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DR Congo election board delays vote in three cities | News

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Kinshasa, DRC – The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission (CENI) has postponed Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary vote in three cities in the vast country, citing concerns over Ebola and violence.

CENI said in a statement on Wednesday that election in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu province and the western city of Yumbi – in Bandundu province – will take place in March 2019.

Voting will take place in the rest of the country as scheduled, the statement added.

There is an ongoing Ebola outbreak in the eastern part of the country with calls for the vote to be postponed. More than 320 people have so far been killed in the outbreak – the second worst in history.

The latest outbreak started in May 2018.

Meanwhile, ethnic violence in the western part of the country left at least 100 people dead last week.

The electoral commission said official results of the presidential poll will be announced on January 15.

The announcement about the postponement comes four days after CENI told Al Jazeera that polls would take place in the Ebola-hit parts of the country.

Since November 28, there have been more than 500 confirmed cases of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than 46 million Congolese have registered to take part in the poll that has been repeatedly delayed.

The postponement has not gone down well with voter in Beni, an opposition stronghold. Many in the city are accusing the commission of denying them their democratic right to cast their ballot.

“This is just provocation. We can’t accept this after waiting for more than two years. We are not ready to allow another delay while we continue to die on daily basis from attacks and Ebola,” Simon Sikuli, a 34-year-old activist told Al Jazeera by phone.

“We can’t wait to go and vote on Sunday like all other Congolese. Why more delay for  Beni. We have been waiting for long and can’t afford another delay,” he added.

Meanwhile, Esperence Kasiviro, said election should be held no matter the situation.

“This new delay has come just to cause people here to revolt. It’s not normal and we cannot understand this regime what it wants. We have allowed them to delay up to Sunday but not up to March.

“This, we don’t really take. Enough is enough. They are not right to use Ebola as a reason to put us on hold. What if the epidemic is not off in March? We demand elections to be held here as well on Sunday.

“We have been victims for long and now, we want to get peace back for us to develop our territory. That’s all,” Kasiviro said.

Elections were first scheduled to be held in 2016. It was then postponed to December 23 this year and then to December 30.

Earlier this month, a fire destroyed one of the main warehouses of the electoral body, damaging nearly 80 percent of the 10,000 voting machines meant for the capital, Kinshasa, home to about 15 percent of the country’s electorate.

The highly-contested poll is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in power.

As many as 21 candidates are competing for the country’s top job.

The DRC, a country of more than 80 million people, has not seen a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

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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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