Ethiopia Begins Circulation of New Currency

Ethiopia has begun circulating new currency notes to combat monetary crimes.  Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Monday the release of the birr in denominations of 10, 50 and 100. The East African country also introduced its first 200 birr note. Ahmed hopes the new currency will also boost the inflation riddled economy impacted partly by the coronavirus pandemic. Ethiopians have three months to exchange old notes with the new ones. Authorities believe the new design and security features on the new birr note will prevent counterfeiting.  Banks had urged the government to demonetize, citing money circulating outside the banking system has worsened the liquidity problems banks are facing.  Ethiopia last changed its currency two decades ago at the end of the Ethiopian-Eritrean civil war. 

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Cameroon Army on Alert Ahead of Tuesday’s Protests

Military units are on alert in Cameroon ahead of the expected nationwide protests on Tuesday. Opposition leader Maurice Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement is calling for peaceful protests, with demands that include the resignation of President Paul Biya, election reform and better representation for undeserved groups, especially in the Anglophone regions.  In an apparent attempt to discourage participation in the protests, the government is reportedly threatening participants with jail time. Violent clashes between security forces and those demanding rights for the Anglophone regions has prompted thousands of people to flee their homes in recent years. 

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Mali Junta Picks Former Defense Minister as Transitional President

The junta that overthrew Mali’s president last month said Monday that former defense minister and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw will be the president during the transition period. Bah N’Daw was appointed by a 30-person panel set up by the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), the junta that has ruled Mali since soldiers overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Aug. 18. CNSP chief Col. Assimi Goïta made the announcement on national television. The new president is expected to serve as head of state for several months before civilians return to power. FILE – People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta running Mali, as they demonstrate to show support for the support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Sept. 8, 2020.Goïta said he has been appointed transitional vice president. “The swearing-in ceremony will take place on Friday, Sept. 25,” he said. These announcements came after several weeks of debate among Malians over whether the transitional government will be led by civilians or the military. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been pressuring the junta to quickly name leaders for the transition. On Sept. 18, Goita traveled to Niamey, Niger, where he met the current president of ECOWAS, President Mahamadou Issoufou. VOA French to Africa contributed to this report.
 

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British Health Minister Lays Out COVID-19 Response as Cases Surge

Britain’s health minister went before parliament Monday to discuss the government’s response to a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the nation.Matt Hancock acknowledged what the government’s top medical and science advisers had said earlier in the day – that COVID-19 has been surging across age groups throughout much of Britain.Among the steps the government plans to take, Hancock said, is encouraging self-isolation by those who have been infected or exposed to the virus. The government will also offer a single support payment of about $640 for low-income people for whom self-isolation would be an economic hardship.A woman wears a face mask as she stands in front of a statue of The Beatles following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Liverpool, Britain, Sept. 21, 2020.Hancock said those asked to self-isolate who refuse to do so could face fines of nearly $13,000 for serious breaches or repeat offenders.The health minister told British lawmakers that demand for testing has dropped slightly since last week, taking a little pressure off the system. Nonetheless, the demand for tests remains high enough that the government must prioritize who receives them.Hancock said acute care cases are the top priority for testing, followed by people in care homes, National Health Service targeted testing for outbreak management and surveillance studies, teaching staff with symptoms, and the general public.He said the government continues working on further measures to address the COVID-19 surge, and the prime minister will update parliament Tuesday on further measures.Earlier Monday, the government’s chief medical adviser reported the latest figures show new cases in Britain totaled more than 6,000 per day. Chris Witty said if nothing changes, at the current rate of infection, new cases could reach 50,000 a day by this time next month. 

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Turkey’s Plan to Regain Ottoman Empire Maritime Influence Irks Greece

Turkey is embarking on a major naval construction program to restore the regional maritime influence it lost after the Ottoman empire’s collapse. But the policy is already generating regional tensions – in particular – with its neighbor, Greece. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.
Camera: Berke Bas    Producer: Jon Spier

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Indian Couple Run Street-Side Classes for Poor Students

On a quiet road in India’s capital, tucked away on a wide, red-bricked sidewalk, kids set adrift by the country’s COVID-19 lockdown are being tutored.
 
The children, ages 4 to 14, carry book bags more than 2 kilometers (a mile) from their thatched-roof huts on the banks of the Yamuna River to this impromptu, roadside classroom. There, they receive free lessons in math, science, English and physical education, taught by a former Indian diplomat and his wife.
 
It all began when Veena Gupta’s maid, who lives on the bank of the river, complained that with schools shut, children in her impoverished community were running amok and wasting time.
 
“If they stayed at home doing nothing, they’d become drifters,” said Dolly Sharma, who works at Veena’s high-rise apartment, which overlooks the lush riverbank.
 
Veena, a singer and grandmother of three, and her husband, Virendra Gupta, decided to go out to the street and teach the kids so they are not left behind when school reopens.
 
“They don’t have access to internet, their schools are shut and they don’t have any means to learn,” said Veena, who bought books, pencils, notebooks and other teaching materials, and set up the small, open-air classroom under the shade of a leafy banyan tree.
 
India’s stringent lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 shut schools across the country in late March. Most remain closed as the number of cases has surged past 5 million, making India the second worst-hit in the world after the United States.
 
While many private schools switched to digital learning and online classes, children in most government-run schools either don’t have that option or don’t have the means to purchase digital learning tools like laptops and smartphones.
 
“There is only one mobile phone in my family and it is usually with my father. I can’t study online,” said Nitin Mishra, a ninth grader in Virendra’s math class. Mishra’s mother works as a part-time maid and his father is unable to find employment as India’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic.  
 
The street-side classes have grown as dozens of children showed keen interest. Now the Guptas — with help from their driver, Heera — teach three different groups three times a week, morning and evening.
 
After class, the children are treated to homemade lemonade and cookies prepared by Veena.
 
The Guptas say teaching the kids makes them feel closer to their grandchildren, who live abroad.
 
“My father would make me spend my summer vacation learning the next year’s curriculum in advance,” said Virendra, who served as Indian ambassador to several countries including South Africa.
 
“That really boosted my confidence and made me interested in schoolwork. And that is what I am trying to do with these children, so when their school reopens, they are slightly ahead of their class.”
 
Veena said she hopes to recruit more volunteers to teach the street-side classes.
 
“It is not about the money that people can contribute and give, it is about their time,” she said. “They should take out little bit of their time, an hour or so, if not every day, every alternate day, and come and help these children.”

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