Egypt's parliament to discuss new laws, question education minister

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 25 Dec 2021

Egypt's House of Representatives will get down to business this week, devoting sessions on Sunday and Monday to discuss amendments to five laws regulating the performance of art-centric syndicates, private funds, renewable energy, and public universities.

File photo: Egypt s House of Representatives
File photo: Egypt s House of Representatives

The House's schedule of debate will also include two foreign agreements on oil exploration in the Gulf of Suez and the Western Desert.

On Sunday, the House will discuss amendments to the law regulating the performance of the Union of Syndicates of Acting, Cinema, and Musical Professions (Law 35/1978).

A report prepared by the House's Culture and Media Committee said the amendments are meant to double the revenues of the three art-centric syndicates to be able to take care of the social and health needs of its members. "The amendments also seek to help the three syndicates raise the cultural and artistic level of those involved in acting, cinema, and musical activities," said the report, indicating that "to achieve this end, the syndicates will have judicial powers to crack down on substandard artists who exercise low standard and indecent artistic activities without prior licence, and stipulate that those who wish to work in the field of acting, cinema, and music get a licence from the concerned syndicate."

The House will also discuss a draft law allowing the state treasury to obtain a part of the proceeds of private funds and surplus money gained by public institutions on 30 June 2021. A parliamentary report said the new legislative move aims to support the state budget in order to be able to meet the country's economic and social needs.

On Monday, the House will discuss two laws: Law 102/1986 regulates the performance of the Renewable Energy Authority; Law 203/2014 provides incentives to encourage the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources.

Monday's schedule will also include amending Law 49/1972 regulating universities, with the objective of doubling the financial award granted to professors when they reach the retirement age and become emeritus professors.

Minister of Education Tarek Shawki is scheduled to arrive in parliament on Tuesday to answer questions on the problems of the 2021/22 school year. The session was slated for 14 December, but Shawki put it off because he was attending an education conference in the UAE.

Shawki 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, overcrowded classrooms, and the chronic shortage in the number of qualified teachers.

MPs complained that Shawki's policies have made school curricula 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 Shawki's decision this month to cancel the division of high school's third year into science and mathematics departments took them by surprise and resulted in 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 the fees of government and private schools.

A number of MPs, such as Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, 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 answer 10 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 having substandard school meals.

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

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