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Protesters in DRC’s Beni target Ebola centre over election delay | News

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Kinshasa, DRC – Protesters angry over a delay in the presidential election in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Beni city have ransacked an Ebola centre, according to residents.

The centre housed patients suspected of having the deadly viral disease before the confirmed cases are transferred to an isolation centre.

“The protesters have attacked the Ebola centre in the town. This is serious because the epidemic can spread,” Matthieu Kamble, a resident, told Al Jazeera by telephone.

The demonstrators were unhappy with the electoral commission (CENI) after it delayed Sunday’s election in three DRC cities.

On Wednesday, CENI said voting in Beni and Butembo in the eastern North Kivu province and Yumbi in western Bandundu province will take place in March next year instead.

The commission said it delayed the poll in North Kivu because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the region, the second-worst in history.

The latest outbreak, which started in May 2018, has left more than 320 people dead.

‘We have to vote’

“The electoral commission is responsible for what’s happening. We don’t accept the delay, we have to vote,” Kambale said.

Another resident, Justin Safari, said the situation in the city will not change unless people are allowed to cast their ballot.

“Delaying over the Ebola outbreak is not good enough a reason. They can’t use it to leave us behind while other Congolese vote on Sunday. It doesn’t make any sense,” Safari said.

Residents in Beni told Al Jazeera that security forces used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse protesters, who burned tires and blocked roads to express anger at their exclusion from the polls.

“Protesters blocked the main road and destroyed the Ebola centre. They are chasing the volunteers fighting the disease. Nobody wants to accept an election delay here,” Kizito Bin Hangi, president of Beni Civil Society, told Al Jazeera.

The DRC was scheduled to have its election in 2016, but the electoral body kept delaying, citing a lack of resources to hold the polls in the vast country which is roughly five times the size of France.

CENI scheduled the vote for December 23, but that again was extended by a week after voting machines were destroyed in a fire at the electoral body’s main warehouse in the capital, Kinshasa.

More than 46 million Congolese are registered to take part in the polls.

Twenty-one candidates are competing to succeed President Joseph Kabila, who is stepping down after more than 17 years in power.

The DRC has never had a peaceful transfer of power since the mineral-rich country 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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