The children

Early years

Primary school years



Primary school years

© UNICEF Egypt
New standards are being developed for the educational system

In Egypt, girls and boys between the age of six and 14 years of age should – by law -- attend school. Thanks to huge investment during the 1990s, when about 11,000 new schools were built and many more renovated, access to primary school education is now nearly universal. Indeed, a study indicates that almost nine out of every 10 Egyptian boys and girls is currently enrolled in school.

On the other hand, there are questions about the quality of the education children receive – problems the government has acknowledged by the development of new standards for the educational system. One major problem is the persistence of traditional teaching methods. An Egyptian child is far more likely to be taught using traditional “chalk and talk” methods, where the teacher writes on a blackboard and students are expected to repeat or copy by rote, than any more interactive method. Anecdotal evidence suggests that boys and girls alike are subjected to physical punishment and verbal abuse.

Another problem is the under-use of infrastructure. While almost 90 percent of schools have a library, surveys indicate that only a quarter of the children use them, and while almost 60 percent of schools have computers, less than 20 percent of students have access to them.

A small but significant minority of pre-adolescent children--about 13 percent of girls and four percent of boys--have never been to school at all. Like other school attendance figures, these numbers are higher in Upper Egypt (the southern part of the country), where in places almost one third of girls never go to school at all.


© UNICEF Egypt
Boys and girls aged six to eleven make up one quarter of working children

Boys and girls between the ages of six and 11 make up about one quarter of children who work in Egypt. Because many of these children work in the informal sector as street vendors, domestic workers or as agricultural labourers, their working environments are difficult if not impossible to regulate.

Many work long hours under dangerous conditions for little reward and this has an impact both on their health situation and on their educational prospects.

Malnutrition, linked to lowered IQ as well as less energy to devote to learning and creative activities, also remains a problem for children in this age group. In 1997 a study indicated that by the beginning of adolescence, about 20 percent of boys and girls are below average height for their age because of insufficient nutrition.




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