Education minister under fire for spate of student deaths

The Cairo Post:
CAIRO: Minister of Education Mahmoud Abou el-Nasr is in hot water following the separate deaths of three students killed at public schools in different accidents some are claiming were caused by poor school maintenance.

Blame was not directed to anyone but the minister, as he is responsible for all educational affairs in Egypt, including student safety. A lawsuit was filed Monday calling for his dismissal over the “deterioration of education quality under his reign.”

However, Mohamed Fahmy, the director of the ministry’s Educational Buildings Authority, told The Cairo Post Wednesday, “The minister only holds political responsibility,” while the responsibility of executive maintenance affairs falls on the governorates.

Third grader Adham Mohamed was the most recent student killed after he was hit by a vehicle delivering school meals at his school in Giza. Strict decisions were announced by the ministry to hold officials accountable for this incident.

More procedures were also taken by the Ministry after two other incidents were reported of students being killed this month, where the “lack of maintenance at schools” was already admitted by the ministry.

Youssef Zaki, 7, died after his school’s steel gate fell on him in Marsa Matrouh governorate Sunday, and third grader Youssef Mohamed died on Oct. 13 after his throat was lacerated by a classroom window in Matariya in Dakahlia governorate.

Mohamed’s family will receive 30,000 EGP ($4,200) from the student insurance fund as announced by the Ministry of Education on Oct. 16.

“I demand the minister of education submit his resignation to the government,” said TV presenter Lamis el-Hadidi on Tuesday during her TV show “Hona el-Asima” on CBC TV channel. Hadidi was not the first TV host to call on the minister to quit, as other media outlets launched criticism of the performance of the ministry and its failure to provide for student safety.

Although Abou el-Nasr expressed his sorrow for the losses and said “he is taking the responsibility for incidents occurring at schools,” Fahmy added that the declaration is only for “political responsibility.”

Fahmy said the Ministry of Education is only responsible for the quality of the study content and exams, and “setting rules to be followed by the directorates.”

The Educational Buildings Authority is responsible for previewing the school buildings, spotting those in need of restoration and observing the repair process, which is carried out by the educational directorates, according to Fahmy.

He added that the state allocates part of the budget for restoration and the governorates are the only authority receiving this money. He also denied any “negligence” on the part of the directorates across the country.

Fahmy’s statements were similar to those of Ministry of Education Matrouh Deputy Safey el-Din al-Mawhoub on Sunday in comments to the “10 O’clock” TV show. He said that there are about 565 schools in the governorate, and many of them need full maintenance, “but money allocated for this is only sufficient for seven schools.”

Sticking to talking points, most Education Ministry officials have so far in response to the student deaths said it is years of dilapidation and mismanagement responsible, and not the current ministry.

“There is a large legacy of disasters and 50,000 dilapidated schools that cannot be repaired overnight,” said Ministry of Education spokesperson Hani Kamal in comments to Youm7 Monday.

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