|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
26 Nov. - 2 Dec. 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Culture, children and society
The celebration began with a video programme, reviewing the achievements to date of the national campaign for blood transfusion for children. Mrs Mubarak also viewed a television report on the current situation in the Zeinhum area and future prospects after development and construction work are completed. According to the plan, the inhabitants of Zeinhum are due to be moved to 29 new buildings built on an 11-feddan site, with integrated accommodation, services and green spaces.
The reception was attended by a number of ministers, donors, businessmen and their spouses.
Last Thursday, Mrs Mubarak also inaugurated the Dar Al-Kutub development project. Dar Al-Kutub, established in 1870, is the main public collection of Egyptian books and documents. Mrs Mubarak was keen to visit the most recently established departments, in particular that which records many of the collection's most precious manuscripts on colour slides. Mrs Mubarak also inspected the collection of private libraries donated by prominent cultural figures.
Nasser El-Anssary, chairman of the General Organisation for Books and National Documents, said that the institution now boasts 15 reading rooms, five of them completely new, the others redeveloped, and is thus able to accommodate 1,500 readers at any one time. The libraries bring together eight million volumes, representing one and a half million titles. El-Anssary concluded, "We are proud of our priceless treasures, including around 55,000 Arabic, Turkish and Persian manuscripts, 4,000 Arabic papyri, and 12,000 coins dating back to the sixth century, which together make our organisation unique in the world."
On Monday, Mrs Mubarak gave the inaugural speech at the Tenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, which deals with the international elimination of ozone-depleting substances. Delegations from 120 countries, as well as representatives of countless international and non-governmental organisations, attended the meeting.
"We have, for a long time, wished for such a meeting to take place in Egypt," said Mrs Mubarak. "Our country has, over the last decade, become greatly concerned with the environmental problems that are often associated with accelerated economic development, and has committed itself to dealing seriously with these problems. Egypt's record in pursuing the objectives of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments is a cause of national pride, and we are most gratified by the worldwide recognition it has received. Egypt is also intensifying its efforts and mobilising resources to actively engage the Egyptian population in the protection and upgrading of the environment," she declared.
The protection of the environment imposes a long-term perspective, she added, and people's behaviour, their attitudes and values, are determining factors in deciding whether the natural world is preserved or degraded.
Reviewing Egypt's achievements in this field, Mrs Mubarak noted that human development, in its broadest sense, is now a national priority, and an essential component in all the nation's social and economic development plans.
"Education is one of Egypt's top priorities, and much effort is being invested to improve our educational services and technology, so as to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, to develop appropriate curricula and to increase the professional competence of our teachers," she added.
Mrs Mubarak singled out as an example the "Reading for All" project, which has established special libraries for children and young people, and has sponsored the publication of books that are both educational and entertaining -- some of them focusing on environmental issues.
"One of our recent innovations has been the setting up of a 'Green Corner' in children's libraries," she told delegates. "These are designed to offer useful information, presented in a variety of forms, on the environment and how to relate to it."
Mrs Mubarak was keen to hail the achievement of Dr Mostafa Tolba, who worked tirelessly to make the Montreal Protocol a reality, and who has been honoured by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Hamdi El-Banbi, minister of gas and mineral resources, was also given an award for his efforts to protect the ozone layer.
On Tuesday, Mrs Mubarak inaugurated the 15th Children's Book Fair, which is held annually under her auspices. The fair, which is the only specialised event of its kind in the Middle East, this year covers an area of 25,000 square metres. Forty-two countries are represented, including Egypt. The fair is accompanied by a number of activities, including an Internet village and a series of seminars discussing the impact of the Internet on children's culture, as well as art exhibitions and theatrical performances.
Mrs Mubarak said that children's books reflect the development of society as a whole. Around 4,000 books are currently being reviewed and assessed by a committee headed by Mrs Mubarak herself, in an attempt to raise standards. "Most of the books reviewed lack creativity and are full of spelling mistakes," she observed. As for their content, it tends to be of the rough and ready variety. "Even the religious texts are just quotations from the Qur'an or Hadith, without the least explanation," she added.
Mrs Mubarak concluded by expressing her hope that the next years would see a marked improvement in this domain, perhaps through the establishment of a new award to encourage younger writers to write for children.