Egypt is set to give 1 million tablets to high school students as part of a move looking to digitize the school system in the North Afrikan country during 2018. The announcement was made by Tarek Shawky, Minister of Education in Egypt.
Added to giving the grade 10 students the tablets is that they don't have to return them back once they are done with high school. Shawky also added that the tablets would not be distributed to private schools.
The idea of giving tablets to high school students is not new to Afrika and is quite similar to the program by South Africa's Gauteng Education Department. The Gauteng Education Department gave tablets to grade 11 and 12 students but unlike what is proposed in Egypt, the students were required to return them at the end of the school year. The programme encountered problems as tablets went missing and some students didn't return them. In some cases, the tablets were traced to other countries as it is believed the students either sold them or they were stolen.
The announcement by Egypt's Shawky has been criticized by some. One of the main points raised in criticism of the proposed initiative is that in 2015 Egypt handed out 250,000 tablets to students in public high schools. The students are said to have abused this and used the tablets to watch videos and play games during classes. Added to that, the 2013 programme required students to return the tablets, something which largely did not happen.
It remains to be seen how this second installment of the tablets for high school students programme will pan out in Egypt given the amount of public funds being used to fund it. Another interesting observation will be to see if student sentiment has changed and whether they will use the tablets as Egypt's Ministry of Education envisages.