Today's Big Stories

Back-to-school - are SA's learners ready for 2015?

Back-to-school: tomorrow is D-Day for thousands of grade ones who will be attending school for the first time. With the matric pass rate for last year down, greater emphasis will be placed on achieving better results. However, with text book problems in Limpopo in the past, questions are being asked whether the Basic Education Department is ready for 2015. Departmental Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga:

Yes, we are ready to commence with the school calendar for 2015. We did a final check in December for readiness. Tomorrow will be the final day for schools to start. With regards to textbooks: we'll never have that situation again, it was because the curriculum was being changed then. Gauteng has taken the first major step to lead the whole country in going paperless and bring technology to the school environment to create excitement amongst the learners. We are moving with the times and Gauteng is leading this with switching from using paper to a paperless environment with tablets.

Shopping for school: South Africans typically leave things to the last minute, with shops selling uniforms and stationary set to be packed today and parents forking out thousands of rands. Stationery supply entrepreneur, Gareth Powlesland:

Over the last few years, there's always the same predicament, because of the return back from the holiday. But I've also observed this year that it's a bit later than normal.

Blood sample pile up: drunk driving is responsible for a large number of fatalities on the roads, however, very few are prosecuted. This is because 70 000 blood alcohol samples are sitting at the national laboratories, remaining untested. This results in cases being thrown out of court. DA Shadow Minister of Health, Dr Wilmot James:

It is a large number and that is for the 30th of November. The labs have not been working at the proper efficiency. There are also insufficient labs and there's set to be a new lab to be opened in KZN according to Minister Motsoaledi. That will make a big difference, althought it won't be enough. I believe that university labs should also be including in this to help clear this backlog.

Madikizela-Mandela Qunu bid: the Eastern Cape High Court is hearing arguments today regarding an application by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to stop a planned family meeting at Nelson Mandela's Qunu home. Madikizela-Mandela filed an opposing affidavit on Monday to stop the meeting organised by Nelson Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela, from going ahead. EWN Correspondent, Thando Kubheka:

Winnnie claims that when she and Mandela were still married, he gave her the house in Qunu. She's also using a customary argument stating that each wife should be given an established house. She feels this property is hers and whatever happens at this home should be done under her consent. Mandla Mandela feels that as the eldest male head disagrees that this is Ma Winnie's home, but belongs to the whole family. We should know by the end of the day if Winnie's application has been successful and are waiting to hear arguments from both parties.

Sex workers and HIV prevalence: about 60 percent of South Africa's estimated 150,000 sex workers are HIV positive. The statistics were announced by the SA National AIDS Council (Sanac) at the launch of a national HIV and AIDS programme for sex workers in Johannesburg. Sex workers, their 'non-commercial partners' and their clients account for between 6-11% of all new infections in south africa. Founder and National Coordinator of Sisonke, Kholi Buthelezi:

We partner up with quite a few organisations including SWEAT and they provide awareness. Sex workers often don't get HIV from their clients because they use condoms, so they're likely contracting it from their partners because they also need love.

Interest rates picture for SA: with the petrol price plummeting, inflation is expected to come down. It should cost less to transport goods to shops and costs will be reduced. However, there are reports from some quarters that an interest rate hike is expected. Chief Economist at Stanlib, Kevin Lings:

Initially, I think we'll find the Reserve Bank leaving interest rates unchanged. There was some debate last year about increasing interest rates. I do expect that the petrol price will be reduced again next month. We're having some sizeable reductions that will feed to lower inflation and allow the Reserve Bank to leave interest rates low.

International community to respond to #BokoHaram: the United Nations and African Union have finally decided to take action against fundamentalist organisation, Boko Haram. An estimated 150 people were killed by the extremist group about ten days ago and they attacked 16 villages this month. The Nigerian government has been battling in its fight against the group. EWN Nigeria Correspondent, Samson Omale:

Officials say that the number of people who were killed did not exceed 150 and that includes the terrorists. Nigeria is a country with 36 states and the north eastern parts of the country have been the most affected by the terror attacks of Boko Haram.

SA's force for Africa: South African troops are getting ready to participate in fighting rebels in the Eastern DRC and are likely to head to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram. Defense analyst, Helmoed Heitman:

If you take into account that you have to rotate troops, we are probably about 3000 troops fraught. We don't have the means to transport troops, we don't have the aircraft, we'll probably have to beg for aircraft from outside. We can do a fortnight, and do an intervention force but not an extended mission. The Special Forces are still outstanding, on the bright side, we would have the arms to do the job, if we can get them there. We've got equipment, but a shortage of light vehicles to get it there.

State funeral for French four in Israel: the bodies of the four Jewish Frenchmen killed in Paris last Friday have arrived in Israel for burial. They were killed when a gunman took hostages at a Kosher deli. This was part of the terror attacks where 12 people were killed when gunmen stormed satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. EWN Mid-East Correspondent, Paula Slier:

There are tens of thousands of people, roads have been closed for what is a state funeral in the outskirts of Jerusalem. There have been a number of leaders and rabbis who spoke. There's no fears inside Israel (of potential conflict). There have been some expressions of support for Islamic state. A lot of people here do feel this was something that was expected and a lot of immigrants from Paris are expected to arrive.

This article first appeared on 702 : Back-to-school - are SA's learners ready for 2015?



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