Egypt’s Ministry of Education and Technical Education signed a deal with mobile operator Orange Egypt to provide school students with easy access to their curriculum online. The three-year protocol, signed on 25 August by Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki and CEO and Managing Director of Orange Egypt Yasser Shaker, will enable students to easily access the content of educational subjects.
Shawki said in a press release after inking the protocol that by virtue of the agreement, an education platform will be developed in which educational content produced by the ministry can be accessed. The role of Orange Egypt, in coordination with the ministry, will be to provide the platform with modern technology to host content through its data-hosting centres.
It will also offer the cloud infrastructure necessary to operate and manage the platform.
Students can access content on the platform in exchange for a fee yet to be determined. It can be paid via smart phones.
The move, according to Shawki, comes within the framework of the ministry’s interest in providing alternatives to traditional forms of education in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. “All these measures are meant to improve Egypt’s educational system that will witness a substantial move towards digital learning methods. It is also considered part of the country’s digital transformation comprehensive plan to deal with any possible consequences of Covid-19,” Shawki said.
“The cooperation between the two parties represents a giant step towards implementing the Ministry of Education’s plan to move towards e-learning, which is in line with the country’s policies that have succeeded during the last period in adopting modern technologies and linking them to education systems in Egypt,” Shaker added.
The ministry has been driving the move towards online education for the past couple of years in a bid to overhaul Egypt’s education system. It already has in place various educational platforms that students have been accessing, including a digital library and a platform to broadcast educational classes.
While the agreement is a continuation of remote learning which started in the spring, it was worrisome to some parents. Elham Khedr, a mother of three who lives on the outskirts of Cairo, noted that her family does not have easy access to the Internet. Furthermore, their school does not have computers or smart boards. “So how will my children access these lessons,” Khedr asked.
The same goes for Marwa Salah, a mother of two who lives in Fayoum and earns her living cleaning homes. “My children’s school does not have computers, and neither do my children,” Salah said, adding that even though her husband is the only family member who owns a smart phone, “he works all day and when he is home he does not allow the children to use it.” Furthermore, she said her family cannot afford to pay more fees to access the service.
Presidential Spokesman Mahmoud Hassouna told Al-Ahram Weekly that ministry officials are aware that not all of the country’s students have easy access to digital lessons. The ministry is exerting its utmost efforts to provide all the country’s schools with digital classes where students can access lessons and study after the end of the school day, Hassouna said. Introducing this facility will take place swiftly, he said. By the end of the upcoming academic year, scheduled to begin on 17 October, more than 90 per cent of the country’s schools will have access to digital learning, Hassouna said. Regarding fees, Hassouna said they would be affordable. “The ministry seeks to provide students with a better quality of education, not burden them with further financial demands,” he stressed.
According to Hassouna, schools and students who are unable to access the digital system for any reason will continue with the traditional way of learning until they set up the necessary arrangements.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly