In 2008, 11.9% of the state’s expenditure on education was allocated. The general education system, which includes schools under the Ministry of Education and those under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, comprises three stages: basic five years, preparatory three years and secondary school three years. Very extensive exams are crucial for students’ admission to higher education. Schooling is formally compulsory for eight years and should in principle be free of charge, but some fees have been introduced during the 2000s. The vast majority of children go through the first five years of primary school, and about two-thirds continue in primary school. However, the figures vary widely within the country; In parts of poor southern Egypt, only half of the children attend school. About 75% of men and 58% of women are literate, but the proportion is significantly higher in the group 15–24 years. The differences are large between cities and countryside. The large proportion of illiterates in relation to the proportion of children in school can be explained by the fact that many people drop out prematurely, especially girls in rural areas. There is also the greatest shortage of teachers. The national average is one teacher per 22 pupils.
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In addition to the regular school system, there are a large number of Islamic schools. At higher levels, besides numerous vocational and teacher schools and technical institutes, there are also twelve state and several private universities, including al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the oldest universities in the Arab world, founded in 972.
In order to encourage students to educate themselves, earlier “social guarantees” were used, ie. the state undertook to employ the highly educated who were unable to find work in the private sector. As a result, the public sector was flooded with more or less well-trained officials who could not be prepared for meaningful employment. Although this policy has now been abandoned, it has in practice proved difficult to abandon these guarantees. Compared to other Arab countries, Egypt has a high proportion of well-educated.
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Egypt has been in close contact with Israel since 2007 over the blockade of Gaza. While for Israel it is about crushing the Palestinian people, it is for Egypt to avoid the success of Palestine’s Hamas-led government in Gaza, as it would strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Egypt is therefore holding the border against Gaza under military guard to prevent supplies from entering Gaza. During Israel’s war against Gaza in December 2008-January 2008, Egypt refused to open the border to allow the civilian population to escape the Israeli terrorist bombings. Since 2008, some emergency aid convoys from Europe have been allowed to pass through the Egyptian blockade. However, in December 2009, authorities rejected a group of 1,000 people from 43 countries who wanted to bring relief to the confined population.
Torture remains widespread in Egyptian police stations and in prisons. Prisoners are murdered regularly, and Amnesty International states in its reports that access to a fair trial is limited and usually completely absent when it comes to political matters. During a large-scale political trial in 2009 against 26 people, their defenders ended up retiring in October because the court had made a prior decision on the guilt of the accused.
2011 Exit Mubarak
In December 2010, WikiLeaks published embassy reports from US embassies since 1965. The reports indicated, among other things, that the superpower had a thorough knowledge of the widespread corruption in Tunisia, and in particular that the president’s and his wife’s families had stolen several billion US dollars from the Tunisian state. The “news”, which was in fact known by most already linked to the country’s high unemployment, led to a rebellion against the country’s dictator for 24 years, Ben Ali, who was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia on January 14.
From Tunisia, the rebellion against the US and EU traditional allies in the Arab world spread to Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt. On January 25 – 11 days after the dictator’s fall in Tunisia – tens of thousands walked the streets of Cairo demanding the departure of Mubarak, followed by thousands in other major cities in Egypt. The security forces went to a limited extent to attack the protesters.
On January 28, the opposition was proclaimed the Day of Wrath, and this day revealed that the same kind of double power that had led to the dictator’s departure in Tunisia also existed in Egypt. President Mubarak ordered the military into the cities, where hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered after the Friday prayer in protest against Mubarak. But the military refused to attack the protesters and intervened on several occasions between the security forces – which did not have this kind of suspicion – and the protesters. Therefore, the security forces’ assaults could only be counted in dozens killed – not hundreds. Mubarak again responded by partly withdrawing the security forces to their barracks – to avoid the clashes between security forces and military that had led to Ben Ali’s fall in Tunisia; partly to impose curfew. The problem, however, was that the military refused to enforce the president’s curfew, leaving many thousands of protesters at Tahrir Square in central Cairo. The following day, January 29, Mubarak sought to strengthen his connection to the military by appointing military intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president and dissolving the government.
Withdrawal of the security forces pulled the resolution in length, and the protests continued with increasing force, with hundreds of thousands of protesters daily in the streets. The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s otherwise largest banned opposition party, at this time remained completely absent in the protests voiced by workers and youth.