Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Catch Up With My Father - Education in Egypt

Yesterday after a long day filled with Vet visits, Teaching, running around like a stressed chicken and driving to and from Birmingham for a gig, I came home to my Father in my flat in Liverpool.

It was great to see him and I couldn't wait to hear all his stories that he brought from Egypt.

This morning (Saturday) we headed into the city centre and ran some errands then settled at an Italian restaurant in Liverpool One. There, our catch up commenced.

I was aware that my Father had taken part in the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, he went day after day and would try to keep me updated with whats going on, occasionally taking my younger sister with him too, however, I wasn't aware that he had been there when the protesters were attacked by men on horses and camels!

We then moved on to sharing our rage regarding people inviting us to group on facebook to sympathise with the former prime minister (Ahmed Shafiq) or our former President (Mubarak) even apologising to them. We spoke of how such views have come in between friends and how we couldn't understand how some people thought this way. Which brought us to discuss education.

I personally believe that; lack of or poor education is the source of most problems facing the Egyptian street. Corruption, hygiene, sexual harassment, fundamentalism/extremism and many more. He agreed.
In a system where one is educated by the government in primary and secondary, then again in university and once they graduate are told by government employers that they are not qualified for their jobs - something must be wrong... How can you not be qualified for public sector jobs when you received public sector education, who's fault is it that the education you received is inadequate?
He discussed how in Egypt in the past, public education was much better than private education (the opposite of how things currently stand in Egypt). He himself being a graduate of the public schooling system and at one point the highest grades in the country came from students at his school.

He also mentioned how during a work related meeting in Qatar, he was told by one of the attending associates that all their school books and curriculum used to come from Egypt. So once upon a time, not only did we have a decent education system, but we also exported it to the Arab world.

How did we loose sight of the importance of education? How did we let it reach the point where our teachers aren't even qualified to teach their subject or even control a classroom - where student graduated barely knowing how to read and write in their own language let alone other languages?
Its a shame. A true shame. Indeed improving education is a tasks whose effect will be a long-term one but a much needed one.

The streets of Egypt need to be cleansed with education thoroughly. I believe that through education we can instil morals, respect and principles (one would think that religion would do that too however people's perception of religion has unfortunately been reduced to facades and appearances instead of its true essence - again proper religious education would deal with that). In an educated society, women would not have to fear sexual harassment when walking down their own street, women would be treated with respect and equality instead of looked down upon and treated as an object. People would be open to different opinions and would respect people's rights to them and to a voice.

I believe the previous regime intentionally wanted to provide poor education in order to 'dumb down' the masses. A poorly educated public will not be aware of its rights and therefore not call for them. A poorly educated public could not possibly call for equality of any kind. A poorly educated public can be easily exploited in many ways - be it capitalism, religious extremism or others...  A poorly educated public will not be aware of its true potential and what it can actually achieve.

However, we did rise and we did call for freedom, rights and equality. The road is still a long and rocky one - we must stay strong and see this through. Hopefully one day soon, we will take back our place amongst the Arab world and we will restore our education system and produce clean minds across the nation.

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