Protecting the education sector
Unvaccinated employees in the education sector — including all public and private universities and schools — and students aged 18+, must be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the new academic year begins next month, according to directives by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
Minister of Health Hala Zayed said students and employees in the education sector will be prioritised and that the ministry intends to vaccinate 40 per cent of Egypt’s population by the end of this year. Students will be offered locally manufactured Sinovac. State-owned vaccine producer VACSERA has so far produced 10 million shots of the Chinese vaccine, and aims to increase manufacturing capacity to 15 million shots per month.
The start of the academic year is set to coincide with the beginning of the fourth wave of the virus. “We are currently experiencing a rising curve in infections. The Health Ministry reported 263 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, up from 255 the day before,” said Zayed.
Nour Ashraf, 21, a university student, says taking the vaccine “is the right way to lead a normal life during school.”
Victoria, a teacher at the British School of Cairo (BSC), backs obligatory vaccines for all school staff and children above 18. “Vaccines are safe and it is better for all of us to have them, it is the only way forward,” she says.
Some students, however, have reservations about being forced to get the jab. Reem Amgad, 20, a mass communication student at Misr International University (MIU), opposes making the vaccination compulsory, arguing that individuals should have the right to refuse a vaccine if they are sceptical about its efficacy and side effects.
Hadeer Mahmoud, 20, agrees with Amgad, and points out that “some people may have allergies.”
Universities will require proof of vaccination before staff and students are allowed on campus. Nadine Ahmed, head of admissions at ESLSCA University, says all students have been told by e-mail to provide proof of vaccination and “those who refuse to get vaccinated will not be allowed onto the campus.”
Manal Salem, coordinator of the Health Ministry’s Scientific Committee for Combating Covid-19, says university hospitals will be responsible for vaccinating freshmen students during the medical examination ahead of their first year. The same hospitals will also be responsible for vaccinating higher grade students who could not access the vaccine before the beginning of the academic year. The Health Ministry will be responsible for providing hospitals with sufficient quantities of vaccines and the necessary equipment.
In order to facilitate the vaccination process the ministry has added a dedicated section for educational employees to its website, says Salem. In addition, the Ministry of Education is instructing all educators to log on to the website and register for vaccination before 7 September.
Habiba Mohamed, an assistant professor at Cairo University, says making Covid-19 inoculations mandatory among university staff and students will hasten the return to face-to-face teaching. She notes that “moving education online has resulted in weak results and a learning gap among students.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly