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Friday Prayers for Egypt: Education Reform

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Egyptians have long lamented the state of their schools.

Often overcrowded with teachers poorly trained. Private lessons necessary for tests perhaps manipulated. Rote memorization required in subjects not fitting the needs of the nation.

The list is long. The school year is short.

But with the help of the World Bank and a minister formerly responsible for the American University in Cairo, Egypt will soon embark on an extensive reform.

Bless the intentions, God. Guide the outcomes.

More schools will be built. Teacher conditions will be improved. Curriculum will be revised. Tests will begin at an earlier age. Grading will be revamped. Comprehension will be emphasized.

Results will still determine the university future, so perhaps an educational reality will remain. 30 percent of high school students suffer depression; 20 percent contemplate suicide.

God, give the students a deeper understanding of their worth. Give them the motivation to succeed, and the means to do so.

The means require millions. The World Bank will provide some. Help Egypt find the rest.

Many say Egypt requires generational change. Let this be the one, raised properly at home and school. And, properly to fear you.

May such fear prompt duty, creativity, industriousness, and love.

But no more lamenting, God. May school success come.

Amen.

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Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Reform 2030

Flag Cross Quran

God,

Egypt’s president looked ahead 14 years and saw a place of economic success. Make it so.

But he also looked at the present and admitted shortcomings in human rights. Make it change.

This week a new port opened in the Suez Canal.

This week another writer was jailed for his content. And teenagers for alleged blasphemy. And an anti-torture NGO threatened with closure. And…

But the police have committed to propose new legislation to better govern performance and community relations.

And a doctor convicted of female genital mutilation finally loses his license.

God, there is much to be concerned about. There are signs of progress. And people can differ over which is which.

God, help Egypt to square her laws with her constitution. Help her to enforce them with justice. Help her to create and open and transparent climate for culture and business.

But which clauses, God? The ones guaranteeing rights and freedoms, or the ones regulating in accordance with sharia?

And which laws? The ones facilitating central state control, or the ones privileging the private sector?

So many contradictions in Egyptian society are not yet ironed out. So many conflicting values are at odds.

Perhaps there is no essential struggle. With freedom comes responsibility. With license comes oversight. But help government and society together to find the place of consensus. Help limits be defined, known, and acceptable to all.

And then bless those dissenting, willing to challenge. But may all act with respect, and bear their weight of their role.

God, may it not take 14 years. But whatever time is necessary, make it right.

Make Egypt whole.

Amen.

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Current Events

The Real Threat to Sisi: His Own Inept House?

President Sisi meeting with his first cabinet officials following election as president in June 2014
President Sisi meeting with his first cabinet officials following election as president in June 2014

The title of this post summarizes the opinion of an article in International Policy Digest, describing two main camps among Sisi’s power base. Both the military/institutions of state and the business/media/political elite are used to cooperating, but are so used to the rules of the old game they don’t realize the world has changed.

As such, they take bizarre decisions that — in support of Sisi — only serve to undermine him. One prominent example:

An example of that is the appointment of the prominent Egyptian scientist, Dr. Essam Heggy, as an advisor to Egypt’s interim president. Dr. Heggy’s appointment coincided with the scientific scandal in the Egyptian army which claimed to possess (false) medical invention to treats AIDS and Hepatitis C which was supposed to enhance Sisi’s image locally and internationally.

Dr. Heggy harshly criticized the disreputable invention. As a result he was accused by the institutions of being an American spy, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood member and of undermining Egypt’s national security.

The crux of their argument:

In the past, institutions functioned under the authoritarian command of Mubarak whose regime was experienced in handling their behavior. But in Sisi’s case, the rampant level of delinquency and irrationality that surrounds his regime runs counter to his interests. He is simply unable to control them for multiple reasons that could vary from lack of will to his inability to realize the problem itself.

Sisi himself is a product of those institutions. He was raised, educated and is an integral part of their doctrine so chances that he realizes the fatality of these flaws – let alone the need to reform them – remains slim.

This article hits at a theme that has long plagued analysis of the Egyptian scene. Since 2011, in lieu of facts I have struggled to wade through conspiracy theories because a common axiom was so consistently violated by so many players: Do not act contrary to your own interests.

One question is fair: Blindness is possible, but is Sisi’s house really so inept? One could argue that Egypt has navigated great social upheaval relatively well in effort of securing the most important locus of support — domestic. Even if academics, activists, and idealists groan.

But another question is necessary: Does Sisi not know? I would guess he fully realizes the nature of Egyptian bureaucracy and is working to instill fresh blood.

If the author’s thesis is correct, he still may not be able to do so, as Egyptian institutions guard their independence and the new constitution weakened the traditional centrality of the state. But it could also be it is not fully time yet. If he needs all on his side, then how can he slice through a bloated bureaucracy?

But look at the steps taken on subsidies. Look at the reform of the bread market. Look at the appointment of civilian governors. The author is ignoring difficult decisions neglected by previous administrations.

Then again, look at the introduction of coal. Look at the absence of a parliament. And analysts say the army is better equipped for traditional conflict than it is for fighting a terrorist insurgency. It is a very mixed bag.

But is it not time yet? That is not Sisi’s spoken perception. Upon his election he asked for two years to get the Egyptian house in order. The clock is ticking, but he is aware of its hands. He constantly demands something be done now, very contrary to Egyptian culture.

But through it all there are still few facts, and not enough transparency, so the article remains plausible even as it ends with its own conspiratorial prediction, though one more easily swallowed by academics, activists, and idealists:

Sisi’s regime will only recognize this fatality when the international community further downgrades his posture and when Egyptians run out of patience and recognize that no single progress has been made in any field including security – which was a prime reason why people voted for Sisi. By then, it will certainly be too late for him to reform or repair the damage.

Your thoughts?

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Current Events

Friday Prayers for Egypt: Declaring Reform

Flag Cross Quran

God,

The public statements coming out of Egypt are positive. Help the public reform to follow.

You know what is needed, God, but officials surely have an idea as well. The housing minister announced efforts to eliminate slums within a year. The interior minister called on citizens to report police abuse. And following visits by the National Council of Human Rights, the prison system will be subject to random and ongoing investigations.

Words are good, though deeds are better. Similar words have been spoken before. That they are spoken again puts confidence on hold.

So let confidence be earned, God. Place Egyptians in solid dwellings. Hold police to the highest standard. Respect criminals despite their crimes. And honor officials who honor your will.

Apply this will to the nation at large, God. In Upper Egypt the law is weak. In Alexandria the buildings collapse. Everywhere the poor exist.

And as Egypt follows up on its economic conference, create a context to facilitate investment, curb corruption, and distribute wealth.

Hope is high, God, and words are many. But reform is always difficult. Humans flee accountability and hide their faults.

Be gentle, but shine your light. Be merciful, but root out the wrong.

Stand with those who have declared reform, God. Strengthen their hand and firm their resolve. May they work with integrity to fight the status quo.

Make the benefit public, for all to enjoy. Bless Egypt and help her prosper.

Amen.