not organised by any political party but was actually organised by some public figures and student organisations, albeit backed by opposition parties in Serbia,” Subotic said.

“They will return next Saturday to tell President Vucic, who has been in power for six years, they don’t agree with the current situation in Serbia, especially that there is no freedom of speech and opposition leaders can’t be heard on national television, including Serbia’s public service.”

Vucic mocked the first rally in Belgrade, saying it was small and that “even if there were five million” he would not cede to their demands.

The second protest was held under #1od5miliona (one of five million).

Although Serbia is nominally a democratic society with political opposition and free elections, Vucic’s firm grip on power has made it difficult for opponents to make their voices heard or answer verbal outbursts against them.

Vucic has publicly condemned the attack on Stefanovic and police swiftly arrested the assailants, but opponents like Dragan Djilas say he has fostered an “atmosphere of violence” that made such an attack possible.

His Progressive Party has dominated parliament in the three parliamentary elections since 2012. Vucic started a five-year term as president last year.

The Serbian opposition, aweakened by internal strife, corruption scandals and low exposure on state and pro-government media since Vucic took over, has been fully marginalised.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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