Detailed Research on Egypt
Egypt is situated in northeastern Africa. It neighbors the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea and Israel in the Sinai desert to the east. It is also known as the Arab Republic of Egypt, or Misr by the locals (Vatikiotis, 1991). Egypt`s capital city is Cairo, a city with over eight million inhabitants.
Egypt became an independent state in 1922 after adopting a constitution which made it a Kingdom under the leadership of Faud. During the Second World War, Egypt maintained neutrality although it offered support to its former colonial master, the British wherever possible with most battles being fought on her soils (Vatikiotis, 1991). Egypt`s politics is based on Republicanism with a semi-presidential government system. The 2011 Egyptian revolution led to resignation of the long serving president Hosni Mubarak. This resulted to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to assume the executive power. In 2012 presidential elections, Mohammed Morsi took power as the fifth president of Egypt. His power has constantly been challenged with protests and killings continuing in Egyptian streets as police and protesters crash (BBCNews, 2013).
People and Culture
The country has a population of about 85 million people as of 2013, making it the third most populated country in Africa (Al-Youm, 2013). Most of the people live in the Nile Valley which makes six percent of the entire Egyptian territory. The rest of the country is mainly desert. The Egyptian population is highly urbanized as the people are concentrated in the Alexandria and Cairo cities that occupy most of the Nile Valley and in the Delta and the Suez Canal (Hamza, 2000). The population is divided into two categories, the urban population and the fellahin who reside in the rural areas. 91 percent of the total population is ethnic Egyptians. The official language of the Egyptian is Modern Standard Arabic, with English French and German being taught as foreign languages (Ask Aladdin, n.d).
Egypt is one of the Arab-speaking countries with a rich cultural background. Contemporary Arab culture is mainly influenced by Egyptian music, literature, film and television. Egypt became the Arab leader in the 1950`s which further reinforced its cultural dominance in the Arab world (Darwish, 1998). The country has been in the crossroads of various major civilizations. Because of this feature, it is one of the most outstanding archaeological sites in the world.
Egyptians were one of the pioneer civilizations to codify design features in art and architecture. Calcium Copper Silicate or the Egyptian blue as its popularly known is a pigment that the Egyptians have used for years. It is considered the first man-made pigment. In addition, Egyptian culture is famous for its vast temples, pyramids and monumental tombs. Popular examples include the Pyramid of Djoser, the Pyramid of Giza and the temple of Abu Simbel (Rosalie, 1997). Egyptian contemporary art can be as varied as any works in the world of art ranging from the vernacular architecture of Ramses Wissa Wassef and Hassan Fathy, to sculptures of Mahmoud Mokhtar, to Isaac Fanous` Coptic iconography (Rosalie, 1997).
Literature is also a significant cultural aspect of the Egyptians. Egyptians poets and novelists were among the first to try out with contemporary styles of Arabic literature and the models they adopted have been largely accepted throughout the Middle East. Zaynab was the first modern Egyptian vernacular novel by Muhammad Husayn Haykal which was published in 1913 (Vatikiotis, 1991). Naguib Mahfouz is another celebrated writer who has written about 40 novels and a collection of short stories and screenplays. He was the first Arab writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize in 1988 (Vatikiotis, 1991). Egyptian women have also engaged in literature. Nawal El Saadawi is a well known feminist while Alifa Rifaat writes on women and tradition.
Media industry in Egypt has grown over the years. Currently the country enjoys over 30 satellite television channels. Each year, more than 100 motion pictures are produced in the country. With the coming of sound technology, Egyptian cinema became regionally recognized. In 1936, the pioneer studio called Studio Misr became the leading studio in Egypt and stayed on top for three consecutive decades (Darwish, 1998). Today, over 4,000 films have been produced in Egypt which is about 75 percent of the entire Arab production. The international Federation of Film producers` Association rated The Cairo International Film Festival among the eleven top festivals with a world class rating globally (Film Festivals, 2005).
Generally, the Egyptian media are extremely significant throughout the Arab World due to widespread audience and autonomous from government control (Levinson, n.d). Media freedom is guaranteed in the Egyptian constitution although other laws restrict it (Freedom House, 2007).
In addition, Egypt has several festivals and religious ceremonies called mulid. They are normally linked to a particular Sufi saint, even though they are celebrated by all Egyptians regardless of their religion. Ramadan in Egypt is specially celebrated with sounds, light and much glamour which attracts thousands of Muslim tourists to come to the country to witness its celebration (Arab, 2011).
Egyptian cuisine unlike most cultures is predominantly vegetarian as it relies on vegetable dishes. Despite food in Alexandria and Egyptian coast being predominantly seafood, most Egyptian foods come from the soil. Throughout history, meat has remained an expensive meal pushing many Egyptians to vegetarian foods (Rosalie, 1997). Some individuals consider Koshari (a blend of lentils, rice and macaroni) to be the national dish. Another considerably popular dish for Egyptians is ful medames (mashed fava beans) (Rosalie, 1997).
Egyptian music is a rich blend of aboriginal, African, Mediterranean and Western elements. Modern Egyptian music grew from creative work of individuals like Mahmud Osman and Abdul Humuli, who inspired the works of Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez and Sayed Darwish.
Egyptians also have interest in modern sports. Football remains the main national Sport in the country. The Cairo Derby is one of the harshest Derby in Africa, and among the 7 fiercest derbies in the world according to BBC (BBC Sport Academy, 2002). Egypt has won the African Cup of Nations seven times. Egypt national basket ball team is ranked the best in performance at the Summer Olympic and at the Basket Ball World Cup (1950 World Championship for Men, 2012). In handball, Egypt has led five times out of 34 times of the African Handball Nations Championships. Hence Egyptians have a passion for sports.
Like many countries in Africa, Egypt has various health challenges. During the 1970s needles were recycled during a campaign against Bilharzias. Since then, Egypt has continued to report the highest infectious prevalence of hepatitis C. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 3 percent of the global population is infected with the virus. Most countries have an insignificant incidence of 0.1 percent, but Egypt has a solid 18.1 percent incidence of hepatitis C (Luffman, n.d). This high incidence has resulted to increased rate of liver cancer within the population. The number of people who died of cancer in Egypt rose from a mere 4 percent in 1993 to 11 percent in 2009 (Luffman, n.d). Studies show that in the following few years, Egypt is likely to lose between half a million to one million people to Hepatitis C.
In addition, food hygiene is a major health challenge in the country. There are no controlled grain storage methods in the country and the general lack of food hygiene awareness and dangers of contamination makes the situation worse (Luffman, n.d). Most of the poor population has poor hygiene practices that contribute to illnesses.
Poverty is also a major challenge to health care in Egypt. Almost half of the Egypt population lives below the poverty line (Ask Aladdin, n.d). Despite the rapid economic development, UNICEF is worried that the number of children living in poverty is in the rise. In their report, UNICEF established that about 23 percent of children below the age of 15 were surviving on less than a dollar in a day, with at least five million kids residing in inadequate home, without proper protection, water and sanitation (Din, 2008). Another 1.6 million children under five years are estimated to experience some form of health or food deficiency (Din, 2008).
Lack of knowledge also inhibits the efforts to raise awareness on issues of health. In a study done 2008 which aimed at establishing public awareness on AIDS revealed that only less than two percent of the poorest of the population were aware about the disease (Luffman, n.d). Traditions that promote female genital mutilation (FGM) also present a major setback in health in Egypt. Over 99 percent of women in the country undergo FGM. The practice is associated with various illnesses and deaths (Afifi, 2009).
Strain on infrastructure
With the number of students increasingly rapidly, the government has not invested to match this growth. This has led to overcrowding in classes, poor facilities which have negative effects on a child`s performance.
Poor teaching quality
In Egypt, the teaching profession is associated with poor social and economic status. The low salaries and poor training jeopardize the future of education in Egypt (Kandil, 2011). Private tutoring has stepped in to fill in the gap for quality education, leaving children from poor families at a disadvantage.
Poor Pedagogical methods and teaching approaches
The teaching approaches and pedagogical methods used in the Egyptian education are problematic and focus on rote learning for exams (Loveluck, 2012). This has led to poor outcome in the job market.
Negative attitude towards vocational training
The strong emphasis on exam results has sent undeserving students to technical colleges and others to universities. There is no direct relationship with the quality and capability of those who go to these institutions (Loveluck, 2012).
Inadequate chances in the university, funding and research capability
Higher education in Egypt faces numerous challenges including lack of adequate funding, strengthening research potential and output, and correcting the disparity between education output and the job market besides issues of quality and access (Loveluck, 2012). With a large population, Egypt has less than 40 universities. Funding has been centralized from the government and with the 2011 revolution the problem is expected to be serious (Loveluck, 2012).
The economy of Egypt was relatively stable until the 2011 uprising of the Arab world. The country engages in petroleum refinery, fertilizers, chemicals, processed foods, clothing, textiles, and constructions materials including cement which is the largest, iron, metal and steel.
Tourism also accounts for a portion of the country`s revenue (Din, 2008). Egypt faces complicated and intertwined sets of economic problems which surpass inadequate agricultural production and deficit in balance of payment. The rapidly increasing population has created a economic distress. Most families live in poverty with almost half of the population living in poverty. Most white collar jobs in the service industry are poorly paying which is pushing more and more families into poverty.
Action Taken by Government
Addressing Education Challenges
The Ministry of Education has promised to improve on training to address the issue of low quality education. In addition, the government is working with the World Bank and other organizations to increase access to education and adaptation of ICT at all stages of education particularly in higher education. Besides, the ministry of Education is also seeking to decentralize education control hence enhance accountability (Loveluck, 2012). To address inadequate facilities, most schools run in shifts, where most students attend for part of the day (Loveluck, 2012).
Addressing health Challenges
The Egyptian government is dedicated towards improving health care provision to its populous. The free medical care in Egypt and the easy access to health care is one of the breakthroughs that the Egyptian government has made. Egypt has a wide network of health facilities so as people can have easy access to primary health services. In addition, the management of Egyptian health system is extensively centralized. Also various public entities including Higher Education, the Health Insurance Organization, Defense and Interior, non-governmental organizations and private practitioners are involved in the financing, managing and provision of health services without performance assessment procedures or quality assurance (WHO, n.d).
Communicable diseases have also been put under control in Egypt through high coverage for routine vaccination, which has seen vaccine-preventable ailments decline significantly in the last decade (WHO, n.d).
To address health challenges, the government has tried to improve education in the country and adult literacy is almost at 72 percent mark. It is projected to hit 90 percent in the next generation. In addition, the government dedicates 40 percent of its $263 million health subsidies to fight liver diseases even though more aid is needed (Luffman, n.d).
Addressing income issues
To address poverty, Egypt needs to have a stable democratic government where public funds can be used well. Education reforms as discussed in this paper are necessary in order to propel the country to economic prosperity. The government has done a great job in pushing for the green revolution that aims at increasing food production, alleviate food shortage and enhance export, though with little success. More efforts need to be put.
To meet the increasing demands of the growing population, Egyptian government have also engaged in economic reforms and rigorous investment in communications and physical infrastructure as at Jan 25th 2011, when youth powered protests brought down the Presidency and leadership (Ask Aladdin, n.d).
Alternative Solution to Challenges
It is important for Egypt to strengthen rather than neglect technical education, boost its status and quality, and offer incentives for large numbers of students to participate in vocational training. To address the issues in education, the government also needs to improve personnel management in the education arena. Teachers should be employed on merit with salaries attached to the output (Loveluck, 2012).
Increasing funding for schools is the best solution to address education challenges in Egypt. Besides, teacher training and remuneration need to be revised in the country to attract highly motivated individuals into the job, hence improve the education of the population (Loveluck, 2012).
Consequently, the match between curriculum and career in the job market should be of focus. Training students in colleges with focus on the job market will help alleviate unemployment (Loveluck, 2012). In addition, the country can encourage the youths to venture in business and innovation instead of seeking jobs. They can transform from job seekers to employers, a trend that is working for most developing countries.
Ultimately, to address the setbacks that continue to haunt many other countries in Africa, Egypt needs to review its curriculum, its social systems and more importantly a stable political environment. The current crisis in Egypt that started during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 have caused the country to lose shape and it may take a lot of time to take it back to where it was a few years ago. These steps will help enhance health and economic progress in the country.
Egypt is one of the countries in Africa that over the years has been used as an example. The fact that Egypt could feed its population and even export food to other countries despite being largely a desert shows the progress this country had made. It has a rich culture that is unique, blended with a rich history. Egypt political government had been republican for years and the need for a democratic government led to the current uprising that saw the long serving Hosni Mubarack out of office. Today, the country continues in struggles and the education, health, and food security among other areas are being affected negatively. Much need to be done to stabilize the country and implement the recommendations aforementioned in this detailed report.
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