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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Children of the future: A fair chance for all children in Egypt

Egypt in recent years has embarked on a wide scale effort to shore up children’s rights as part of its national development programme

Ghada Abdel-Kader, Thursday 29 Aug 2019
Students Hatem and Nadi designed a maquette for a dreamy playground in schools
Views: 1936
Views: 1936

Every child has the right to live in a safe and happy ‎family, be educated, protected from harm, have access to healthcare ‎and equal protection of their civil rights, ‎according to the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the ‎Child (CRC).‎

Egypt made significant changes in 2008 ‎to its child laws to give greater protection for ‎children's rights concerning healthcare, ‎poverty alleviation, education, violence against child and ‎women, and abuse and exploitation. Some of ‎Egyptian children were deprived of their rights to ‎education, health, social care and family care. One of the important reasons was ‎the global economic downturn that had a negative ‎impact on human development. Egypt tried to ‎think out of the box and adopted new policies. The following are ‎some highlights of the initiatives undertaken in Egypt to address child rights. ‎


Supporting poor households

One of the most important steps was the introduction of a cash transfer programme ‎to support the income of poor households and ‎encourage them to invest more in developing human ‎capital through education and health. ‎

In March 2015, Egypt launched ‎Takaful and Karama (TKP), implemented by ‎the Ministry of Social Solidarity, providing ‎conditional cash support for poor households and ‎families.‎

Takaful (Solidarity) required that ‎beneficiaries have children from 0-18-years-old. Monthly cash transfers ‎depend mainly on the number of the children and ‎their school grades.‎

Karama (Dignity) is a non-conditional cash ‎transfer programme directed to elderly beneficiaries ‎above the age of 65, those with severe disabilities and ‎diseases, and orphans. Support is afforded for life, and beneficiaries are checked upon twice a year.‎

The impact of Takafal and Karama in rural areas and the poorest ‎villages has been obvious. Dr Sherine El-‎Shawarby, professor of ‎economics at the Faculty of Economics and Political ‎Science at Cairo University, said: “For the first time in all rounds of ‎household surveys, there was a reduction of poverty in rural ‎areas. The focus of the government was on rural ‎areas rather than on urban areas.” ‎

According to the last ‎Household Income Expenditure and ‎Consumption Survey (HIECS) 2017/2018, the ‎poverty rate in Egypt declined in rural areas but ‎increased significantly in urban areas. Egypt’s overall ‎poverty rate increased from 27.8 percent to above 32 percent. ‎

young inventor
young inventor Malak Mahmoud designed a ‘complete toothbrushes kit’

Child universities

Egypt’s Academy of Scientific Research and ‎Technology (ASRT) launched the ‎‎"Children’s University Programme" in ‎‎2015. It targets Egyptian school students from age nine ‎to 15-years-old. It aims to develop the Egyptian child’s ‎skills in innovation, creativity, critical thinking and ‎problem solving, underlining the importance of scientific ‎research. ‎
The programme resembles others widespread around the world. Around ‎‎180 children’s universities exist in ‎Europe. The ASRT is a member of the European ‎Children’s University Network and the Children’s ‎University International Programme. ‎

ASRT president Mahmoud Sakr said: “More ‎than 16,400 children joined and benefit from Egypt ‎Children’s University Programme.”‎

Sakr continued that the programme entails cooperation between ASRT and all ‎Egyptian universities, whether public or ‎private, as well as the Ministry of ‎Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Planning and Administrative Reform, ‎the Ministry of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs and the ‎Ministry of Youth and Sports.‎

Media counselor and official spokesman for ‎ASRT, Sherine Sabri, said: “The Children’s ‎University Programme has been successful for three ‎years now. It is open to the public for free.” Admission to the ‎programme is conducted online (

Managing director of the Egypt Children’s University ‎Programme, Gina El-Fiqi, said: “Children study different ‎sciences that will benefit them in their practical life, such ‎as business, physics, biology, agriculture, chemistry, ‎computer sciences, electrical and electronic engineering ‎and mechanics.” ‎

The programme give school students the ‎chance to experience education in university communities, including access to university campuses, ‎classrooms, laboratories, computer labs, libraries and ‎other facilities. Children exposed to university ‎education in seven scientific fields under the ‎supervision of The ASRT programme covers seven scientific fields, besides scientific ‎specialties decided according to the excellence ‎of each university. ‎

El-Fiqi explained: “We have a huge number of professors ‎that participated in the programme from 34 governmental, ‎national and private Egyptian universities from ‎Alexandria to Aswan. The programme covered all ‎‎29 Egyptian governorates.” ‎

Students Zeina Hatem and Mariam Nadi undertook ‎training at the faculties of pharmaceuticals, ‎engineering, medicine, business and arts at ‎Heliopolis University. The 13-year-old students ‎Hatem and Nadi, along with 22 of their colleagues, made an architectural maquette of their ‎dream playground.‎Hatem said: “All the ‎ideas revolved around sustainability. ‎All figures and sculptures were made according to ‎scale.” ‎

Nadi added: “We made a budget for the project and used ‎materials of good quality, and at the same time not ‎expensive.” ‎

Malak Mahmoud is 12-years-old and from Kafr El-‎Sheikh governorate. Mahmoud joined the programme ‎two years ago. Mahmoud made a design called “The Complete ‎toothbrushes kit." It included three different designs for ‎toothbrushes to clean the inner, outer and biting ‎surfaces of the upper and lower teeth. Another ‎toothbrush was for cleaning the tongue. A third ‎one was a small soft-tooth brush to gently exfoliate the lips. Toothbrush heads ‎were made of rubber and toothpaste was made of ‎type of sand. The kits were made in three different sizes to comfortably fit in any child's mouth.‎

Children study for six years in the ASRT ‎programme.‎ ‎“It aims at strengthening the child. Each child received a ‎financial subsidy every year, besides technical and ‎artistic support,” Sabri said.‎

At the end of Children’s University Programme every ‎year, each child is required to work on a scientific ‎research project according to their interests and hobbies. ‎Sabri said: “All the children’s innovations participated ‎in the annual International Cairo Exhibition of ‎Innovation.” ‎

In the fourth phase, next year, an international conference on the Children’s University Programme will be held in Cairo, bringing a wide range of academics and experts ‎from Children’s University programmes from across the world. ‎In planning are agreements between different Children’s University initiatives around the world for a student exchange programme.

young inventor

Improving nurseries nationwide
Another initiative for children is the National ‎Project for Nurseries Development, aimed at ‎improving the quality of service provided ‎for children in nurseries.

According to the latest CAPMAS statistics for the ‎year 2016, the number of children in the age group ‎from birth to four years was 10,431,590 children. ‎The number of licensed nurseries for the age group ‎‎(0-4 years) were 14,272. The number of ‎children enrolled in kindergartens was estimated at ‎‎847,423. The estimated gap is about 91 percent.‎

Minister-counselor for social welfare at the ‎Ministry of Social Solidarity (MOSS), Sahar Mashhour, said: ‎‎“The number of officially registered nurseries at the ‎Ministry of Social Solidarity was ‎approximately 14,500 nurseries. Hundreds of ‎nurseries remained unlicensed and unregistered due ‎to the difficulties of procedures to obtain the ‎license.”

Approval must come from MOSS, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Local Development. Mashhour ‎added: “We are working on solving this, but it will take ‎time. We are trying to improve the complicated ‎requirements and procedures on ‎obtaining nursery licenses.” ‎

Aside from registration matters, the National ‎Project for Nurseries Development has focused on comprehensive ‎practical training workshops for ‎teacher and facilitators working in nurseries.

Mashhour added: “MOSS spent a year and half to ‎prepare measurement standards for quality ‎supervision and a unified educational curriculum ‎for all nurseries.” ‎
Of five training workshops, the first covered infrastructure. It discussed child protection, ‎rights in law and the constitution, and international ‎agreements covering children and pre-school education. ‎

The second workshop focused ‎on training teachers on ‎child learning objectives such as mental, physical, ‎sensory, and emotional capabilities, along with independence and self-expression. ‎

A third workshop covered first aid for kids, healthy ‎nutrition, and positive parenting. 

A fourth workshop was on how teachers should deal with ‎behavioral disorder and psychological ‎problems, such as violence, urinary incontinence (enuresis), ‎bullying and stuttering. The workshop also touched on the ‎integration of children with disabilities into regular ‎nurseries. ‎

Mashhour commented: “The ministry signed several ‎agreements and partnership with 10 NGOs who will implement the development programme and offer training at 350 nurseries. This project was funded ‎by the Ministry of Finance.” ‎

So far, the programme has been applied in nurseries in 12 ‎governorates, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, the Red Sea, ‎Aswan, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Kafr El-Sheikh, ‎Port Said, Ismailia, Suez and Qalyubia. ‎


Concerning private nurseries, Mashhour said: ‎‎“Nasser Bank allocated EGP 50 million to give ‎loans to finance the development or establishment of ‎nurseries.” ‎

A new nurseries project called “Home ‎Nurseries" was launched to increase the number of ‎nurseries and lower the gap between the number of ‎children in need and available nurseries. Home Nurseries ‎will have the same activities, training and curriculum ‎as ordinary ones, but will be convened in homes. ‎

Mashhour confirmed, “There will be certain ‎conditions and restrictions in order to set up a home ‎nursery, to ensure the children’s safety.” She added: “It ‎should have a good reputation and be safe, and be owned ‎and managed by females only. All the teachers, ‎facilitators and nannies should be women,” she added.‎

‎“We are targeting women; in particular those who are the sole ‎breadwinner for the family, who financially ‎support the family, or women who have no ‎job and want to work from home,” she explained.‎

MOSS gave number of NGOs licenses to ‎open home nurseries. These NGOs have ‎experience in managing and developing nurseries. The house ‎must consist of two or multiple floors. The first ‎floor can be used for the nursery. The second floor is ‎a living apartment for the family. 

“We are in an experimental ‎period we are going to evaluate after a year. Each Home ‎Nursery has a small capacity for around seven ‎children,” she added. ‎

She concluded: “Inspectors and leaders from ‎community committees will pay visits to the home ‎nursery, ensuring that providers have effective ‎procedures for keeping children safe.”

Protection from abuse
The National Council for Childhood and ‎Motherhood (NCCM) launched the Child Helpline ‎number 16000 on 29 June 2005. It is an emergency ‎phone service that receives calls and records complaints for children in need of aid and assistance.

It provides protection for children from violence, ‎abuse and neglect across the country. It has worked in ‎partnership with the ministries of social solidarity, interior, ‎justice, health, education and labour, and civil society ‎communities working in this field. The helpline is ‎available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ‎

The child helpline has received thousands of inquires and ‎calls. ‎

Secretary-general of the NCCM, Azza ‎El-Ashmawy, said: “The most common problems for ‎children were found inside their families, the child ‎in particular exposed to different forms of violence, ‎such as physical, psychological, sexual and ‎emotional.”

El-Ashmawy explained that part of the helpline services ‎were psychological, social and legal counseling ‎for both the child and his or her family. ‎Psychological support was offered through ‎confidential counseling by phone or through ‎in-person counseling ‎at the NCCM's headquarters or through partners. ‎Such partners are organisations specialised in the field ‎of psychotherapy and other psychological ‎services. 

Another service is legal support for ‎children and their families through on the phone consultations via legal representatives on behalf of thee child in ‎front of investigating authorities and courts.‎

El-Ashmawy added: "There are several mechanisms for ‎indirect intervention in the different governorates, ‎through NGOs, child protection committees, referred ‎and coordinated with concerned authorities.”‎

All staff and employees dealing with child ‎helpline data are governed by a code of honour ‎to maintain strict confidentiality and privacy. 

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