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Egypt's vanishing education: A nation with no tomorrow

Egypt's vanishing education: A nation with no tomorrow

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Opinion Personal Freedoms

Wednesday 23 August 202304:52 pm

Georges Tarabichi noticed that Taha Hussein was the first Arab to use the term "the future". Taha Hussein tackled the significance of this word in his book, "The Future of Culture in Egypt", where he envisioned an educational renaissance. Even in times of utmost pessimism, Tarabichi couldn't fathom the mockery of non-education in a nation crushed by debt, where the blind, shortsighted decisions of those in power continue to weigh down the future with unproductive, extravagant and useless projects funded by heavy black debts. The state of affairs reached a point where the head of the nation openly ridiculed feasibility studies, presenting improvisation as a solution without any accountability for squandering roughly 150 billion Egyptian pounds each year on extracurricular education. Schools have transformed from educational institutions into mere buildings that students visit just to take exams and secure certificates to escape from hell.

Egypt today: Schools with no education. Education with no schools and authentic learning environments. Students mastering the art of memorization, yet without any genuine understanding or comprehension. Graduates facing unemployment. Bright minds and promising talents migrating, while those who only know how to memorize become obedient cogs in the bureaucratic wheel, creating problems for every solution while impeding progress and blindly following instructions without making an effort or striving to excel.

Egypt today: Schools with no education. Education with no schools. Students mastering memorization without genuine understanding. Unemployed graduates. Promising talent migrating, as the rest become obedient cogs in the bureaucratic wheel, impeding progress

Those who escape this hell go on to feed research institutions, corporations, and hospitals in foreign land in the north. These are a people who sow seeds for others to harvest, since the cruel north knows that purchasing slaves is easier than investing in their upbringing. These individuals leave without intention to return, a permanent migration that ensures them a humane life, and guarantees their children an education fostered by nations that invest in feasibility studies, where the educational institutions are the schools, and truly embody the essence of schooling.

The grip of power that punishes for a mere tweet, and has destroyed the trees of the streets for the sake of surveillance, unconcerned with the children there. It ignores the pains and struggles of over twenty million pre-university students, squandering their youth and their years running from one lesson to another, carrying the weight of both their school bags and life's worries. Can their minds expand to accommodate the mirage called 'belonging'? On my way to the city last week, I encountered students from several villages on a Friday that is no longer a day off for them from studying, as they were ferried in minibuses and tuk-tuks towards their fates. Private lessons are a crushing fate that does not even spare nursery children before they enter school. They receive lessons that rob them of their childhood, making them hate knowledge, education, the country, and the future, and opening their eyes to look for escape routes from this hell, even if it means braving perilous journeys across the sea.

Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak conspired against the Egyptian people, fragmenting them into islands of varying sizes and capacities, isolating them with psychological walls, and even if they coexist, they don't interact. Their devious plan worked in education

When parents are asked about their haste in burdening nursery children with the weight of lessons and studies – especially since these young children will enter school in a few months to begin their educational journey – the question is met with mockery. Many have come to accept this abnormal situation and endure it with the patience akin to someone with an incurable disease. They say with unwavering certainty: There is no education in schools. And these poor young children have siblings, relatives, and neighbors who have already experienced the bitterness of this educational system and continue to endure varying degrees of academic hardship in the subsequent stages of their learning journey. Faced with such a reality, parents have no choice but to invest in education outside of schools. This defiant action stems from an unspoken agreement, a coerced complicity, between the prominent figures in private tutoring and the controlling authority seeking to curtail the accessibility of free education, taking revenge against the dreams of Taha Hussein. It was even publicly acknowledged by an official within the Ministry of Education and Technical Education last year.

On June 7, 2022, the "Al-Masry Al-Youm" newspaper quoted Counselor Hisham Jafar, the Director-General of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Education, whose words echoed a troubling intent: "The Minister of Finance is being approached to initiate the necessary steps to collect the due taxes," a disastrous proclamation that no other official denied. Perhaps others might get angry and describe his candidness as audacity; the state only collects taxes for legitimate activities, so does this open the door to an official recognition of private tutoring centers through taxes and make tutoring centers a more essential substitute for schools? Such a prospect has emboldened the tycoons of unregulated activities to propose specific taxes as a price for allowing them to openly conduct their operations. Maybe even antiquities and drug dealers might advocate for increased taxes, competing with tutoring centers by offering tempting sums as "donations" to higher authorities. Then the prices of lessons would double, further burdening parents and providing fertile ground for various forms of fraud and criminal activities.

Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak conspired against the Egyptian people, fragmenting them into islands of varying sizes and capacities, isolating them with psychological walls, and even if they coexist, they don't interact. Their scheming succeeded in the field of education, which has become a domain ripe for local and foreign investment.

Up until the early seventies, the division had been between official civil education and religious Azhari education. In the present landscape, categorizing the diverse types and levels of education has become difficult. In official government-run education, there are schools catering to general education (in Arabic), experimental schools focused on languages (with fees), and national institute schools offering language-based education (also with fees). There are foreign and international schools and investment schools (Arabic and languages) owned and managed by private employers and individuals. Moreover, government universities have ventured into competing with private and foreign universities in areas of commerce and investment. Notably, there are also American, French, German, British, Japanese, and Canadian universities.

Some may assume that this condition of arbitrary non-education is actually a covert feasibility study, aimed at reserving education solely for the privileged elite who then qualify to rule and govern an illiterate populace. The governance of the illiterate is much simpler than dealing with an educated populace who understand and engage in thoughtful discourse. The private tutorial centers promise success, and perhaps even excellence, but their existence erodes the very essence of education that should bind students to schools and foster genuine human interaction among students, teachers, and administrators.

These tutorial centers obliterate the notion of education as a process that goes beyond mere memorization that is forgotten after the exams take place. Non-educational, non-pedagogical, and dehumanizing systems (I don't mean the system of government, of course) confine minds, suppress deviations from standard answers, and perpetuate a limited trio of instruction, memorization, and recitation. They eliminate questions that assess the capacity to grasp, comprehend, analyze, innovate, differ, deduce, and argue. Education, when viewed as a "process" of learning, involves honing skills that encompass analysis and imaginative creativity.

These non-educational systems confine minds, suppress any deviations from the standard answer and maintain a limited cycle of memorization and recitation, while excluding questions that determine one's ability to understand, analyze, innovate and argue

Had there been a malicious, secret feasibility study, it would likely be aimed at targeting and manipulating the nation's psyche, while distracting it from thinking about change. Change has regrettably become a luxury for a people burdened by fatigue, no longer ashamed to vocalize their sighs, complaints, and grievances. They have come to see discipline as a necessary hardship, denying themselves any leisure time. Parents toil day and night, often in fields unrelated to their expertise, to meet the most basic needs of their families. Meanwhile, their children find no respite, completing one academic year only for another one to commence. There is no time for rest, and any hopes for a brighter future appear elusive. The future lies elsewhere. Education, once seen as the gateway to a promising future, now offers no escape from the pervasive sense of disillusionment. Now both educated and uneducated individuals alike search for an escape, a way out, even if into oblivion. The current trajectory suggests an impending explosion, a collective outcry in the making.

Where Is Egypt?

My daughter, "Malak," like her entire generation, wishes to leave, whether educated or not. Since her birth, nothing has changed in Egypt, except for the worse, save for the idea of the dream of the success of the January 25th Revolution. In her childhood, she would surprise me with questions about matters I had deemed self-evident at times, leaving me struggling to answer. In her presence, I tried to avoid any superficial explanations because she would directly ask me, "What does that mean?" about a person, a place, or a topic. In the early days of 2006, she had just turned forty months old and heard the word "Egypt" in a television news report. She asked me:

"What does Egypt mean?"

I responded:

"Egypt is our homeland, the place we live in."

In her innocence, she then asked:

"But where is it? I can't see it."

To this day, I find myself unable to adequately answer the question: "Where is Egypt?"

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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