Sudan’s new PM meets with Egyptian president in Cairo

Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi meeting with Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok at the Ittihadia presidential palace in the capital Cairo. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2019

Sudan’s new PM meets with Egyptian president in Cairo

  • He will discuss bilateral relations after years of sporadic tensions during the rule of autocratic former President Omar Al-Bashir
  • Ties between the two countries were for years frayed by repeated failures to reach a deal over an upstream Nile dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s president on Wednesday met with Sudan’s newly appointed prime minister before heading to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Abdalla Hamdok discussed bilateral relations, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidency. Relations between the two Nile Valley neighbors suffered from sporadic tensions over three decades of rule by Sudan’s autocratic former president, Omar Al-Bashir.
The Sudanese military overthrew Al-Bashir in April amid months of pro-democracy protests. A power-sharing deal between the military and the protesters established a new administration that includes a cabinet headed by Hamdok.
Egypt has backed the new authorities in Sudan follwing Al-Bashir’s ouster. Diplomatic ties have frayed in recent years due to repeated failures to reach a deal over an upstream Nile dam being built by Ethiopia, as well as the revival of a longstanding dispute over a border territory held by Egypt and claimed by Sudan.
Hamdok was to head to France to meet with President Emmanuel Macron, but the French Embassy in Sudan tweeted that the meeting was canceled because there was no time in Macron’s agenda, and they were working to set a new date for the visit.
El-Sisi’s government wants Sudan to back its cause in the Nile dam dispute with Ethiopia amid stalemated negotiation between the three countries. Egypt had accused Al-Bashir of siding with Ethiopia in the dispute over the soon-to-be-completed dam.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry earlier this month visited Sudan and discussed the Nile dam dispute.
A round of talks in Cairo earlier this week over the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam failed to achieve progress.
Egyptian Irrigation Ministry says the two-day talks did not touch on “technical aspects” of the dam. It said Ethiopia’s delegation refused to discuss an Egyptian proposal on filling and operating what will be Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, which is center of the dispute.
Egypt fears the dam could reduce its share of the Nile River, which serves as a lifeline for the country’s 100 million people. Ethiopia has roughly the same population and says the dam will help its economic development.
The dam is now more than 60% finished, and Ethiopia hopes to become a key energy hub in Africa upon its completion. The dam will generate about 6,400 megawatts, more than doubling Ethiopia’s current production of 4,000 megawatts.
Egypt received the lion’s share of the Nile waters under decades-old agreements seen by other Nile bastion countries as unfair.


Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

Updated 31 May 2020

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

  • Education centers risk closing or reducing costs after nationwide disruption

BEIRUT: The future of thousands of Lebanese students is at stake as private educational institutions assess their ability to continue operations in the next academic year, due to the economic crunch facing Lebanon.

“If the economic situation continues, private schools will be forced to close down for good, a move that will affect more than 700,000 students, 59,000 teachers and 15,000 school administrators,” said Father Boutros Azar, secretary-general of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, and coordinator of the Association of Private Educational Institutions in Lebanon.

Over 1,600 private schools are operating in Lebanon, including free schools and those affiliated to various religion societies, Azar said.

The number of public schools in Lebanon, he added, is 1,256, serving 328,000 students from the underprivileged segment of society and 200,000 Syrian refugee students.

“The number of teachers in the formal education sector is 43,500 professors and teachers — 20,000 of them are permanent staff and the rest work on a contract basis,” Azar said.

This development will also have an impact on private universities, whose number has increased to 50 in the past 20 years.

Ibrahim Khoury, a special adviser to the president of the American University of Beirut (AUB), told Arab News: “All universities in Lebanon are facing an unprecedented crisis, and the message of AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, a few weeks ago, was a warning about the future of university education in light of the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing.”

Khoury said many universities would likely reduce scientific research and dispense with certain specializations.

“Distance education is ongoing, but classes must be opened for students in the first semester of next year, but we do not yet know what these classes are.”

Khoury added: “Universities are still following the official exchange rate of the dollar, which is 1,512 Lebanese pounds (LBP), but the matter is subject to future developments.”

Lebanese parents are also worried about the future of their children, after the current school year ended unexpectedly due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. Tarek Majzoub, the minister of education and higher education, ended the academic year in public schools and gave private schools the right to take a call on this issue.

He said: “The coming academic year will witness intensification of lessons and a review of what students have missed.”

But what sort of academic year should students expect?

Differences have developed between school owners, parents, and teachers over the payment of tuition fees and teachers’ salaries.

Azar said: “What I know so far is that 80 percent of the Catholic schools in Lebanon will close their doors next year unless they are financially helped. Some families today are unable to pay the rest of the dues for the current year either because their breadwinners were fired or not working, while others do not want to pay dues because schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

“Lebanese people chose private schools for their children because they trusted them for their quality — 70 percent of Lebanese children go to private schools. Today, we are facing a major crisis, and I say that if education collapses in Lebanon, then the area surrounding Lebanon will collapse. Many Arab students from the Gulf states receive their education in the most prestigious Lebanese schools,” he added.

“What we are witnessing today is that the educational contract is no longer respected. It can be said that what broke the back of school owners is the approval by the Lebanese parliament in 2018 of a series of ranks and salaries that have bankrupted the state treasury and put all institutions in a continuous deficit.”

Those in charge of formal education expect a great rush for enrollment in public schools and universities, but the ability of these formal institutions to absorb huge numbers of students is limited.

Majzoub said that his ministry was “working on proposing a law to help private schools provide a financial contribution for each learner within the available financial capabilities or grants that can be obtained.”

The undersecretary of the Teachers’ Syndicate in Private Schools, former government minister Ziad Baroud, said: “The crisis of remaining student fees and teachers’ salaries needs to be resolved by special legislation in parliament that regulates the relationship between all parties — teachers, parents, and schools — and takes into account the measures to end teachers’ contracts before July 5.”

Baroud spoke of “hundreds of teachers being discharged from their schools every year based on a legal article that gives the right to school owners to dismiss any teacher from service, provided that they send the teacher a notification before July 5.”

H said it should be kept in mind that thousands of teachers have not yet received their salaries for the last four months, and some of them had received only 50 percent or even less of their salaries.

Khoury said: “The AUB received a loan from the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami at the beginning of the 1975 Lebanese civil war to keep it afloat. In the 1990s, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri provided aid and grants to the universities. Today, no one can help universities.”

Last Thursday, the Lebanese parliament adopted a proposal submitted by the leader of the Future Parliamentary Bloc, Bahia Hariri, to allocate LBP300 billion to the education sector to help it mitigate the effects of COVID-19.