An increasing number of schools in Egypt are using computers thanks to the government's decision to make computer access a priority, according to Al Ahram Weekly. "Egypt has succeeded in introducing [computer] technology to 91 percent of all schools nationwide," education minister, Hussein Kamel Bahaeddin, told the paper.
More than 23,100 schools in Egypt have access to computers now and all 25,000 should be covered by next year, according to Ragab Sharabi, first deputy at the ministry of education.
“Go visit a small school in the remotest corner of upper Egypt, you will find a young child using the mouse, playing on the computer," said Sharabi. "We are equipping new generations to take part in the technology revolution."
Sharabi said the introduction of computer technology in schools includes establishing computer laboratories, setting up Internet connections, linking up with electronic libraries and satellite educational channels, preparing educational material on CD-ROM discs and teleconferencing to link up all the municipalities with the ministry.
The ministry of education, he said, has given priority to introducing computers in primary schools, then to preparatory and secondary schools, and by next year, to the technical schools as well. The ministry also ordered that all computer rooms remain open for use during the summer holidays to encourage students to use them.
While the World Bank and the European Union, as well as a few multinational corporations, have supported the project, it is mostly government-funded.
The Education Ministry has been encouraging businesses and non-governmental organizations to use computers as well. “After all, it is in their interest to have a qualified and computer literate labor force," Sharabi said.
The lack of qualified teachers may be the greatest challenge facing the computer program and Sharabi said the ministry has been providing training for them. But teachers interviewed by the paper say the lack of computers is the bigger problem.
They say many students get to use the computer for no more than 45 minutes a week, and even then, because there are not enough computers, each computer is shared by three or four students. It is much worse for students at the preparatory and secondary levels, since they are often allocated the malfunctioning equipment.
Moreover, maintaining the equipment is a problem — nobody knows whose responsibility it is and technicians are nowhere to be found.
A government report for 1997-8 found that "despite government efforts at allocating increasing budgetary resources to education, it seems that economic hardships may erode past achievements."
The Institute of National Planning's report also estimates that almost 40 percent of schools are in a dilapidated condition and that is among the factors that have affected the quality of education in Egypt and the dropout rate. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )