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By Simon Willis

Years of empty rhetoric, no budget and worthless dreams sum up a report by Al-Ahram (June 22) about the state of health and education in Egypt today. According to one person who took part in a vox pop with the paper, the health service should be top priority and there must be a “proper budget” for this.

The owner of an electrical appliances shop told the daily there should be greater supervision of the healthcare system and laws should be enforced to guarantee a smoother running and fairer system to serve everyone. Besides, the shop owner said, greater concern should be made for the training of doctors and nurses.

A doctor who teaches at Kasr el-Aini Hospital and who sits on the board of the Physicians Syndicate calls upon the Government to enact Article 18 of the 2014 Constitution stating that every citizen is entitled to health and to comprehensive health care with quality criteria.

“The state guarantees to maintain and support public health facilities that provide health services to the people, and work on enhancing their efficiency and their fair geographical distribution,” the Constitution says, adding that the state commits to allocate a percentage of government expenditure that is no less than 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to health.

Even so, low salaries are among many of the problems facing medical staff, even though established doctors should train up newcomers. So it is mostly a question of proper funding, adequate training and more generous remuneration packages in order to make up for the shortage of nurses in state hospitals.

On the topic of education, one interviewee, who described herself as an official entrusted with the task of combatting private lessons, said that home tutoring should cease and “fear of the teacher should be restored”. Pardon me, but is fearing the instructor a sure way to effective learning?

Even so, Article 19 guarantees every citizen the right to education with the aim of building the Egyptian character, maintaining national identity, planting the roots of scientific thinking, developing talents, promoting innovation and establishing civilisational and spiritual values and the concepts of citizenship, tolerance and non-discrimination.

Tarek Hassan, who sits on the parliamentary economics committee, told the paper that the issues of health and education are matters of national security. “They are no less important than the fight against terrorism,” Hassan said.

“Any development in education and health should be felt quickly because the public deal with both every day. Some LE115.7 billion has been spent this financial year on education, which desperately needs computers and funding for their maintenance.

“Health is suffering badly from underfunding and should be due for a thorough overhaul.”

Dr Hani Rashed, director of the Nasser Institute Hospital said more hospitals should be opened in the provinces. Every citizen should feel soon. “The health sector has suffered from successive crises for many years due to inadequate funding,” Dr Rashed said.

Fayez Barakat, member of the parliamentary education committee, considers technical education crucial to national development.

“Clear objectives are needed to solve the problems of technical education in Egypt and there is a need for a clear strategy to realise an economic renaissance in the coming period,” Barakat said.

Education has been neglected – wait for it – for long years, while Germany has witnessed a rebirth in handicrafts for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which have assumed great importance in Germany’s economy, as it overshadows the rest of Europe, Barakat explained.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry must appoint experts from outside the ministry to develop technical education and draw up a “proper plan” to this end, he added.

Sayed Sherif, founder of ‘Initiative to Build Egypt’ said that this country has ideas and values that put it to the forefront of advanced countries.

Sherif said Egypt has been held back because plans are not publicised enough and accurate research is scarce.

A public health service is expensive and this is borne out by the experiences of the British National Health Service, which celebrates its 70th birthday this year. Health care is still delivered free of charge at the point of delivery to those who need it, rich or poor. The entire enterprise was, in theory, funded by tax revenues.

Then came prescription charges. When you collect your medication (‘medicine’ is old-fashioned, evoking images of square bottles closed with corks and containing foul-tasting liquids in colours ranging from pink to light brown) from the local pharmacy (‘chemist’ is old-hat as it conjures up images of white-coated prudes who refused to develop the risqué snaps from your last summer holiday on the Costa Brava), you pay up to £2 for each item.

There is talk of a £25 charge to see a doctor. This is intended to deter those who make an appointment and do not show up. If you park your vehicle in the carpark by a hospital, you can expect to pay up to £5 per hour.

However, that money does not go to the hospital but to a carpark operator. Since central government has been unwilling to set healthcare budgets directly, the task is delegated to regional ‘trusts’ – committees who are supposed to know the requirements of the area.

Doctors complain about salaries that do not keep pace with inflation or contracts that empower management to have medical staff working 60 hours on the trot. And there is still “empty rhetoric” about the finest health service in the world despite the injection of £20 billion over the next two years.

As for education, this writer is of the opinion that few people under 35 years old seem to know anything about anything. Children are tested at 7 and 14. They sit examinations at 16 and 18 that qualify them for places at universities. One has to pay for the privilege, leaving one with a debt of several thousand pounds and little prospect of relief of write-off for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps some of you might think an unfair comparison is being made between UK and Egypt. I counter that with the argument that attitudes towards health and education must change.

In other words, we can do much to promote our own well-being by eating well and taking exercise as opposed to sitting in front of the telly and looking forward to unhealthy meals or being spoken at by a private teacher for hours learning nothing.

CAIRO, July 15, 2018 (MENA) – Egypt's House of Representatives, in a session on Sunday under Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, approved in principle a draft law raised by the government concerning the establishing and regulating of branches of foreign universities and educational institutions in Egypt.

The bill aims at developing the higher education and scientific research system in Egypt.

The law stipulates that the minister concerned will form a committee to examine and study requests to establish foreign universities and educational institutions in Egypt.

The bill also says that the president will issue a decree to establish foreign universities and educational institutions after the approval by the committee, the minister and entities concerned and the cabinet.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

"It is a cultural battle that we should fight in order to achieve the rebuilding of the Egyptian citizen,” the Chancellor of Ain-Shams University, prof. Abdel-Wahab Ezzat, said in remarks he made the other day as he attended the Higher Council for Pre-University Education’s meeting that approved a set of strategic decisions to remold the education system. In itself, the council’s endorsement of these decisions is a concrete step forward by the highest specialised body along the path for putting in place the National Project for Education with the rebuilding of the Egyptian citizen as the aim of the grand plan.

A review of the conclusions of that meeting reveals that the matter is absolutely not limited to structural modifications but rather extends to bringing about an integrated set of the multiple components that are needed for the upbringing of well-educated, caring and knowledge-loving citizens. Education Minister Dr Tarek Shawki has even noted that the national project aims inter alia to recreate the Egyptian citizen’s skills for appreciation, consequently contributing to the improvement and refinement of public tastefulness. It may look simple on the face of it, but it is in fact an essential ingredient of cultural and societal advancement, given that true appreciation of arts and literature is ultimately conducive to the assertion of the society’s approaches to and understanding of life and the importance of improving the quality of life.

Foremost among the many advantages of the new national project is the gradual approach it adopts in achieving the remolding of the entire educational system. As of the new school year 2018-2019, the national project will take effect at the two levels of kindergarten and primary school grade I. And as it moves on, the project would reach its final stage of complete coverage of the pre-university education by the year 2030. It should not go unnoticed that it will be the same year for the completion of the Egypt 2030 Vision for realising the goals of sustainable development goals as so envisaged under both the national plan and the United Nations agenda for sustainable development.

Another equally valuable component of the national project is the introduction of a three-year evaluation system to replace the current reliance on third year examination results for granting the General Certificate of Secondary Education – the prerequisite for admission to universities and higher education institutes. By spreading the certificate’s qualification over three years instead of just one year, the national project is in fact lifting the heavy financial and psychological burdens that parents shoulder in trying to ensure the largest possible access by their sons and daughters to higher General Certificate marks. Abolishing what has for decades been called ‘the monster of parents’ is indeed a highly appreciable merit of the national project.

It will take twelve consecutive years for the national project to cover all stages of the education system, but it is worth it, and it is certainly plausible to let the new system mature gradually particularly given that education is an area of human development where natural growth is the most potent course and also given that many of the components of the present system of education have remained almost unchanged for quite a long time.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

The establishment of the first school for applied technology in Egypt that follows international quality specifications is good news that highlights a genuine state desire to promote poly-technical education.

The school, which will start admitting students who have finished their preparatory education at the start of this academic year, is different from other schools of the kind in that it is being established through the joint effort of the Ministry of Education and the private sector. The school is part of the ministry’s initiative “Egypt’s Makers” which is aimed at promoting the skills of workers to meet the requirements of the labour market.

The new school is being set up in co-operation with the Al-Arabi Group, one of the leading local manufacturers of electrical appliances, Japan and the Educational Development Fund. Having these three parties involved in the project is tantamount to a guarantee of efficiency, seriousness and achieving targets.

The new school is good news because it has responded to a long-standing call for the private sector to be brought into the technical training domain so as to establish a link between education and market representatives who have the ways and means to hone the students skills on a sound basis. The students will get an opportunity to receive practical training at the industrial facilities of Al-Arabi. And so, it will not be difficult for these young people to find rewarding jobs later on. In fact, Al-Arabi has committed itself to hiring graduates who have distinguished themselves at the applied technology school, in its factories and workshops.

It is to be hoped that several other local manufacturers will set up technical schools to provide the market with a highly competitive labour force. In recent years, manufacturers have been complaining of the scarcity of qualified workers, while technical school graduates have been having problems finding suitable jobs. And so, co-operation with the private sector in building schools that offer good vocational training would surely achieve the required balance. 

The Ministry of Education seems set to give impetus to poly-technical education which should be a basic requirement for a country aiming at industrial development and increasing exports. 

The fact is that most of the available government-run poly-technical schools have a poor educational standard and give students graduation certificates of no real use. However, the new school, which should be the nucleus for a series of similar schools, will benefit from Japanese expertise in applied technology.

Another positive element about the new technological school is that it will be set up in Menufia in the Nile Delta, not in Cairo. This shows an emerging state interest in catering to the needs of the governorates, which are mostly deprived of quality services and have thus become repellent to young people.

The applied technology school is a step towards attracting young people to taking up decent and rewarding vocational jobs which used to be looked down upon.

CAIRO, July 4 ,2018 (MENA) - The Education Ministry will hold a weekly meeting with teachers to stand on their problems, said Deputy Education Minister for Teachers' Affairs Mohamed Omar in a press release on Wednesday.

The meeting will be held Tuesdays at 3 pm at the ministry's headquarters, he said.

The meeting comes within the framework of the ministry's direct and continuous contact with teachers to stand on their problems.

The ministry will also receive complaints and proposals from teachers and parents on https://teachers-requests.moe.gov.eg/ in a bid to iron out hurdles facing teaching staff and parents as well, Spokesman of Education Ministry Ahmed Khairy said.

CAIRO, July 3, 2018 (MENA) - The first Egyptian school for applied technology - Al Araby Technical School - opened the door for students who finalised the preparatory school stage to join it, the Education Ministry announced on Tuesday.

The admission period is from July 1 to 10, the ministry said, noting that the school is located in Monufia governorate in the northern part of the country in the Nile Delta.

The ministry joined hands with Al Araby Group, Japan and Egypt's Education Development Fund to set up this school.

In statements on Tuesday, Education Minister Tareq Shawqy underlined the importance of honing skills of students of technical schools.

The new schools is meant to graduate students who are capable of withstanding local and international competition in the labor market.

He underlined the importance of benefiting from Japanese expertise in this regard.

Al Araby Group will secure jobs for distinguished students upon graduation.

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