Education: Oddly Enough

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The Independent Online
Truncated education: Enticed by trees and water in the schoolyard, five elephants in north-west Namibia disrupted teaching at a primary school. According to Henry Mapanga, the school principal, the Sori-Soris school was closed after frightened parents demanded their children be sent home until the elephant raids stop. The shy desert elephant, so named because of its unique adaptation to the harsh dry climate, normally stays within the Skeleton Coast Park on Namibia's arid Atlantic coastline. But severe drought has forced elephants to forage beyond their usual habitat. "They must be desperate for food or water to invade the school grounds," said a conservation official, quoted only on the condition of anonymity.

It takes one to know one: In a turnaround, Sicily plans to teach educators from around the world how to fight the Mafia. "We exported for many, many years a disease," explained the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando. "Why not export therapy that comes from our experience - experience is the name we give to our mistakes." The occasion is a June conference in Palermo, the Sicilian capital, for educators and civic groups to discuss how to make democracy and the rule of law work in their own countries. Palermo was chosen to show that the struggle against crime did not have to take generations or involve a police state. Though the Mafia still operates Sicily businesses, Orlando said, the Mafia no longer dominates its institutions. "The Mafia needs dark and silence," he said. "In Palermo we have so much light."

Animal House neutered: Dartmouth College, the New Hampshire school that inspired the film Animal House, which glorified student revelry, plans to put an end to single-sex fraternities and sororities to foster "more respectful" relations between the sexes. College administrators said they are concerned about the alcohol abuse and the social fragmentation that sometimes accompanies life in the houses of nationally affiliated fraternities and sororities, which some students join as an alternative to school-run dormitories. The students live and eat together and organise their own social events, including raucous beer parties. In the end, the fraternity system "as we know it today will not continue", said a spokesman. Dartmouth students, however, are in uproar over the plan, with around a thousand marching to protest.