Safety tips for travel

Crime is a problem in most places in today’s world so it’s important that one makes personal safety a priority when undertaking a travel. These are some basic safety tips for travellers.

1. Stay Connected

If you plan to travel the first thing you should do is check that your mobile device has roaming capabilities as well as the costs involved. If not ensure that one you have reached your travel destination you obtain a rental device or alternatively purchase an international sim card should you have an unlocked GSM device.

2. Vehicle safety

Should you be driving during your travels always ensure that your doors are looked and all valuables are kept in the boot or underneath the car seat where they cannot be seen. This will help avoid car hijackings or “smash-and-grabs”. Take note of your surrounding when at traffic lights or stop streets. Should you opt instead to use a tour operator or travel service only use reputable ones and if unsure ask your hotel to recommend a service provider.

Best Education Schools often unorthodox

A new global league table, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit for Pearson, has found that Finland has the best education schools in the world. For Finland, this achievement is no fluke. Since it implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, the country’s school system has consistently come in at the top of the international rankings for best education schools.

To the Western world, Finland’s education system might seem unorthodox.

Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7. They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education. There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.

All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms. Almost 70 percent of students go to college – the highest rate in Europe. The school system is 100% state funded. There is therefore in Finland technically no reason for a learner not to enjoy an excellent education. As part of its quest to produce best education schools, all teachers in Finland must have a masters degree. Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers.

Another country worth mentioning when best education schools are discussed, is China. It has followed Finland’s lead and is also in the process of moving away from an exam-based system.

In 1985, Shanghai began a process of reform and created exams that test the application of real-life skills.

Despite the reforms, exams however still exist. Most students attend weekend “cram schools” to ensure that they pass. This comes in addition to nightly homework and extracurricular activities – making the life of a Chinese student overwhelming.

Germany is widely acknowledged as one of the most developed countries in the world. It is thus expected of them to boast some of the best education schools, globally.

Yet, you might find the way they regard education, surprising. Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility.

For example: They don’t push reading. Kindergartens don’t emphasize academics. In fact parents are discouraged to teach their children to read. Kindergarten is a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. A half-day of instruction is interrupted by two protracted outdoor recesses. This relaxed approach does however not mean a poor education: German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science.

Meanwhile the biggest ever global school rankings were published recently, with African countries right at the bottom. Ghana came stone last, with South Africa second last.

Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, recently had the following to say on social media regarding best education schools in South Africa: “The top schools in our country are those who turn the few resources they have into outstanding academic results. Those who produce top results with the best resources available are supposed to do well.”

It would be interesting to know whether Finland’s thinking features in South African education leaders’ future plans.

Agricultural sector – the lifeblood of South Africa

Agriculture has always been an important industry in South Africa and together with mining and manufacturing forms the backbone of the South African economy.

The agricultural sector in South Africa is divided into commercial farming and subsistence-based farming, mainly in the rural areas of the country. Thanks to its seven climatic regions, farmers are able to produce a variety of marine and agricultural products, including livestock and game, grain, wool, fruit and wine.

Livestock is the largest agricultural sector in the country with the main focus on cattle and sheep. Dairy is produced throughout the country with more than 4 000 milk producers employing around 60 000 farm workers.

As a meat-loving nation, beef farming plays an important agricultural role with South Africa producing 85% of its meat requirements. However, production cannot keep up with local demand and as a result 15% of our meat has to be imported from Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and even further afield. South Africans have also developed a taste for white meat and consequently chicken is now one of the country’s largest agricultural imports. Sheep and goat farming, poultry and pig farming and game farming form part of livestock farming in South Africa.

The grain industry is one of the largest agricultural sectors representing between 25% and 33% of the country’s total gross agricultural production. Maize is most widely grown and is also the most important source of carbohydrates in Southern Africa. It is produced mainly in the central regions of South Africa in the Free State, North West and Mpumalanga highveld. Other grain crops include wheat – the second largest locally produced field crop, sunflower seeds, barley, sorghum and soya beans.

South Africa is the ninth largest wine producer in the world. More than 99 000 hectares of vines producing wine grapes are under cultivation. There are six wine producing regions in the Western Cape, and another four geographical units in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. South African wine exports have more than doubled between 2003 and 2013 and some 275 600 people are employed both directly and indirectly in the wine industry.

The types of fruit produced in South Africa can be classified as deciduous, citrus and subtropical. Deciduous fruits, including apples, pears and peaches, are mainly produced in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. Cold winters and dry summers create the perfect climatic conditions to grow these crops. Tropical fruits, such as pineapples, bananas, avocados and mangoes are grown mostly in the northeast and some coastal areas. South Africa also has a thriving citrus industry, with more than half of citrus production exported in most years.

Other crops grown by South African farmers include vegetables, sugar, cotton, tobacco and tea (honeybush and rooibos).

It is clear that the South African agricultural industry not only plays an important role in the South African economy, but also feeds its people and the people of Africa. Considering the fact that the South African population is expected to grow to 82 million by 2035, we cannot afford to neglect this

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