CAIRO: Dozens of high school students protested Thursday outside the Press Syndicate against a decision that will oblige them to attend school, otherwise they will lose grades.
A decision, to be issued officially within a week, will give 10-point grade deductions of third secondary (known in Arabic as Thanaweya Amma) students who miss classes.
Thanaewya Amma is considered the gateway to universities in Egypt, during which time a student’s future college is determined based on scores in standardized tests during the Thanaweya Amma year. For example, a student who scores at least 95 percent, has the chance to register at government-owned medical or pharmaceutical colleges.
Since the test scores alone determine entry, many students skip school to find more time for studying and private classes, which they prefer over their schools’ teachers.
“The school day starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m., and private classes take about four hours each,” Ahmed Mohamed, a student at Al-Saaedeya School, told The Cairo Post Thursday.
Mohamed added, “If I attended school, then I would only have two hours per day to study, how come we study only two hours in Thanaweya Amma?!”
He continued, “We need this 10-grade decision to be lifted, so we can stay at home and study.”
The protesting students said they have submitted several complaints against the decision, but the ministry has not responded thus far.
Before the decision, “there were no rules to oblige high school students to attend classes, which led to the current low attendance at schools,” Ashraf Fadaly, the head of the Egyptian Organization for Education, told The Cairo Post.
The decision aims to return back high school students to schools, with promises the ministry will be hiring professional teachers, according to the Ministry of Education.
Dina Ahmed, Tag el-Dowal School in Giza, told The Cairo Post that it is not only students who usually do not attend, many teachers do not show up for classes. Ahmed said that since the decision was announced, she and her colleagues attended school “but there are still no lessons and no teachers.”
“Down with any minister who is not capable of making a difference,” the protesting students chanted outside the syndicate. “The education system should be dissolved.”
The students also objected to a 1,500 EGP fee they should pay in case they missed more than 15 days of the classes, saying many of them cannot afford the payment.
On the other hand, Educational Expert Fadaly found the decision “positive” and claimed “it will oblige teachers to commit to classes and lecture students.”
Fadaly, however, criticized the to-be-applied fee as he said “it will lead to caste system.” He also said that the “mechanism and preparations will not bring the aimed results.”
He told The Cairo Post “the schools are not prepared to receive students, and maintenance has not finalized at most of the educational buildings,” despite the ministry’s recent announcement finalizing maintenance works at many schools after closing some 147 schools fearing risks on students.
In 2014, at least two students were killed at governmental schools due to what was reported as “poor school maintenance,” after the reasons for the deaths included a fallen school gate and a glass window.