Egyptian government bans photography in schools to cover up education crisis

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The start of the new school year revealed the government’s failure to prepare for it, as many problems emerged, including the lack of teachers, the overcrowding of classrooms, and the chaos in schools due to the number of parents. Instead of the Ministry of Education admitting its failure, it decided to ban filming in school departments, directorates, bodies, and centres affiliated to it. Instead of solving the problems and thanking those who photographed them for drawing attention to them, it banned photography inside schools unless the photographer has permission to photograph from the ministry.

Problem explosion

Four years ago, the Egyptian government announced an ambitious plan to develop basic education to move it from the worst in the world to the best. The plan included developing curricula and using tablets in education and changing the student assessment system to rely on understanding rather than memorisation. In theory, this is a good plan, as developing curricula and developing students’ skills is a wonderful thing, but the problem is that this plan ignored the basic problems that must be solved immediately, on top of which is the lack of schools and classes, the overcrowding of students and the lack of teachers.

How can a student sitting in a class of 60 students learn or understand even if you provide him with the latest syllabus? What is the benefit of the tablet if the student is sitting in a small space and next to him four of his classmates are on the same seat? How can a teacher keep up with 50 students in one class? Because these problems were not resolved and there does not seem to be a plan to solve them, they exploded immediately in the first week of the study, as pictures appeared of dozens of students sitting on the ground because there were no seats in a school in Qalyubia Governorate. The Ministry of Education intervened to provide seats for them after the pictures provoked anger and resentment and it was addressed in the talk show programmes.

Many videos spread showing students standing in the classroom because there were no places for them to sit after the class was completely full. All this while we are at the height of the fourth wave of the spread of the coronavirus. Idleness and recklessness were also present in the first week of the study, as the administration of one of the elementary schools in the Alexandria Governorate expelled the students from the school before the correct time, and when their parents went to look for them, they could not find them.

All these problems were revealed by ordinary citizens who took out their mobile phones and photographed them, but the ministry could not bear to be exposed in this way, so it banned photography inside schools, departments and directorates affiliated with it except after prior coordination with the ministry and the director of the directorate and obtaining written permission from parents who will appear in the pictures. Thus, the citizen who sees a problem in front of him is required to go to the ministry to obtain the necessary permits, and to the students’ parents to obtain written permission for filming.

We’re getting worse

The statistical yearbook for the academic year 2020/2021, issued by the Department of Systems and Information of the Ministry of Education, revealed that the conditions of education are deteriorating on several levels. The number of public school classrooms in the academic year 2020/2021 reached about 442,000, an increase of 22,000 from four years ago (the 2016/2017 academic year). The number of students reached about 3,266,000 during these four years, with an average annual increase of 816,000 students. This situation, of course, resulted in an increase in the density of students in classes. After the average density in 2016/2017 was about 44.3 students, in 2020/2021 it exceeded 49.5 students, which means that the problem is worsening, and it does not seem that it is on the way to a solution despite the ministry’s claims.

Theoretically, it is assumed that the number of teachers, principals, and employees will increase to meet all these numbers, but in practice, the numbers are exactly the opposite, as the number of teachers decreased between 2016/2017 and 2020/2021 by about 21,000 teachers, and the ministry says that the teachers’ deficit amounts to 250,000 teachers, and there are no funds to recruit new ones.

The number of school principals decreased during this period from 38,906 to 30703, by 8,200, while the number of employees decreased from 229,000 to 210,000, a decrease of 19,000 employees. This indicates that the basic, chronic education problems are not on their way to a solution but are on the way to exacerbation for as long as the state prefers to build presidential palaces, skyscrapers, the largest mosques and churches in the new capital than to build more schools to educate the poor who cannot afford private school fees.