Episodes

  • Five years on from the refugee crisis of 2015, Germany is now home to over a million refugees. Naomi Scherbel-Ball explores a classroom experiment with a difference: a scheme to retrain refugee teachers and place them in German schools, to help the country with a shortage of 40,000 teachers.

    Naomi visits a school in Mönchengladbach in Western Germany, where Mustafa Hammal teaches English. Mustafa, an English teacher with eight years of experience, fled the civil war in Syria with his family in 2015. Arriving in Germany, he discovered a teacher retraining programme designed to harness the skills that refugee teachers bring with them.

    Miriam Vock, an educational psychologist at Potsdam University, transports us back to the summer of 2015. Amidst the chaos of the refugee crisis, she wondered if there might be some teachers among the refugees arriving in Germany. A year later, the first refugee teacher retraining course was launched - an idea that inspired a number of other pilot courses across Germany.

    Retraining as a teacher in a system with rigid set qualifications is particularly challenging, however, and graduates are finding it difficult to find work. The success of the far-right Alternative for Germany, now the country’s main opposition party, has raised the stakes for refugees trying to integrate.

    As Germany struggles with an ageing population and a severe labour shortage, Naomi asks if refugees can fill the gap.

    This documentary is airing as part of Life Changes, a series of programmes and features across the BBC’s global TV, radio, social and online networks exploring the theme of change - how we change ourselves, our lives, and how we respond to changes in the world around us. Reporting from across the world - from Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda and Paraguay to Egypt, the US and Russia – the documentaries and digital stories will cover a diverse range of topics, from sexuality to sustainability, from peace to war, and from neurodiversity to migration.

  • Alan Dein connects with seven individuals whose lives have shifted under the coronavirus pandemic as they nervously anticipate what will come next in an uncertain future. In Tehran, Golnar, an Iranian who describes herself as ‘constant traveller’ is inside her apartment – all future trips postponed. Across the town is the hostel she set up with a friend. Forced to close in the city’s lockdown it is now serving a crucial role. In Dhaka, as the pandemic takes hold, entrepreneur Fahad worries for the successful delivery business he has spent years building up and the future for his parents. In Greece, Ibrahim is homeless, sheltering in an abandoned building. His friend Mikki is self-isolating and cannot help him.

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  • Romania's forests are the Amazon of Europe - with large wilderness areas under constant pressure from loggers. For years, corrupt authorities turned a blind eye to illegal felling. But now a series of killings in the woods has intensified demands across the continent to end the destruction. Six rangers - who defend forests from illegal cutting – have been killed in as many years. Two died in the space of just a few weeks late last year. The latest victim, Liviu Pop, father of three young girls, was shot as he confronted men he thought were stealing timber. But the men weren’t arrested. They say the ranger shot himself. And in the remote region of Maramures, where many people are involved in logging, that version is widely believed. Locals are afraid to talk about what happened. Is the lucrative logging business protected by powerful interests who turn a blind eye to murder? And are rangers sometimes complicit in the rape of the forest? For Assignment, Tim Whewell tries to find out exactly how a young man employed to protect nature met his death. And he asks how Romania can save its wilderness when more than half the trees cut down are felled illegally?

    Reporter: Tim Whewell
    Editor: Bridget Harney

    (Image: Forest guards stand next to wooden crosses bearing the names of their killed colleagues, including Liviu Pop. Credit: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images)

  • Peter White, who was born without sight, takes a tour of Miami, navigating primarily with his ears. Peter joins a new blind friend, George, who takes him on a relaxed stroll around a well-heeled area on a sunny afternoon. Peter talks to Carlos, a homeless man trudging the streets each day looking for work. And, on the outskirts of Miami, Peter meets his first alligator.

  • In September 2018, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea was opened for the first time in 20 years. Physical travel between the two countries and even telephone communication had been next to impossible, separating families and devastating businesses in borderland towns such as Zalambessa in Ethiopia. The communities on either side have had the opportunity to reconnect, rebuild and move on with their lives. The town is undergoing a transformation. Now, family events and religious ceremonies are celebrated with renewed joy as relatives come together to mark life’s milestones. In this programme, we immerse ourselves in the baptism of a new baby boy, born to first-time parents, and find out if their Eritrean relatives are able to cross the border to join the celebrations as they hope. But there’s a twist. While informal cross border movement continues on foot, the official border checkpoint in the town is closed again for trade and vehicles due to political uncertainty. There’s a construction boom in the region because of the optimism that once prevailed, but for many, their hope has been replaced by despair as business is stagnating once again. This is a programme about how lives are changing in all kinds of ways, and about the hope people hold on to for a better future. We share in both joy and frustration; a conflicted situation that remains to be resolved.

  • According to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, there are more than 30,000 North Korean defectors living in the South. The lack of access to North Korea makes defectors one of the few windows to what life is like in the secretive regime. As a result, the defectors and their stories have become a hugely valuable commodity in South Korea’s popular culture and media.

    There are a number of popular reality TV programmes starring North Korean defectors. Hyun-joo Yu is one of the most established stars on Now on My Way to Meet You, a popular and long running variety programme. The show features emotional North Korean defectors sharing their stories and performing to dramatic music. At the same time, the South Korean celebrity guests provide commentary and sometimes jokes.

    Meanwhile, on the Internet, dozens of North Korean defectors have gained popularity through live streaming, telling stories about their lives in the North on YouTube and Instagram. These defector-celebrities, like 21-year-old Nara Kang, are mostly young, attractive women. Representing a younger generation of defectors, Nara Kang is tapping into an audience with no living memory of the North.

    Capitalising on their status as defectors to gain fame, these celebrities cannot move on from being defined by their past. They strive to fit into South Korean society, while emphasising their otherness to South Korean audiences.

  • Saying no to dating is part of a growing ultraconservative social movement in Indonesia being spread through Instagram and WhatsApp. “When I look at couples, I see my old self, how I used to be affectionate in public, holding hands, hugging,” says 23-year-old Yati, “and now I think that’s disgusting.” When Yati broke up with her ex, she didn’t just swear off dating; she joined Indonesia’s anti-dating movement - Indonesia Without Dating. Its leaders say dating is expensive, gets in the way of study, and - most importantly - is against religious teaching. For Assignment, Simon Maybin discovers it is part of a wider youth-led surge in conservative Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. Opponents see the phenomenon as a backwards step for women and a threat to Indonesia’s religious pluralism.

    Presenter: Simon Maybin
    Producer: Josephine Casserly
    Editor: Bridget Harney
    Music at the end of the programme was Tubuhku Otoritasku by Tika and The Dissidents
    (Image: Yati at an “Indonesia Without Dating” demo. Copyright: Simon Maybin/BBC)

  • The manager of Liverpool Football Club, who lead them to victory in the Champions League. But Jurgen Klopp has not always been this successful. When he was a young footballer at Mainz 05 in Germany, his former team mate Guido Shafer says he 'had no talent'. So what can we learn from his childhood in Germany's Black Forest? How did he become the manager he is today?

  • He’s the DMC in the legendary Run-DMC, a titan of the music industry. The group became known as the movie stars of rap. Busta Rhymes said of them “They didn’t just change music, they changed everything.” Presenter Joe Pascal meets the Devastating Mic Controller himself - Darryl 'DMC' McDaniels. He grew up in Hollis Queens and was at the forefront of revolutionary change in the New York music scene with the explosion of hip hop. He was there, watching, from the early days, with the DJs and MCs at the neighbourhood block parties. And then, alongside Run and Jam Master Jay, they became a music phenomenon – with their new kind of rap bringing hip hop to the masses. They had their own look, their own style. DMC talks us through those early years and his later battles with alcoholism and depression. What gave him solace in that time was a song, a pop ballad that he listened to for an entire year. He would take it everywhere he went and play it, every day, morning to night. DMC’s other passion is comic books, they fuelled his imagination and education and ultimately gave him the superpower he needed to get up on stage.

  • Ireland has booming investment and lots of new jobs. But Chris Bowlby discovers how a huge housing crisis is haunting the country’s young people in particular. Anger about poor housing, and fear of mass emigration by the young are issues with deep roots in Irish memory. And the housing crisis was a crucial factor in the recent Irish election which shocked the main parties and saw big gains for the nationalists of Sinn Fein . Chris travels to the city of Cork in the southwest of the country. He traces the roots of the crisis in a crazy house buying boom a few years ago. And he hears how a lack of good, affordable housing is affecting everyone from students to young families to Ireland’s many younger migrants who hope to stay in Ireland, but have nowhere to call home.

    Presenter/Producer: Chris Bowlby
    Image: Student rent strike in Cork.
    Credit: Chris Bowlby/BBC

  • A new wave of end of life rituals is emerging across northern England. As funeral costs increase, the influence of the traditional undertaker is declining. Communities are building pyramids containing their dead loved one's ashes and a growing number of people are choosing to organise their own bespoke events.

  • What motivated the demonstrators on the city’s streets – and their opponents? It all began as a peace movement to block a piece of legislation. Millions of people came out onto public spaces calling for greater democracy. Protests have ended in violence between protesters and the police. Thousands have been arrested. Laura Westbrook travels to her birthplace to find out what’s behind the protests, which are now continuing on a smaller scale because of the outbreak of coronavirus.

  • The rosewood tree is one of the most trafficked wild products on earth. When it is cut it bleeds a blood red sap. Having exhausted stocks elsewhere, Chinese traders have turned to West Africa to feed demand back home where the hardwood is prized for use in traditional Chinese furniture. In Senegal it is illegal to fell or export a rosewood tree. And yet they are being logged and smuggled at an alarming rate from the forests of Casamance, through the port of neighbouring Gambia and all the way to China. For Assignment, Umaru Fofana and BBC Africa Eye have been investigating the trade in trafficked rosewood worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Producer: Charlotte Attwood
    (Image: A "bleeding" rosewood tree. Credit: BBC/Maxime Le Hegarat)

  • Nele and Ellie are detransitioners too. In their early 20s, they were brought up as girls, and began to identify as transmen in their teens. To present as more masculine, both took testosterone and had their breasts removed in double mastectomy surgery. Connecting online, these two young women are now supporting each other to re-identify as female.

  • Jump on-board a doomed mission to the Moon. Apollo 13: the extraordinary story, told by the people who flew it and saved it.
    Search for 13 Minutes to the Moon wherever you get your podcasts.
    #13MinutestotheMoon

  • How safe is the air inside airline cabins? In January 2020, a British Airways flight from Athens to London issued a mayday emergency call when the pilot flying the plane became incapacitated during a "fume event". The airline industry does not reveal how often fume events happen, but according to some estimates they occur every day. Pilots and cabin crew say that sudden fume events and long term low level exposure to toxic cabin air are making them seriously ill and in some cases causing premature deaths. The industry insists that serious leaks of toxic gas into cockpits and cabins are relatively very rare, given the number of flights each day. And that no causal link between toxic cabin air and health problems has yet been proven. But airlines face multiple court cases later this year. For Assignment, Mike Powell talks to a representative of the airline industry about fume events, lack of transparency and claims that the health of hundreds of pilots, cabin crew and frequent fliers is being put at risk. Presenter: Mike Powell Producer: Paul Waters

  • Brian Belovitch was born a boy, and then transitioned and lived for more than a decade as Natalia – a performer, club hostess and glamorous party animal. Then at a crisis point in his life he made a momentous decision – to live again as Brian. These are not easy choices. Daniel was brought up male, then had gender reassignment surgery and became Danielle. Now he has detransitioned, married a woman, and is awaiting a complex operation to reconstruct his male genitalia. They tell their stories.

  • We are back on Rikers island – New York’s largest and most notorious jail where Ryan Burvik works with inmates on a unique hip hop program. We hear Ryan working with Mikey MTA and Zig on raps that express their regrets and their ambition for the future. What is new is the inclusion of women using hip hop as a way of telling their story. We hear from the talented Remy who used her skill as a performer during her three years in jail to leverage visits from her six-year-old daughter. We also follow some of the students once they have been released. Not just Remy but Angel and Trigger and Enterprise Wise are all enrolled on Ryan’s internship at his studio in West Queens.

  • Across Italy hundreds of mafia leaders, hitmen and drug-traffickers are being jailed thanks to the most powerful weapon now in the hands of Italy’s anti-mafia investigators: the words of one clan against another. Italy’s state collaborator scheme has seen mafia chiefs breaking the code of silence - in return for a lifetime in witness protection, rather than a life behind bars. For Assignment, Dominic Casciani gets exclusive access to an anti-mafia prison to meet one of Naples' most important “Penitents” - a boss and killer whose evidence has jailed his associates. In the city itself, he witnesses, alongside hardened investigators, the ongoing nightly battle against the Camorra - and also hears voices of hope across the city that the tide has finally turned.

    Presenter: Dominic Casciani
    Producer: Sheila Cook

    Image: Gennaro Panzuto
    Credit: Private

  • Alan Dein connects with strangers across the world via social media, exploring the things that unite people across cultures and borders. He connects with people who are all seeking fulfilment in their lives. This week Alan reaches out to people in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and beyond - exploring what it means to belong. He hears people yearning for a better life elsewhere - and those determined to make a go of it where they are.