Education: Oddly Enough

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Zero intelligence policy: A child who has already been suspended faces possible expulsion for bringing a butter knife to his elementary school in Columbia, in the United States. Christopher Wood's mother said she packed the knife in her boy's lunch so he could cut his food.

But Horrell Hill Elementary School said the culinary tool violated safety rules. "We have a standard zero tolerance policy," said Greg Plagens, a school spokesman. "The community wants safe schools here and they are going to get them. We are just not going to tolerate any child bringing a knife or gun or any kind of weapon for any reason," he said.

Christopher's mother, Kristina Drawdy, said she gave her son the knife because, with new braces, his teeth were sensitive and she wanted him to be able to cut up a banana. "I feel it's all my fault," she said, "because I'm the one who put the thing in his lunch box and he's getting punished for it."

Rat bytes: Thousands of Ugandan students are unsure whether they have won university places after rats chewed through computer cables at the National Examination Board causing the system to crash.

The New Vision newspaper said senior board officials were very concerned that rodents were able to infiltrate areas holding such vital information.

The hitch has affected students who were to be placed in teacher training colleges, polytechnics and medical institutions.

It is not the first time that rats have eaten away at important installations in Uganda. Earlier this year they chewed through telecommunications wires, cutting off phone links to parts of western Uganda and Rwanda.

Space Invaders zapped: Computer game wizards, beware. Peking is trying to banish computer games from cultural and recreation facilities to protect the health of students, the state-run Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The city's cultural department has ordered all establishments that provide computers to the public for training and network services, including Internet cafes, to prohibit game playing, threatening severe punishment for violators.

The ban apparently reflects concern that students who are hooked on the games are squandering their time and neglecting physical exercise.

Nick Fearn