With around 40% of the population being under 18 years of age, Egypt faces the challenge of meeting the needs of a largely young population. These demographics indicate heavy pressure on education, which principally caters to the younger generations. Savvy social investment by firms can help rebuild the educational system, redirecting it towards meeting market needs.
Unfortunately, the educational sector is heavily underdeveloped and it fails to prepare students for the market due to an existing mismatch between the knowledge and skills acquired and labor market needs. This gap results in a shortage in skills, which in turn, continues to hinder investment and growth opportunities. The resulting impact of corporate social investment would be felt on the firms through the creation of a market that fulfills their labor needs. In addition, it will also leave an effect on the society by offering sufficient opportunities to the rising number of job seekers.
The question we are left with is, Where can firms mostly impact the educational sector? We have identified several key areas of intervention:
The educational infrastructure has not been up to speed with the rapid increase in the number of students. Classes are overcrowded; regularly containing between forty to fifty children. Schools attempt to accommodate high enrollment with double shifts, where students participate in only portions of the day. This also indirectly forces parents to search further for schools large enough to better accommodate students.
Firms have the opportunity to invest in building more schools in overcrowded areas or in enlarging existing schools.
The majority of teachers, especially those in rural governmental schools lack proper training. According to a report by Chatham House on education in Egypt, unqualified teachers constitute a major problem, especially in primary and vocational education. The problem is further compounded by the lack of tools such as computers, labs, teaching aids, printers, etc. These factors build up to limit the learning scope of students. Private tutoring emerged as the national coping mechanism, adding hidden fees to what is officially a free service.
Companies can socially invest in expanding school facilities through funding equipment, such as computers, lab equipment, sports facilities, and libraries. They can also provide training sessions for teachers in capacity building and skills training.
A hidden cost on parents embedded within the educational sector is school supplies. While access to governmental schools are free, it does not come with free school supplies; school bags, notebooks, pens, etc. are often costly for the less privileged segments of the population, and not widely available in rural areas. The availability of such supplies has a significant impact on the students’ learning capacities. Hence, companies can contribute to education through targeting the less privileged families with school supplies campaigns.
The culture around education has evolved to be university-centric. A university education is perceived as the guaranteed path to a career, while secondary school certificates are considered worthless in the market. However, this culture is not matched with equal access to universities or higher quality education. Consequently, this creates a gap in the market because vocational education becomes undermined. Corporations have helped tackle the issue globally through initiating programs that encourage vocational education and highlighting the desired higher education fields.
One of the biggest initiatives taken by corporations in Egypt addressing the problems related to education was taken by the Sawiris Foundation. With the cooperation of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and UNICEF, the project aims to establish 120 community schools in Upper Egypt, namely in Assiut and Sohag. The aim is to provide 3600 marginalized children with quality primary education. The community schools would then be free, and would offer a child-friendly, child-centric, safe, and healthy environment that stimulates learning. The program also prioritizes training teachers on how to use modern, healthy, and stimulating teaching and communication techniques, and training would be replicated nationwide in separate projects by the MOE.
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