In Egypt, more protests against education minister

Ekram Ibrahim , Tuesday 18 Jan 2011

Parents and lawyers rallied against Minister Badr's decision to turn four state schools into experimental ones

A group of 250 lawyers and parents from Cairo and Alexandria protested today in front of the State Council building in Dokki, against Education Minister Ahmed Zaki Badr's decision to turn four state schools into 'experimental' ones.

“This is a dictator and a blunt decision,” said Isamiel Abdel Mansour, whose children are students in one of schools affected by the minister's decision.
Protestors chanted, “Beware Mr. President, Ahmed Badr will corrupt the education system.”

The minster’s decision was implemented in four state schools: 6th October School and al-Nasser Boys School in Cairo, and EGC and Lycee el-Horrerya in Alexandria.

Parents are angry because the level of education in state schools is higher than that in experimental ones. Moreover, the state schools are more affordable. “The annual fees at the 6th October School are LE3,800 and it offers a perfect level of education to my children,” said Rania Hassan, a parent of two students who attend the 6th October School.

One of the strengths of the state schools is that the maximum number of students per class cannot exceed 35, while in experimental schools there may be as many as 70. Another advantage of state school, according to the parents, is that its teachers are of higher caliber than their counterparts in the experimental ones. “In my children’s school, there are graduates of the American University in Cairo,” said Hassan.

Parents and teachers angry with Badr accuse him of deciding to change the status of the schools for the sake of financial benefits to the ministry, without considering the good of the students. “He wants the money, he wants to put his hand on a school of eight acres,” said Ghada Fawzy, a parent of students at Lycee el-Horrerya.

The protest came after the court held a session today at the State Council in a case brought against the minister's decision to turn the four state schools into experimental ones. “All parents and lawyers from Cairo and Alexandria stood in court together today,” said Safwat Ali, a member of the General Assembly of National Institutes. The case was postponed to 8 February, when the court will deliver its final ruling.

State schools are cooperative educational ones, established under Law 1 of 1990. According to this law, these schools are non-for profit entities, managed by a board of directors comprised of seven elected members, two members from the ministry of education and the head of the school. “No financial decision is taken in those schools without permission from officials from the ministry of education,” Ali told Ahram Online.

It is not the first time that Badr has been publicly accused of taking measures that are based on financial interest without making a fair argument for imposing them. Last August, the minister of education charged publishers of study guides LE400,000-1.25 million for using material included in the ministry’s school textbooks.

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