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Sudan: Police fire tear gas as hundreds protest against al-Bashir | News





Sudanese security forces have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman as organisers urge nationwide demonstrations over the next week calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.

Crowds chanting “Freedom, Peace, Justice” demonstrated on Friday in two areas of Khartoum and in Omdurman just across the Nile, witnesses said.

They were quickly confronted by volleys of tear gas from riot police.

The demonstrations, which first erupted on December 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread, have swiftly escalated into broader protests that are widely seen as the biggest threat to al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.

Friday’s protests came after organisers called for nationwide demonstrations over the next week demanding that al-Bashir resign.

“We will launch a week of uprising with demonstrations in every Sudanese town and village,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said.

At least 22 people have been killed since the protests began, according to the authorities.

Human Rights Watch, however, said on Monday that at least 40 people had been killed, including children and medical staff.

Reporting from Khartoum, Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan said that while al-Bashir has remained defiant regarding the protests against him, so have the protesters.

“They say they will continue to come out into the streets, they will continue to make their voices heard, and they will continue to demand that he step down, something that [al-Bashir] said he’s not going to do until elections in 2020,” Morgan said.

“Even then, his party says they are going to try to re-elect him so that he can be nominated for presidency next year. So it’s not clear if these protests will ever end.

“People are saying that they’re fed up with his 29-year rule and that his promises to try to reform the economy, to try to improve the living situation for people is something that they’ve heard over and over again and only him stepping down would be the solution.”

Economic crisis

Although the immediate trigger for the protests was the increase in the price of bread, Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, partially caused by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported in several cities, including the capital Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.

Al-Bashir and other officials have blamed Washington for Sudan’s economic woes, having imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017.

The president has remained defiant, telling thousands of loyalists at a Khartoum rally on Wednesday that his government would not give in to economic pressure.

“Those who tried to destroy Sudan… put conditions on us to solve our problems, I tell them that our dignity is more than the price of dollars,” al-Bashir said.

Across the Nile in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, three demonstrators were killed on Wednesday as police fired tear gas to disperse the protest, the authorities said.

Morgan said that there are concerns among the protesters that the government will escalate its use of force in an attempt to put down the protests.

“People are saying that the force used against them by the government is brutal and that it increases day by day,” Morgan said.

Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists as well as demonstrators.

Al Jazeera and news agencies


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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





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





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





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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