Last moments of Kenya attack victims revealed at memorial
By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
Tuesday, January 22
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Hiding from gunmen in an office building, a group of people heard gunshots getting louder and the clatter of a weapon being run along the metal banister of a staircase, according to a survivor of an Islamic extremist attack in Kenya last week. Then a gunman opened the door of the room where the workers huddled, said he was with al-Shabab and began shooting.
In a higher floor of the Nairobi building, witnesses said, a gunman pushed against the door of a bathroom where women were hiding and said: “We know you’re in there. Open.”
New details of the Jan. 15 assault on the dusitD2 hotel and office complex in Kenya’s capital emerged on Tuesday during a church memorial for six employees of digital payments company Cellulant who were killed. The tribute touched on the terrifying last moments of the young men, as well as the anguish of colleagues in safety, who were receiving phone messages from trapped friends.
“Our teams would tell us, ‘Help us, help us. This is where we are. The gunshots are coming closer and closer,’” said Ken Njoroge, CEO and co-founder of Cellulant, which operates in several African countries.
Workers in the Cellulant offices on the fifth and sixth floors of the Cavendish building, beside the hotel, thought a blast at around 3 p.m. on the day of the attack was a “gas explosion” and weren’t particularly alarmed, Njoroge said. A few minutes later, they heard another explosion followed by gunfire. They headed for the exits.
“The teams began to mobilize,” Njoroge told hundreds of mourners. “I think it became very clear that all was not well.”
Some 83 out of 100 workers in the Cellulant offices at the time escaped, but the rest didn’t make it out and split into two groups, he said. Six hid in a small room under the stairs on the first floor, and the other 11 returned to the fifth floor, where they also split: The men into the men’s bathroom, and the women into the women’s bathroom.
Njoroge, who was on a business trip to Zambia at the time and quickly returned to Kenya, compiled the account from colleagues. He said people couldn’t tell where the shooting was coming from and that one colleague said: “‘When you hear the gunshots, all of your other senses go away. You can’t see, you can’t hear. Nothing.’”
Kenyan security forces have been praised for their quick response to the attack, in contrast to their fumbling response to the 2013 attack on the nearby Westgate mall that killed 67 people. The attack last week killed a total of 21 people, including a police officer, and was declared over nearly 20 hours after it started. More than 700 people were evacuated. All five attackers, among them a suicide bomber, died. A number of suspected accomplices are under arrest.
Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility. The group says it attacks Kenya for joining an African Union force fighting against it in its home base of neighboring Somalia. The extremists have been heavily targeted by U.S. air strikes.
Continuing with his account, Njoroge said one or two gunmen flung open the door to the men’s bathroom on the fifth floor, grabbed 36-year-old Ashford Kuria Maina, pulled him out and killed him.
“‘They’ve taken Ashford and we’ve heard some gunshots,’” a colleague texted to friends who were safe, providing a nearly instantaneous report on the horror.
Attackers pushed the door to the women’s bathroom but were unable to enter because the women pushed back, according to the account. The gunmen left.
For the six Cellulant employees hiding on the first floor, it was “as if this guy was actually walking on their heads” as they listened to a gunman descend the stairs, according to Njoroge.
The gunman “opened the door and had a conversation with them, introduced himself as al-Shabab” and killed five people, the company CEO said. The sixth employee survived because her male colleagues protected her by tucking her at the back of the room. She smeared blood on herself to pretend that she was also a casualty, Njoroge said.
The five men who died there were Denis Munene Mwaniki, 29; Jeremiah Mathai Mbaria, 31; John Wanyaga Ndiritu, 29; Kelvin Kariuki Gitonga, 28; and 23-year-old Wilfred Kareithi Waihura, who was supposed to be at a first aid training with colleagues elsewhere but came into the office for a 3 p.m. conference call with a customer.
A week before the al-Shabab assault, victim Ashford Kura Maina talked with a colleague about what they would do if they were under attack, said associate Alex Kimani. He said his longtime friend “kept giving options.”
Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris
Sudan’s embattled president travels to Qatar amid unrest
By HAMZA HENDAWI
Tuesday, January 22
CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s embattled president flew Tuesday to Qatar, the tiny but wealthy Gulf state that has offered him help as he faces protests initially sparked by the country’s economic woes but which soon shifted to calling on him to step down.
Qatar’s official news agency said President Omar al-Bashir, in power since 1989, will meet Wednesday with the emirate’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to discuss “brotherly relations and ways to bolster them.”
Sudan’s official news agency reported his departure from the capital Khartoum, saying he and Sheikh Tamim will discuss bilateral relations and efforts to cement peace in Darfur, the western Sudanese region where security forces brutally crushed a rebellion.
Al-Bashir was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur, where an insurgency erupted in 2003. To avoid arrest and repatriation to The Hague, the court’s seat, he has restricted his travel to African and Arab nations.
The dispatches by the two agencies gave no other details on the Sudanese leader’s visit, but in a Dec. 22 telephone call to al-Bashir, Qatar’s ruler stated his country’s readiness to “provide all that is needed” to help Sudan get through its crisis, according to a report by the official Sudanese news agency.
There has been no word since on whether the emir made good on his pledge, but the Sudanese leader’s visit is widely interpreted as a bid to secure urgent financial aid to Sudan, which lost three quarters of its oil wealth when the south of the country seceded in 2011, plunging the country into its worst economic crisis in decades.
A devaluation of the currency in October pushed up prices, but lifting state subsidies on bread last month proved to be the final stroke, sparking the latest bout of unrest. A cash crunch also led to long lines at ATMs and limits on cash withdrawals. Similarly, a fuel shortage meant hours-long wait at gas stations.
Al-Bashir, in an apparent bid to placate growing discontent, has promised to raise salaries, restructure the banking sector and continue to subsidize basic food items, but he did not say how he intended to fund these measures.
Significantly, al-Bashir’s key Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have made no official pronouncements explicitly supporting him. Egypt, Sudan’s powerful neighbor to the north, has publicly announced its support for stability and security in Sudan but, again, made no mention of al-Bashir.
The three countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates — are at sharp odds with Qatar, accusing the energy-rich nation of supporting radical Islamic groups in the region and forging close ties with Iran, archrival of the Saudis and the Emiratis.
An Islamist, al-Bashir has often in the past appeared to be playing one ally against another for his own gain. Beside Qatar, for example, he has forged close ties with Turkey, another rival of his Arab allies. He has sought to win the goodwill of the Saudis by dispatching Sudanese troops to Yemen to fight alongside a Saudi-led coalition against Shiite rebels aligned with Iran.
More recently, he has blamed the unrest, now in its fifth week, on saboteurs and what he repeatedly calls foreign schemes against Sudan. Already among the longest serving leaders in the region, he has said any change of leadership could only come through the ballot box, a reference to next year’s presidential elections in which he is expected to run for another term in office.
Al-Bashir’s security chief, Salah Qoush, has given rare insight into the government’s views on the unrest in a leaked audiotape purporting to contain remarks he made at a closed meeting Sunday. The authenticity of the tape could not be independently verified, but Sudanese activists said the voice matched Qoush’s.
He blamed the unrest on secularists and communists and vowed that Islamic rule in Sudan would “never ever” be brought down by demonstrations. “We must revise (our policies) and improve our performance, but we must also defend our (Islamic) experiment,” said Qoush, himself an Islamist.
“The government will not fall, not even after six months of protests,” he added.
Indonesia reverses course on plan to free radical cleric
Tuesday, January 22
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s president said Tuesday that an elderly Islamic cleric who inspired the Bali bombers and other extremists won’t be released from prison unless he renounces radicalism, backing down from plans to free him without conditions.
President Joko Widodo said Abu Bakar Bashir, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011, must fulfil conditions such as loyalty to the state and the national ideology to be eligible for release.
Bashir, 80, insists he is only answerable to God and that Indonesia should be governed by Islamic rather than civil law.
“Abu Bakar Bashir is already old and his health is also deteriorating. You can imagine if we as children see our parents sick,” Widodo told reporters.
“However, we also have a legal system here. There are legal mechanisms that we must go through. This is parole, not pure release, but conditional release, so the conditions must be fulfilled first,” he said.
Widodo on Friday said he had agreed to free Bashir on humanitarian grounds.
The announcement came during campaigning for a presidential election due in April in which opponents of Widodo have tried to discredit him as insufficiently Islamic.
But on Monday, as domestic and international criticism mounted, the government announced a review of his release.
The 2002 Bali bombings killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Indonesia’s government to show respect to the Bali bombing victims, which included numerous Indonesians.
“We don’t want this character able to go out there and incite the killing of Australians and Indonesians, preaching a doctrine of hate,” Morrison said.
Shutdown and disunity themes of MLK celebration in Atlanta
By BEN NADLER
Tuesday, January 22
ATLANTA (AP) — A commemorative service for Martin Luther King Jr. that was nearly imperiled by the federal government shutdown was held Monday morning in Atlanta at a church called King’s “spiritual home.”
King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, said in her remarks that the annual service at Ebenezer Baptist Church came during a moment of crisis in America. She condemned the gridlock and partisanship in Washington that led to the shutdown.
“Our humanity is literally on the verge of digressing to two Americas and becoming the dis-United State of America,” she said.
King also slammed what she called “the powerful resurgence of nationalistic and white supremacist ideologies” around the world.
The event was attended by Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath, and Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.
The site of the annual service, Ebenezer Baptist Church, sits amid the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in the “Sweet Auburn” neighborhood of Atlanta. The civil rights leader was co-pastor with his father at the church from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.
The park was closed amid the government shutdown until Delta Air Lines gave the National Park Service a grant to reopen the site. Delta is headquartered in Atlanta.
In a statement posted to LinkedIn, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the grant would keep the sites open from Jan. 19 to Feb. 3, the day of the upcoming Super Bowl game in Atlanta.
“These historic landmarks represent the strength of our community and should always be made available for the public to enjoy,” Bastian said.
Perdue, who is white, recounted growing up in Georgia during segregation and praised King as an inspiring leader who changed the world through courage.
“He gave us hope during some of this country’s darkest days,” Perdue said of King. “Our country has overcome a lot, but there is much left to be done.”
Ebenezer Church’s current pastor, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, also took aim at the government shutdown, calling this “a time of narrow vision and petty politicians.”
Gonzalez sat just behind the speaker’s podium throughout much of the televised and livestreamed service, a highly visible position for the high school student turned gun-control activist. She said that King had paved the wave for future generations of peaceful protests.
The celebration took on special significance as Jan. 15 marked what would have been King’s 90th birthday.
The church is often referred to as King’s “spiritual home” because his father was the pastor there for four decades and King was born around the corner, grew up in the neighborhood and delivered some of his first sermons there. A private funeral service was held for King at Ebenezer Baptist on April 9, 1968, five days after his murder.
How to identify, understand and teach gifted children
January 21, 2019
Author: John Munro, Professor, Faculty of Education and Arts, Australian Catholic University
Disclosure statement: John Munro has been a chief researcher on ARC funded projects and has completed contracted projects for Australian educational authorities.
Partners: Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU. Australian Catholic University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
The beginning of the 2019 school year will be a time of planning and crystal-gazing. Teachers will plan their instructional agenda in a general way. Students will think about another year at school. Parents will reflect on how their children might progress this year.
One group of students who will probably attract less attention are the gifted learners. These students have a capacity for talent, creativity and innovative ideas. They could be our future Einsteins.
They will do this only if we support them to learn in an appropriate way. And yet, there is less likely to be explicit planning and provision throughout 2019 to support these students. They’re more likely to be overlooked or even ignored.
Giftedness in the media
You may have noticed the recent interest in gifted learning and education in the media. Child Genius on SBS provided a glimpse of what the brains of some young students can do.
We can only marvel at their ability to store large amounts of information in memory, spell words correctly they’d probably not heard before and unscramble complex anagrams.
The Insight program on SBS, provided another perspective.
Students identified as gifted explained how they learned and their experiences with formal education. Most accounts pointed to a clear mismatch between how they preferred to learn and how they were taught.
The students on the Insight program showed the flipsides of the gifted education story. While some gifted students show high academic success – the academically gifted students, others show lower academic success – the “twice exceptional” students.
Many of the most creative people this world has known are twice exceptional. This includes scientists such as Einstein, artists such as Van Gogh, authors such as Agatha Christie and politicians such as Winston Churchill.
Read more: Intellectually gifted students often have learning disabilities
Their achievements are one reason we’re interested in gifted learning. They have the potential to contribute significantly to our world and change how we live. They’re innovators. They give us the big ideas, possibilities and options. We describe their achievements, discoveries and creations as “talent”.
These talented outcomes are not random, lucky or accidental. Instead, they come from particular ways of knowing their world and thinking about it. A talented footballer sees moves and possibilities their opponents don’t see. They think, plan, and act differently. What they do is more than what the coach has trained them to do.
Understanding gifted learning
One way of understanding gifted learning is to unpack how people respond to new information. Let me first share two anecdotes.
A year three class was learning about beetles. We turned over a rock and saw slater beetles (also known as wood lice, pill bugs or roley poleys) scurrying away. I asked: Has anyone thought of something I haven’t mentioned?
Marcus, a student in the class, asked: How many toes does a slater have?
I asked: Why do you ask that?
Marcus replied: They are only this long and they’re going very fast. My mini aths coach said that if I wanted to go faster I had to press back with my big toes. They must have pretty big toes to go so quick.
He continued with possibilities about how they might breathe and use energy. Marcus’ teacher reported that he often asked “quirky”, unexpected questions and had a much broader general knowledge than his peers. She had not considered the possibility he might be gifted.
Mike was solving year 12 calculus problems when he was six. He has never attended regular school but was home-schooled by his parents, who were not interested in maths. He learned about quadratic and cubic polynomials from the Khan Academy. I asked him if it was possible to draw polynomials of x to the power of 7 or 8. He did this without hesitation, noting he had never been taught to do this.
Gifted students learn in a more advanced way
People learn by converting information to knowledge. They may then elaborate, restructure or reorganise it in various ways. Giftedness is the capacity to learn in more advanced ways.
First, these students learn faster. In a given period they learn more than their regular learning peers. They form a more elaborate and differentiated knowledge of a topic. This helps them interpret more information at a time.
Second, these students are more likely to draw conclusions from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements. They stimulate parts of their knowledge that were not mentioned in the information presented to them and add these inferences to their understanding.
This is called “fluid analogising” or “far transfer”. It involves combining knowledge from the two sources into an interpretation that has the characteristics of an intuitive theory about the information. This is supported by a range of affective and social factors, including high self-efficacy and intrinsic goal setting, motivation and will-power.
Their theories extend the teaching. They’re intuitive in that they’re personal and include possibilities or options the student has not yet tested. Parts of the theory may be incorrect. When given the opportunity to reflect on or field-test them, the student can validate their new knowledge, modify it or reject it.
Marcus and Mike from the earlier anecdotes engaged in these processes. So did Einstein, Churchill, Van Gogh and Christie.
A gifted learning profile manifests in multiple ways. Much of the information we’re exposed to is made up of concepts that are linked and sequenced around a topic or theme. It’s formed using agreed conventions. It may be a written narrative, a painting, a conversation or football match. Some students exposed to part of a text infer its topic and subsequent ideas – their intuitive theory about it.
These are the verbally gifted students. In the classroom they infer the direction of the teaching and give the impression of being ahead of it. This is what Mike did when he extended his knowledge beyond what the information taught him. Most of the tasks used in the Child Genius program assessed this. The children used what they knew about spelling patterns to spell unfamiliar words and to unscramble complex anagrams.
Other students think about the teaching information in time and space. They use imagery and infer intuitive theories that are more lateral or creative. In the classroom their interpretations are often unexpected and may question the teaching. These are the non-verbally gifted or visual-spatially gifted students.
They frequently do not learn academic or social conventions well and are often twice exceptional. They’re more likely to challenge conventional thinking. Marcus did this when he visualised the slaters with large “beetle toes”.
What we can learn from gifted students
Educators and policy makers can learn from the student voice in the recent media programs. Some of the students on Insight told us their classrooms don’t provide the most appropriate opportunities for them to show what they know or to learn.
The twice exceptional students in the Insight program noted teachers had a limited capacity to recognise and identify the multiple ways students can be gifted. They reminded us some gifted profiles, but not the twice-exceptional profile, are prioritised in regular education.
These students thrive and excel when they have the opportunity to show their advanced interpretations initially in formats they can manage, for example, in visual and physical ways. They can then learn to use more conventional ways such as writing.
Multi-modal forms of communication are important for them. Examples include drawing pictures of their interpretations, acting out their understanding and building models to represent their understanding. The use of diagrams by the the famous physicist Richard Feynman is an example of this.
For students like Mike, adequate formal educational provision simply does not exist. With the development of information communication technology, it would be hoped that in the future adaptive and creative curricula and teaching practices could be developed for those students whose learning trajectories are far from the regular.
As a consequence, we have high levels of disengagement from regular education by some gifted students in the middle to senior secondary years. High ability Australian students under-achieve in both NAPLAN and international testing.
The problem with IQ
Identification using IQ is problematic for some gifted profiles. Some IQ tests assess a narrow band of culturally valued knowledge. They frequently do not assess general learning capacity.
As well, teachers are usually not qualified to interpret IQ assessments. The parents in the Insight program mentioned both the difficulty in having their children identified as gifted and the high costs IQ tests incurred. In Australia, these assessments can cost up to Australian $475.
An obvious alternative is to equip teachers and schools to identify and assess students’ learning in the classroom for indications of gifted learning and thinking in its multiple forms. To do this, assessment tasks need to assess the quality, maturity and sophistication of the students’ thinking and learning strategies, their capacity to enhance knowledge, and also what students actually know or believe is possible about a topic or an issue.
Classroom assessments usually don’t assess this. They are designed to test how well students have learned the teaching, not what additional knowledge the students have added to it.
Gifted students benefit from open-ended tasks that permit them to show what they know about a topic or issue. Such tasks include complex problem solving activities or challenges and open-ended assignments. We are now developing tools to assess the quality and sophistication of gifted students’ knowledge and understanding.
Tips for teachers and parents
Over the course of 2019, teachers can look for evidence of gifted learning by encouraging their students to share their intuitive theories about a topic and by completing open-ended tasks in which they extend or apply what they have learned. This can include more complex problem solving.
During reading comprehension, for example, teachers can plan tasks that require higher-level thinking, including analysis, evaluation and synthesis. Teachers need to assess and evaluate students’ learning in terms of the extent to which they elaborate on the teaching information.
Parents are often the first to notice their child learns more rapidly, remembers more, does things in more advanced ways or learns differently from their peers. Most educators have heard a parent say: “I think my child is gifted.” And sometimes the parent is correct.
Parents can use modern technology to record specific instances of high performance by their children, and share these with their child’s teachers. The mobile phone and iPad provide a good opportunity for video-recording a child’s questions during story time, their interpretations of unfamiliar contexts such as a visit to a museum, drawings or inventions the child produces and how they do this, and ways in which they solve problems in their everyday lives. These records can provide useful evidence later for educators and other professionals.
Parents also have a key role to play in helping their child understand what it means to learn differently from one’s peers, to value their interpretations and achievements and how they can interact socially with peers who may operate differently.
It is students’ intuitive theories about information that lead to creative, talented outcomes and innovative products. If an education system is to foster creativity and innovation, teachers need to recognise and value these theories and help these students convert them into a talent. Teachers can respond to gifted knowing and learning in its multiple forms if they know what it looks like in the classroom and have appropriate tools to identify it.