Egypt's parliament to question education minister on packed classrooms, high fees and lack of teachers

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 11 Dec 2021

Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – will get down to business this week, grilling Minister of Education Tarek Shawki Tuesday over the state of education in the country.

 Minister of Education Tarek Shawki
Minister of Education Tarek Shawki. Al-ahram

According to the House's schedule of debate, Minister of Education Tarek Shawki is scheduled to come to parliament Tuesday to answer questions on the problems of the 2021/22 school year.

Minister Shakwi will have to answer 69 "discussion requests" and seven questions on the poor financial conditions of school teachers, the crumbling state of many school buildings, the state of overcrowded classrooms and a chronic shortage in the number of qualified teachers.

MPs complained that Minister Shakwi's bizarre policies have made school curricula very difficult for students to understand. They referred in particular to the fourth grade curriculum in elementary schools, insisting it is very difficult for students to study and for teachers to teach.

MPs also complained that Minister Shawki's decision last week to cancel the division of high school's third year into science and mathematics took them all by surprise and caused a lot of confusion for thanaweya amma (high school) students and their families.

Shawki will also have to answer three "discussion requests" and 12 questions from MPs on the dramatic rise in fees for government and private schools.

A number of MPs, such as Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, have criticised Shawki for instructing the ministry not to give books to students unless they pay school fees first. Abdel-Aziz said Shawki's orders violate Article 19 of the constitution, which states that education is free for all citizens.

Other MPs, such as Mostaqbal Watan party member Hanaa Farouk, complained that the education ministry has increased school fees beyond the financial capacity of low and average-income families. "This also comes at a time Minister Shawki gave private language and international schools a free hand to increase school fees," said Farouk.

Shawki will also answer ten questions on the poor quality of meals offered to students in government schools. Several students in a number of governorates were taken to hospitals this month after eating substandard school meals.

Questions on the crumbling state of many school buildings and the lack of funding to hire teachers will be also directed to Shawki.

On Sunday, the House will discuss legislative amendments to the law on the National Authority for Guaranteeing Education Quality and Accreditation (Law 82/2006).

A report by the House's Education Committee said the amendments aim to raise the quality of education in Egypt and reinforce the role of the Education Quality Authority in this respect. "The amendments will also tackle the financial fees required by the Authority to cover costs and services," said the report.

Sunday's schedule will also see the House discussing legislative amendments of two laws, the first of which regulates the performance of universities (Law 139/1972), and the second deals with the regulation of Al-Azhar (Law 103/1961).

On Monday, the House is scheduled to discuss a new government-drafted law on setting up an Egyptian Authority for Guaranteeing Quality and Accreditation in Education, and Technical and Professional Training.

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