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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Middle East: Internet Delivers New Opportunities for Younger Generation

Science & Technology

Abdelsatar Hetieta

Wed, 14 Aug 2019 10:06 GMT

Shereen, an Egyptian student aged 18, spends many hours online reading PDF books and watching new scientific experiments through YouTube videos, exceeding the formal prescribed academic curriculum.

Although the Egyptian Ministry of Education and other similar ministries in Middle Eastern countries have adopted e-learning in recent years, a wide range of students are more open to the world of learning and more capable of teaching themselves, alongside formal educational programs.

Since 2000, the United Nations has marked August 12th as International Youth Day, believing in youth as key partners in change. They take this day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges facing this age group.

There are around 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world and this year's awareness day highlights the efforts to make education accessible for all, including young people themselves.

Accessible and inclusive education is crucial to achieving sustainable development and helping to stabilise many countries of the world, the United Nations stated.

Furthermore, there is an e-learning tab that includes kindergarten, elementary, preparatory and secondary levels on the Egyptian Ministry of Education's portal.

Youth in the Middle East are using the Internet widely for a better future in education and employment, as well as entertainment.

In the last academic year, Egypt distributed about 2.5 million tablets to students in the first year of secondary level in the first such experiment.

Earlier this year, Egypt and the World Bank agreed to support education reform in the country with $500 million. Part of the agreement is to enhance the performance of the education service through systems connected to the Internet.

Speaking at the May Day celebration (Labour Day), Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed that the education system over the past half century has proved insufficient and must be adjusted to cope with the emerging technology in the coming years.

In an interview at her home in Cairo, Shereen, who is well-versed in the limited subjects from high school, said that "e-learning", both formal and personal, allowed for easy online communications to learn a lot about space, physics, movie stars and music.

She also can listen to a lecture through her mobile phone on the theories of building the pyramids while she helps her mother in the kitchen, adding, "I also follow my favourite concert dates and enjoy them with my friends."

Countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Syria had political systems burdened with the legacy of the socialist era, based on government responsibility for education and employment.

Over the past quarter-century, these countries have struggled to become truly open governments in economics and politics, open private education, and leaving employment to labour market mechanisms.

In the recent years of this challenge (i.e. in the first ten years of the new millennium), the internet, personal blogs, news sites, and then social networking sites appeared in a major online revolution.

The internet revolution has driven millions of the younger generation in the Arab world to accelerate efforts for positive change in politics, economy, education, health and more. The result has been a wave of anger and violence that has been hitting several countries since 2011, including Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Just as Shereen seeks to increase her educational abilities through her own "electronic" efforts, sitting on the banks of the Nile, young Mounir, 24, a son of Benghazi in east Libya, uses the internet to build a livelihood.

He relies on the internet to distribute meals using his restaurant, his small car and his website, which receives customer orders.

Mounir said that if he waited for a job from the government as his father had done in the past, he would be waiting at home for many years. He also uses part of his savings to complete his higher education.

Near Tahrir Square, the site of major demonstrations by Egyptians eight years ago demanding political and economic change, a new generation of young people strives to save up for better educational opportunities. 

"I spend on myself, and I spend on my education at university," said 21-year-old Egyptian Mamdouh, serving grilled corn to his client.

While Egypt has survived the great upheavals caused by the 2011 uprisings, other countries such as Libya and Syria are still trying to find some sort of stability.

Mounir, standing next to his car in preparation for a new order, said, “No time to wait … We are working, but the country’s situation will be all right one day.”

Despite civil strife, the Libyan government and young volunteers have been able to draw attention to the importance of education, the development of the educational system and the use of the Internet in this area.

One of those young volunteers is Awam, 19, from the capital Tripoli. He has developed e-technology programs to make education available via the Internet in a part of Libya. However, instability in the country makes such experiments slow.

Middle East