Education for social justice, water cooperation, and cultural development at the core of the Director-General’s visit to Egypt



During her meeting with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Dr. Hisham Qandeel, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, underscored UNESCO’s commitment to Egypt and expressed her strong support for Egypt’s current transformation process towards democracy. “Cooperation between Egypt and UNESCO has always been very strong part of the Organization’s history,” said Irina Bokova.

The Prime Minister welcomed the Director-General’s commitment to join forces with Egypt in the country’s transformations.

“Education plays a fundamental role for social justice and social cohesion”, stated Prime Minister Hisham Qandeel. "We rely on UNESCO’s support in bringing education back to its original role, that of educating responsible citizens," he added.

The Prime Minister further emphasized the central role of water for sustainable development, and called on UNESCO to build capacities in countries along the Nile Basin, in order to support water cooperation, share best practices on groundwater resources management, boost institutional capacities of existing institutes in the Nile Basin countries and enhance regional cooperation through research and networking. The Prime Minister also voiced his concern for the preservation of cultural heritage in the occupied Palestinian territory and thanked UNESCO for its continued efforts to support preservation efforts.

Egypt’s 10-year strategy for reforming education was also the subject of the Director-General’s meeting with Minister of Education, Mr. Ibrahim Ghoneim, who recalled that Egypt counted 18 million students, 1.2 million teachers and 700.000 administrators. He further added that the Ministry aimed to reach 60% access to early childhood care and education by 2015. He referred to social equity and teacher education as key pillars of the strategy. This would also entail addressing the challenges of educating street children. The Minister thanked UNESCO for its support to this country-wide effort stating that “investing in education would directly support the Egyptian people’s ambition for social justice”. Minister Ibrahim Ghoneim also reviewed progress achieved in integrating adult education in the revised Egyptian constitution, so as to set the expected target of eradicating illiteracy within the next ten years through a eight-year strategy in this direction.

The Minister of Higher Education, Mr Mostafa Mosaad, voiced his determination to fight against illiteracy and to develop a new dynamics in higher education, by mobilizing partners and resources for technical and vocational training and innovation in order to fight against unemployment. He informed the Director-General also of his intention to establish a university in science and technology and expressed interest to share experiences in this area. While the Minister thanked UNESCO for supporting the Strategic Planning Unit, he also voiced his concern for regional disparities in access to higher education and the need to tackle the training of university administrators as a major priority.

During the meeting with the Minister of Culture of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Saber Arab, the Director-General recalled “the birth of the concept of World Heritage in Egypt, best exemplified by the outstanding universal value of the Nubian monuments”.

The Minister underscored his country’s rich cultural heritage and its  fundamental role for the sustainable development of Egypt -- "culture and development go hand in hand" he underlined. Minister Mohamed Saber Arab evoked also the challenges related to ensuring public security at cultural heritage sites and appealed to UNESCO's assistance in developing cultural facilities to enhance the security and public awareness of the importance of cultural heritage for the Egyptian people, in particular for the future generations. In that context, he underscored the growing awareness among young people of the need to fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects that have been illicitly excavated.

The Minister underlined also the need for UNESCO’s support in safeguarding Egypt’s huge collection of manuscripts. He expressed to the Director-General his wish to catalyse safeguarding efforts to preserve his country’s rich living cultural expressions and the urgent need to build a comprehensive strategy for the sustainable development of cultural expressions and creative industries in Egypt, such as handicrafts. He referred in this context to the Sinai's rich cultural tradition, currently affected by security problems.  Minister Saber Arab voiced his determination to ensure effective implementation of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions -- notably by building capacities of cultural professionals and by developing cultural facilities to enhance income-generation activities, youth employment and effective cultural development in the country.

Developing information and communication technologies was identified as a priority by the Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mr Atef Helmy Naguib -- both for e-learning and for governance, scientific and economic purposes. The Minister expressed his appreciation to the UNESCO Cairo Office for its support in devising a comprehensive strategy for ICT in education and the development of science web-based networks for the Arab region.