Saturday,17 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)
Saturday,17 November, 2018
Issue 1404, (2 - 8 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Changes for youth

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi promised attendants at the Sixth National Youth Conference this week a different Egypt by 2020, reports Reem Leila

 

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A new health insurance system, a revamp of the education system, and the introduction of e-government across the public sector were all positive and long-awaited developments highlighted at the Sixth National Youth Conference held in Cairo earlier this week.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated the conference on 28 July at Cairo University under the theme of “Innovate and Start”. During the conference, attended by MPs and more than 200 government officials along with 3,000 young people, the president announced that 2019 would be the Year of Education in Egypt. He then answered questions from the young people as part of an “Ask the president” initiative.

Before the conference the president held a closed meeting with representatives of the Supreme Council of Universities. At the end of the two-day conference, he honoured a number of students and university staff.

Throughout, the president emphasised the important role played by universities in building the character of Egyptian youth as well as enhancing the awareness of students and qualifying them to help build their nation. The president stressed the important role university professors can play as they can act as role models for students to help them cope with change and development.

Al-Sisi reviewed the government’s strategy for the development of Egyptian identity, noting that enhancing the education and healthcare sectors were top priorities. He highlighted the need to benefit from international expertise in university education through twinning programmes with reputable foreign universities. This was in addition to improving the level of Egyptian universities and enhancing their resources. 

The conference included sessions on the country’s education development strategy, health insurance system, state information database, and “Ask the president”.

 

EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT: President Al-Sisi attended the session on Egypt’s education development strategy that took place on the first day of the conference and was headed by Minister of Education Tarek Shawki.

It focused on the new Thanawya Amma (high-school certificate) system that will replace the current one in 2021/2022. Up to 50 per cent of the current problems should be solved by then, Shawki said. 

The Thanawya Amma certificate exams will be on a school level and not on a national level under the new system, and the grading system will be cumulative over three years, with students sitting exams in each subject throughout their years of secondary education.

The average of the six best grades in each subject will be calculated to come up with the student’s final grade. “The new system will be applied during the 2018/2019 academic year on students who will be in grade 10,” the minister said. 

According to the minister, tablet computers will also be distributed to high-school students by 22 September at the beginning of the new academic year. Students will be able to take oral tests on their tablets and do scientific calculations. Tests will be sent to the students’ tablets directly, Shawki said.

The tablets will be able to be connected to the Internet in schools to give students access to the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB). For a small fee they will also be able to access the EKB at home by installing a chip.

The ministry is currently targeting 750,000 students to be provided with the new tablets. “EKB content will be taken from educational sites and programmes including those of providers Pearson, Britannica, Discovery Education and others. This is in addition to the American curricula,” the minister added.

He affirmed the ministry’s keenness to provide digital learning resources to all students in different academic years. Over 7,000 scientific films will be provided as part of the new e-learning system, the minister said.

The English language will be taught starting in grade two, and the teaching of Arabic will be improved. Starting in grade seven, a second foreign language will be obligatory and all subjects will also be taught in English at state schools, the minister said. 

Schools of Applied Technology will be established in which students will receive technical training as part of their degree requirements in collaboration with the private sector and will receive a stipend. “Technical education is essential, and it will be improved through the new technology schools,” Shawki said.

President Al-Sisi said that the educational reforms could only succeed through the cooperation of the population as a whole. “Do not be afraid of the educational reforms, as the current system does not produce well-educated or highly-skilled young people, resulting in a mismatch between their qualifications and job-market requirements,” Al-Sisi noted.

 

Health insurance: Another session of the Youth Conference was devoted to developing Egypt’s health insurance system.

Minister of Health Hala Zayed said one of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare system was the long waiting list of Hepatitis C virus patients. An integrated health plan has been established with the aim of ending this waiting list, she said, as well as increasing the reserves of vaccines and baby formula. The healthcare system also had a role to play in decreasing population growth and extending the system nationwide, she said.

There are around 5,000 Hepatitis C virus patients on the waiting lists of university hospitals, the minister said. “All the waiting lists will disappear under the new health insurance system,” she added.

The first phase of Egypt’s new national health insurance system kicked off on 7 July in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, South Sinai and North Sinai. The system will be introduced nationally in six phases from 2018 to 2032, with the first phase planning to end in 2020.

“The new system is essentially a social solidarity scheme. The family is the main unit of medical coverage rather than the individual as was the case in previous systems. The quality of the services provided to patients is very high,” Zayed said.

She said the Health Ministry had already launched a programme to develop 47 affiliated model hospitals, among them 18 also affiliated to universities. The system will mark a radical change in the healthcare system with the participation of hospitals affiliated with the universities, the Armed Forces, the police and civil society.

Zayed said there were 12,127 patients on the waiting lists of nine medical specialties, noting that 3,992 patients had undergone surgery.

During this session the president said that 9,000 patients had already received the recommended treatment out of a total of 12,000 patients on emergency waiting lists. The cost of treating these emergency cases had reached LE1 billion, he said. 

The minister explained that a plan was underway to include nine critical surgeries in the health insurance system, including open heart, cardiac catheterisation, kidney and liver transplants, eye and bone surgery, neurosurgery, cochlear implants and cancer surgery.

A media campaign on the new health system will be launched in October, the minister said, adding that the Long Live Egypt Fund and the World Health Organisation (WHO) would supervise the system to ensure transparency in results.

As many as 3,800 health units will be involved in the new system. “There will be an advanced hospital in each governorate, except for Cairo and Alexandria which will have two because they have a larger population. These hospitals will provide medical services to international standards,” Zayed said.

There are 74 clinics providing medical treatment to Hepatitis C virus patients, the minister said, noting that this number would increase to 114 with the involvement of the hospitals.

 

NATIONAL INFORMATION: President Al-Sisi attended a session of the conference on the new state information database also attended by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, assistant to the president for national and strategic projects Sherif Ismail, Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel-Aal, and chair of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish. A number of ministers and senior state officials were also present. 

President Al-Sisi urged the speedy completion of the automation and digital transformation of state structures over a period of between two and four years. He said the digital transformation plan was important because it would improve the services offered to citizens.

He asked for the prompt completion of the database of needy families deserving assistance not yet registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. “It is essential to have a well-established and highly-efficient system, as this can provide more-integrated services,” the president said.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS: The president declared 2019 to be the Year of Education in Egypt and launched a national project for developing the Egyptian education system.

It was recommended that 20 per cent of scholarships in Egypt and abroad should be allocated to teachers over the next 10 years and that a body be set up to improve standards in vocational education programmes to make them compatible with international standards.

This was in addition to establishing a training centre for teachers in the vocational education programme. 

The president asked the cabinet along with other bodies to link research in the universities to state needs and asked the universities to help find solutions to the country’s problems. A national competition would be held to find the best university in the country, he said.

Egypt’s First National Youth Conference took place in Sharm El-Sheikh in October 2016, with the participation of 3,000 young people. In December 2016, Egypt witnessed the Second National Youth Conference held in Cairo. The third was in Aswan in January 2017, and the Fourth was hosted by the Ismailia governorate in April 2017. 

In July 2017, the Fifth National Youth Conference took place in Alexandria. In November 2017, Egypt held its First World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh.

 

Ask the president: The “Ask the president” session took place on the second day of the conference, with President Al-Sisi answering questions posted by citizens on an official website. Some two million people visited the site from 17 to 24 July and posted more than 700,000 questions.

Al-Sisi talked about the role of Egypt in several international crises, including the Syrian conflict. He said that Egypt was working to mediate between the “moderate opposition” and “the Syrian regime”.

He touched upon the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, saying that the US’ “deal of the century is a media expression rather than a political one” and stressing Egyptian efforts to reach reconciliation between the different Palestinian factions and ease the suffering of the people of Gaza.

Egypt was committed to the setting up of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, he said.

Al-Sisi also talked about Egypt’s role on the African continent through its chairmanship of the African Union (AU) in 2019 and its keenness to work for the development of African countries.

In Egypt itself, the president said of the problem of population growth that the government “does not aim to prevent childbearing” but seeks “family planning”, stressing the goal of the better care of children.

Each family should have no more than two children, he said, and a space of three or four years between each child. “The government is very keen to solve the problem of population growth,” he said.

President Al-Sisi said that by June 2020 the country would see many achievements, though he would not give details of all of them. “You should be happy with what you have achieved and what has been accomplished over the past five years. This has been mainly due to the people’s solidarity,” he said.

“By 2020, Egypt will be a different country with a different position in the world in terms of prosperity,” he added. 

President Al-Sisi also commented on the controversial new nationality law passed by parliament. He said that granting residency permits and nationality must be done according to careful rules, adding that it was not true that millions would acquire citizenship under the new law. If the criteria for awarding Egyptian nationality were not met, applicants would not be given citizenship, he said.

Five million foreign refugees and immigrants have been given rights that all Egyptians enjoy. “We need to legalise their situations,” he said.

Minister of Interior Mohamed Tawfik said that residency permits would not be given to all residents who buy real estate in Egypt under the new law. “If an applicant buys real estate and stays in Egypt for five consecutive years he could be granted residency. He will be subject to strict control and follow-up by the authorities, and these will then decide whether to grant him nationality or not,” he said.

Regarding the number of people expected to be granted nationality each year, Tawfik said this “is estimated at 50 to 60 people per year.”

The president was also asked about the possibility of women joining the army in combat roles, to which he said that this was under study to find an appropriate solution suiting Egyptian society.

“Female soldiers serve in the armies of some foreign countries, but we don’t allow this in Egypt at the moment where women generally serve in the medical sector of the army. The issue requires further study,” the president said.

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