Educational support for the children of families enrolled in the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) social-protection programmes has now been extended to include university education.
The expansion of the conditional and unconditional cash-transfer programmes, launched by the Ministry of Social Solidarity and other ministries in 2015, was ordered by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who instructed the allocation of LE1 billion to support university students in need.
The two programmes are meant to support the poorest segments in Upper Egyptian villages and families striving to make ends meet in areas on the outskirts of Cairo and Giza.
The Takaful programme encourages poorer families to keep their children in school. Qualifying households receive a monthly cash transfer of LE325 and are given additional monthly support of LE60 for every child under six years old, LE80 for primary stage pupils, LE100 for preparatory stage pupils, and LE140 for secondary stage pupils.
The additional support is conditional upon the pupils having at least 80 per cent school attendance records.
The programme also grants additional support to pregnant and nursing mothers, provided they pay four visits per year to health clinics, maintain child-growth monitoring records, and implement the healthcare directives of the Ministry of Health. The additional support is granted to a maximum of three children per household.
The Karama programme targets the elderly above the age of 65 and the disabled. Individuals in these two categories are granted LE550 per month.
To qualify for support, a beneficiary should be unable to work and their family should not be on a fixed income, whether from insurance or from social-security pensions. The disabled must submit a medical certificate approved by a medical unit affiliated to the Ministry of Health saying that they are unable to work to receive the cash transfers.
There are 3.6 million families, or 14.7 million individuals, that benefit from Karama and Takaful cash support, up from 63,000 beneficiaries in 2014, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
“Adding the university stage to the Takaful programme is a positive step because household poverty in the majority of qualifying cases prevents parents from enrolling their children in university,” said Alia Al-Mahdy, a former dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.
She said that the programmes should include training grants to family members to enable them to acquire the skills needed to find jobs in the private sector, including female-headed households.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity stated that the allocations included supporting a million school students from households excluded from the Takaful programme, reaching a total of 4.4 million students, in addition to making available the tools needed by special-needs students to help them in their education and to integrate into society.
The Takaful and Karama programmes recertify their beneficiaries every three years.
Allocations for the two programmes in the new budget were LE18.5 billion, an increase of 2.5 per cent on the year before and up from LE6.6 billion in 2014-15 or a hike of 181 per cent.
Pre-university education was allocated LE241.6 billion, higher education LE122 billion, and scientific research LE60.4 billion in this year’s budget.
Other conditions necessary for beneficiaries to earn cash support from either programme include that an elderly husband, wife, or disabled person should not receive public or private insurance payments of more than LE400.
Takaful-qualifying households can have children up to 18 years of age provided that children from the age of six to 18 are enrolled in different school stages. Households are required to present official papers, such as valid IDs, certificates of birth, marriage, divorce, and death, and electricity bills. Special-needs beneficiaries should submit medical certificates stating that their disability exceeds 50 per cent.
Orphans cared for by second-degree relatives do not qualify for Karama support.
Persons ineligible for Takaful and Karama support include those owning agricultural land (half a feddan or more), renting a feddan or more of agricultural land, owning more real estate than their own house, owning one or more shops (registered or not), trading in livestock, working for a regular income in the private, public, or business sectors (with insurance), or in the private, public, or business sectors (without insurance) over a monthly income of LE1,600 for a family of four, or if they receive a pension of LE500 or more.
The programmes also exclude people who own any kind of vehicle or pay school fees of more than LE3,000 per child on an annual basis.
Al-Mahdy said the conditions of the two programmes should be revised due to the rising cost of living. They should increase to include households that earn less than LE1,500, she said, adding that a family of five that owns a feddan of agricultural land is not a rich family, given high inflation rates.
People living under the poverty line in Egypt have increased to 32.5 per cent of the population, seeing an increase of 4.7 per cent on 2015, research on incomes, spending, and consumption for 2017-18 said.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) has identified the poverty line at LE8,827 per year, or LE735.5 per month, based on its research on incomes, spending, and consumption for 2017-18, up from LE5,787 annually, or LE482 monthly, according to earlier research in 2015.
Extreme poverty for an individual stands at LE5,890 per individual per year, or LE491 per month, according to 2017-18 research.
Hania Sholkamy, a professor at the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Centre, who participated in preparing the Takaful and Karama programmes, said children of families granted the cash transfers were not in such need of university education but instead needed to acquire a technical education to enable them to land jobs.
Unemployment among university graduates is higher than among the graduates of technical education, she added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.