Including a teacher’s cleaning of toilets.. Egypt’s parliament accuses the Minister of Education
Cairo- 3 times, the Egyptian Parliament requested the Minister of Education, Tariq Shawky, to attend the House of Representatives, to answer questions and requests for briefing regarding the educational issue submitted by the members of the Council, but the concerned minister did not respond to the request until the fourth time.
After 3 successive apologies for various reasons, the Minister of Education came to the House of Representatives, to witness the parliamentary session that took place this afternoon, Tuesday, and included a huge amount of questions and requests for briefing, numbering 120, that dealt with many of the Ministry’s policies that received – because of the decisions of its minister – a lot of criticism, as well as It appears on social media.
Parliamentary requests and questions included several crises in Egyptian education, such as the difficulty of the curricula, the student density in classrooms in schools, the shortage of teachers, the abolition of high school diplomacy, in addition to the poisoning of students due to school meals.
The criticism of the members of the House of Representatives against the Minister of Education reached the point of accusing him of wasting public money and completely disconnecting from the reality of education in the country.
Contrary to the complacency with which the current parliament deals with government officials as representatives of the authority, the parliamentary session witnessed briefing requests that included an attack on the Minister of Education, as well as questions that seemed sarcastic about the entire educational situation.
At the forefront of the educational crises addressed by the deputies, was the difficulty of the newly established educational curricula, especially the curriculum for the fourth grade of primary school. During her speech, Parliamentarian Evelyn Matta said that the fourth-grade curriculum requires a trial period before it is approved for students, then she mocked the minister and asked him a question – present in the curriculum – saying: “How many braids does the penguin have?”
Representative Amal Zakaria Qutb commented on the large number and difficulties of information about the animals included in the fourth grade syllabuses, saying, “The amount of needs is not seen by (the student), nor the teacher, nor the mentor.”
Member of Parliament Sanaa Al-Saeed spoke about the wide gap between the ministry’s plan to develop curricula and the state of the entire educational system, criticizing the nature of development plans in light of the lack of school infrastructure and the number of students in one class reaching 120 students.
And she added, “There is no (there is) no chair to sit on, there is no infrastructure, there is no teacher… the ministry’s plan talks about a society other than our Egyptian society.”
Class size and teacher shortage
Questions and requests for briefing continued regarding the large shortage in the number of teachers due to the government’s cessation of appointing new employees, in addition to the overcrowding of classrooms with dozens of students, which hinders the educational process.
Member of Parliament Dia El-Din Daoud criticized the performance of the Minister of Education towards the problem of teacher shortages, explaining that the deficit amounts to about 120,000 teachers, and said that it is not possible to provide quality education without the presence of teachers trained in modern curricula.
To explain the dire situation that schools have reached due to the failure to appoint teachers or even cleaners, MP Sameh Habib said that there are teachers who clean school classrooms and toilets due to the shortage of support workers in schools.
MP Muhammad Al-Samoudi criticized the Ministry of Education’s approach to open the door to volunteering to teach in schools for 20 pounds (about a dollar and a quarter), pointing to the problem of 36,000 teachers who passed the appointment tests held by the ministry 3 years ago and signed temporary work contracts, then worked for two months. Then their contracts were abruptly terminated.
Wasting public money
In turn, Representative Amal Abdel Hamid launched a sharp attack on the Minister of Education because of his ministry’s approach to education via tablet computers in light of the weak Internet networks in the villages of Egypt.
Because of the tablet system that is inappropriate to the nature of the educational process in the country, the deputy accused the Minister of Education of wasting public money, and continued, “Students who enter the exam meet the tablet, which does not work and does not know how to answer it.”
MP Ahmed Hamdi Khattab also said that the state has incurred huge funds to spend on the tablet system, but without any tangible positive impact on the educational process so far, adding that the ministry has provided students with smart tools without planning well how to use them, noting that some students use the tablet to open websites. Porn is not for scientific benefit.
Apology and defense
The Minister of Education, who has always spoken arrogantly about the criticisms leveled at him, began his speech before the deputies with a kind of apology for his absence during the past sessions, stressing that he will come to Parliament every month to discuss various educational issues.
Then Shawky defended his policies in the face of overcrowded classrooms, stressing the construction of 94,000 classrooms at a cost of 31 billion Egyptian pounds (1.4 billion dollars).
The minister indicated that the problem of educational buildings includes several complications as well as the lack of money needed for construction, as he went on to enumerate the problems, “We have a complex problem because of educational buildings, money can exist, and we do not have land to build new classrooms and schools, we are talking about a simultaneous problem for 25 years. The most dangerous thing is the population increase…we have an increase of 5 million students,” considering that the population increase is a major cause of the student density crisis in classrooms.
Shawky said in a previous statement that the ministry inherited a deficit of 250,000 chapters since 2017, explaining that the cost of building one chapter amounts to half a million pounds ($32 thousand).
Pupils are poisoned
In response to deputies’ questions about the poisoning of hundreds of students in different schools after eating school meals during the past two months, Shawki said that he is not concerned with this issue, adding that the Ministry of Health is the body that is supposed to be asked questions in this regard, and he continued, “We receive the service and do not provide it, We are the customer, and the Ministry of Health is responsible for providing the service.
It is noteworthy that last August, the company “Silo Foods” – owned by the armed forces – acquired the right to supply meals to Egyptian schools.
School feeding programs in government schools target more than 12 million students in about 31,000 schools. According to local media, the cost of the school feeding meal for school students is 7.7 billion pounds.
The Minister of Education confirmed during the parliamentary session that his ministry is satisfied with the level of service provided to students with regard to school meals, noting that the government has doubled the budget for meals 4 times to confront anemia among students.
Despite the removal of responsibility from his ministry, Shawky denied the existence of any official reports indicating a problem with school meals, describing the news about the poisoning of students with allegations on social media.
Regarding the teacher shortage crisis in schools, Shawki said that the matter is beyond his control, claiming that the law stopped the appointment of teachers, calling on the deputies to amend the law and to exclude teachers from the decision to stop appointments in government agencies.
With regard to the difficulty of the educational curricula, the minister responded by describing the fourth-grade primary curriculum as the best product the ministry has produced in its history, emphasizing that the fourth-grade student obtained the necessary qualification for those curricula during his studies in the previous classes.
He added that the science and mathematics curricula are comparable to the highest-level curricula in the world, stressing that the educational plan depends on the sequence in a way that is comfortable for students without requiring the completion of the curriculum during the semester, as it can be completed in the next semester.
And he addressed his speech to the parents, saying, “God bless the children and we will teach them, and if we repeat the curriculum of the eighties, mothers will say difficult and we must forget the word exam,” stressing that the curricula in question are taught in international schools whose expenses amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
According to the Education Quality Index in the Competitiveness Report issued by the Davos Forum in 2019, Egypt ranked 93 out of 140 countries.