Egypt faces population increase with “reproductive health” curricula | Policy

Cairo- Bonus or ordeal? Thus, the debate has been renewed in Egypt for decades over population increase, between it being a divine gift that successive governments are supposed to exploit in the country’s renaissance, and a repeated government complaint that the population increase exceeds the state’s endurance.

On several levels, Egyptian governments are trying to confront the population increase. The most recent of these attempts was announced by the Ministry of Education a few days ago, by including educational materials related to reproductive health in educational curricula.

The head of the Central Administration for Curriculum Development, Akram Hassan, said that there is cooperation between the Ministry of Education and the United Nations Population Fund regarding integrating reproductive health concepts into educational curricula and educational activities for the preparatory and secondary stages.

In a press release, he pointed out the Ministry of Education’s interest in including the concepts of population and reproductive health in the curricula, as they are among the important issues affecting all segments of society, adding that schools address a wide segment of up to 25% of citizens.

Last week, the Ministry of Education organized a workshop, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund and the Juzoor Foundation, to present the final version of the framework for the concepts of population education and reproductive health.

The international definition of reproductive health includes: the individual’s ability to make the appropriate decision regarding childbearing at the time and method he wants, and to obtain the appropriate means of family planning according to his choice.

accommodating students

Regarding the ability of educational institutions to spread concepts of reproductive health, Professor of Measurement and Evaluation at the National Center for Examinations and Educational Evaluation, Muhammad Fathallah, said that the school possesses the elements and influence that makes it able to be part of the methods of confronting the population increase.

In his interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Fathallah indicated that the social studies curricula for middle school students contain an informational aspect about population issues, but the treatment is not extensive.

He pointed out that the student’s comprehension of concepts related to the population issue depends on the way it is dealt with, preferably through student activities and not educational curricula.

Competitions, panel discussions, and exploratory tours have a greater impact on the student’s perception and awareness, according to the educational expert. Scientific research, and at the same time they realize the dimensions of the population issue.

Fathallah expressed his fear of dealing with the reproductive health curriculum, as is the case with educational curricula such as national education, which do not receive much attention from students because their exam results are not counted in the total number of students.

indirect effect

For his part, the director of the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Studies, Mustafa Khoudary, considered that the educational curricula’s inclusion of reproductive health issues is a formal step that does not have a direct impact on public opinion regarding fertility rates.

Speaking to Al-Jazeera Net, Khoudari added that media or educational campaigns usually do not have a direct impact on the childbearing process, and continued, “Reorienting public opinion on this issue in particular cannot alone affect the decision to have children if the regime does not press in other directions.”

Although Khoudari minimized the impact of the step of using educational curricula to counter population increase, he considered it capable of supporting a delay in the age of marriage for females, which leads to a reduction in the potential fertility period, and it also increases women’s employment opportunities and thus reduces the number of births, as working women have fewer children. It is not working, he said.

Educating students

For her part, Samia Khader, a professor of sociology at the Faculty of Education at Ain Shams University, said that educating students about the dimensions of the population issue in Egypt requires efforts at several levels.

And she explained – in press statements – the need to review the school curricula, so that information on population education is added to the basic curricula, such as social studies, science and the environment in the various educational stages.

Samia pointed out the importance of training teachers on information on population and development issues, and working to convince them of the impact of population increase on the lives of citizens, so that they can convince students, saying, “Changing the student’s values ​​begins with changing the teacher’s values.”

In addition, there is a need to evaluate the impact of the information taught to students about population and development issues on students’ values ​​and awareness of these issues, and to develop curricula to maximize their benefit, according to the educational expert’s vision.

Attempts are under way

Several ministries – each in its competence – are working to confront the population increase. This month, the Ministry of Health launched 26 convoys for reproductive health and family planning, under the slogan “Your Right to Organize”, targeting 78 villages in 17 governorates, where family planning services are delivered through these convoys.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity continues the activities of the “2 is enough” project, which it launched in 2018, with the aim of raising awareness of the benefits of having only two children per family.

The Ministry is cooperating with 108 NGOs in this project, targeting 2,257 villages in the governorates. According to an official report, the number of door-to-door visits implemented by the project reached 9.3 million, and the number of women’s visits to family planning clinics at the Ministry of Health reached two million.

In February 2021, the Ministry of Endowments launched an awareness campaign on birth control, by organizing several joint seminars with the National Media Authority and the National Press Authority, and a number of intensive training courses.

The country’s population is about 104 million, according to the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics, and the government aims to reach a fertility rate of 1.6 per woman.

decades of confrontation

Dealing with overpopulation as a threat consuming the fruits of development is not the result of an orientation or decision of the current authority. Since the sixties of the last century, successive regimes have worked to warn of high birth rates.

During the era of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, the government turned to the issue of the need to reduce the number of family members, which necessitated the preparation of a charter for an initiative for family planning in 1963, and then the Supreme Council for Family Planning was established in 1965.

The late President Anwar Sadat dealt with the population increase in a way that seems more practical compared to changing the citizen’s thinking about the number of his children, which is the establishment of new cities to accommodate the numerical density, such as the cities of Sadat and 6th of October.

The era of the late President Hosni Mubarak was marked by the intensity of awareness campaigns through the media about the danger of population increase, in addition to holding conferences on the issue, as the first national conference for residents was held in 1984, and the Ministry of Health took over the main aspect in providing all contraceptive methods to citizens.

According to a report issued by the Information and Decision Support Center affiliated to the Council of Ministers, the successive population policies and strategies did not succeed in achieving all the quantitative goals they adopted.

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