Around 23 million students are heading to school next week
Egypt’s 23 million school students will be expected to attend school as normal, Minister of Education Tarek Shawki stated on his official Facebook account. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 fourth wave schools will be sterilised, said Shawki, and students will be required to wear face masks. Teachers and other school staff members will be allowed on to school premises only if they are vaccinated, though exceptions will made for those who have chronic conditions that prevent them from taking the vaccine.
More than 95 per cent of Egypt’s 1.6 million teachers and administrators have registered for vaccination, of whom 286,000 have already received two-doses, and 541,000 one dose.
The ministry has no intention of suspending or postponing the school year, which is scheduled to run until June 16, and it will not cancel any parts of curriculum, Reda Hegazi, deputy to the minister of education, told Al-Ahram Weekly. He said digital and other e-resources are a complement to the education process in schools and not an alternative, except in cases of extreme necessity.
The ministry’s operations room is following up on developments related to the pandemic and will monitor the education process and ensure it continues, said Hegazi. He could not foresee any circumstances in which the school year will be cancelled.
International schools returned for the new academic year on 12 September, and though many parents are happy that their children are no longer studying online, concerns have been raised about the degree to which schools may act as a spreading ground for infection during the fourth wave of the pandemic, especially given the emergence of Covid-19 new variants.
International school headmistress Hoda Suleiman told the Weekly that all her staff had been vaccinated, with only a few waiting for their second shot. No students are allowed on school premises without masks and hand sanitizer, and classroom numbers have been restricted to a maximum of 15 students to allow for social distancing.
Meanwhile, universities have started vaccinating employees, teaching staff and students 18 years of age and above ahead of the new academic year. A press release issued by Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said that universities have been summoning staff members and students in order to be vaccinated, and no student who is 18 or above will be allowed to enter university premises unless they have received the vaccine.
“Vaccinating university students will help speed up vaccination rates among young people in general and reduce the spread of the disease among students,” said Abdel-Ghaffar. He added that more than 400,000 university staff and students had been vaccinated at university hospitals.
Abdel-Ghaffar stressed that widespread vaccination was the only way to return to a full academic year except, a proviso that applies to all public, private and international universities.
“In the case of someone refusing to be vaccinated, the alternative is to conduct a weekly swab at the relevant university’s central laboratories to reduce the chances of infection,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly