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Education, Finance ‘clear’ after grilling

KUWAIT CITY, June 17: Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr Saud Al-Harbi and Finance Minister Barrak Al-Shitan survived grilling at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr Saud Al-Harbi and Finance Minister Barrak Al-Shitan

Meanwhile, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah sent a cable of congratulation to Minister of Education and Higher Education Dr Saud Al-Harbi expressed his praise and pleasure for an excellent performance during the grilling at the Parliament. In his cable, His Highness the Amir hailed as well the democratic practices made by Members of Parliament during the discussions and the grilling in the session held earlier.

His Highness the Amir also expressed best wishes to all to everyone serving the nation. In another development, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al- Ghanim said Wednesday that based on information from Minister of Health Sheikh Dr Bassel Al-Sabah, one of the Members of Parliament has been confirmed to be infected with coronavirus.

In a speech prior to ending an earlier session, Al-Ghanim called on all MPs to abide by the regulations and preventive measures instructed by the Assembly’s General Secretariat.

Earlier, MP Faisal Al-Kandari submitted the grilling motion against Al-Harbi on four issues – mismanagement of the educational file during the coronavirus crisis, private schools which collected fees from students although they have been closed since the Cabinet decided to suspend work and classes, absence of a clear plan matching the gravity of the crisis, and lack of a clear vision on the implementation of online education in public schools.


Al-Kandari presented the grilling motion for one-and-a-half hour after Al- Harbi agreed to stand on the podium to defend his position. He started by quoting HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al- Sabah as saying that the safe zone in the fight against corona has yet to come.

He pointed out that although Al-Harbi has had 17 meetings – 15 with his assistant undersecretaries, one with Kuwait University and one with the Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET) – no decision has been taken in the interest of students.

He said the meetings of Al-Harbi since the beginning of March did not lead to any plan for the welfare of students. He pointed out the minister announced that he launched the electronic platform for online education without providing training for the students and teachers.

He asserted Al-Harbi disregarded the role of several competent officials and depended only on two officials, indicating the electronic platform was launched only a couple of days ago and this means the action was in response to the grilling.

He added the platform was established according to the agreement between the minister and a private company with two servers despite the fact that the ministry has its own system with 48 servers.

He stressed the name of the platform – ekwti.com – is not protected. He then showed a picture of the platform with a message to the user that the platform is not secure and it is not recommend to input sensitive information because the platform can be hacked anytime.

He asked about the cost and reason behind ignoring the Information Technology Department at the Ministry of Education which maintains 100 percent security for free.

Concerns
In response, Al-Harbi explained he is not against those who called for ending the academic year as he fully understands their concerns.

He said it is unacceptable to threaten him to face the grilling if he does not end the academic year; as such an act entails the legislative authority is interfering in the work of its executive counterpart, instead of ensuring cooperation between the two authorities.

He affirmed his decision not to end the academic year is not a dictatorial resolution, as it is the result of a series of meetings with the concerned institutions and senior officials at the ministry. He pointed out the recommendations of Kuwaiti and global health authorities do not include ending the academic year and they do not regard this step as compulsory.
He said some private schools and colleges adopted the foreign curricula and they have a different schedule, which means many of them completed about 70 percent of the courses before the crisis.

He added that ending the academic year has negative impact on a large number of students who did not pass the first semester exams, especially those who need only one or two points to pass. He said the students who were prevented from taking the exams in the first semester due to some errors will be among the victims, since they will lose hope in taking the final exams and getting high marks to move to the next academic level.

After Al-Harbi’s defense, MP Sa’adoun Hammad delivered a speech on behalf of the supporters of the grilling; while MP Askar Al-Anzi represented the supporters of Al-Harbi.

In addition, the Assembly also discussed the grilling motion that MP Riyadh Al-Adasani submitted against Minister of Finance Barrak Al-Shitan.

The motion consists of five points as follows: public loan, granting privileges to companies at the expense of public interest, negative consequences of the usurious salary advance granted to retirees, investments, and financial issues including money laundering and bribery. During his presentation, Al-Adasani described the economic document submitted by Al-Shitan as ‘mass destruction’ as it is aimed at augmenting resources through the citizens’ pockets.

He said the citizen should not pay the price for the failure of the government. “Instead of reporting to the rich traders, Al-Shitan went directly to the citizen to collect most of his limited salary,” he stressed. He added Al-Shitan reduced the budget for overseas treatment by 50 percent without providing alternatives and this means dangerous consequences for the citizens.

He argued that if Al-Shitan managed to collect the profits reserved by different public institutions – estimated at KD 7 billion – the public loan is no longer necessary.

In his defense, Al-Shitan said he has been exposed to attacks and accusations without evidence. He stressed that he refuses to become fuel to a fire which he has no idea who started it.

He wondered why the grilling MP wants to make him responsible for five issues within 50 days since he took the oath, taking into consideration that this short period includes the coronavirus crisis. He explained a finance minister cannot edit the economic document that Al- Adasani mentioned as the job is political in nature.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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