AT a time when the Egyptian Government schools were being demoralised by turbulent political agitators, and schoolboys and students were going on strike and deserting their classes for rowdy street demonstrations, the Ministry of Education displayed unconscious humour in selecting as a motto for a recent report on elementary education a quotation from the Talmud: " By the breath of the school-children shall the State be saved."
By whatever standard we judge the educational system devised for the youth of Egypt under British control, it has tended not at all to the salvation of the State. It is unquestionably the worst of our failures. At the end of nearly four decades illiteracy weighs down 92 per cent, of the male population and over 99 per cent, of the women of Egypt. In spite of the warning example of India before our eyes, we have barely yet approached the urgent question of popular education, beyond multiplying the old native Kuttabs and trying to extend their usefulness, as far as the appalling dearth of teachers who can even read and write allows, to something more than the mere learning of the Koran by rote. Not till 1916 were higher elementary schools started to take up the teaching where the elementary schools leave off, and to give in a four years' course, between eleven and sixteen, simple but* practical instruction, suitably differentiated
221 Lord Allenby returned from his hurried visit to the Peace Conference as Special High Commissioner to find the country strewn with wreckage from a storm that had only partially abated, his task was, or should have been, not only to set the Egyptian Government on the rails again, but also to repair the vital defects in the machinery of British control which had produced so grievous a breakdown. But the latter was an especially difficult task for a man who had no previous experience at all as an administrator and no knowledge of Egypt or of the East save such as he had gleaned as Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces in Egypt and Syria. The British Government had themselves not yet realised thateral (Jeterioration of the British personnel. Theyptians, jit