Taha Hussein, Minister of Education
In the mid-20th century, countries in the Middle East struggled to establish a post-independence identity. Educational reformers and government officials tried to create national cohesion through expanded schooling, closing the gap between elites educated in private Francophone or Anglophone schools, and the masses of ordinary Egyptians. Taha Hussein (1889-1973) became a towering figure of educational reform in Egyptian 20th-century history. Despite being blind and coming from a poor, rural family, he achieved a high degree of education and power. With an advanced degree from the Sorbonne, Hussein served as academic advisor to the Minister of Education and then as Minister of Education (1950-1952).
Hussein provided a conceptual framework for the development of a centralized national education system focused on schooling for all. He held that schools should be secular, promoting democracy, defending national economies, and maintaining a country's political independence.
Taha Hussein's commitment to spreading literacy is embodied in this motto. When Gamal Abdel Nasser's socialist regime took over in 1962, free education became a way to correct the disparities created by colonialism. Taha Hussein's legacy remains in Egypt until today, particularly because he achieved a high degree of education and erudition despite being blind and coming from a poor, rural family. The Taha Hussein Library at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina provides technological resources to the blind and visually impaired.
This source is a part of the Education in the Middle East, 1200-2010 teaching module.
Education is like water and air.
Taha Hussein, Motto, c. 1950. Annotated by Heidi Morrison.