Bahrain Mirror (2019 Roundup): As it has always been, the discrimination in scholarships reemerged this year, while nothing changed. The Education Ministry continued to distribute its scholarships in a way that prevents the Shiite majority from receiving them under false justifications, not heeding to parliamentary demands to publish scholarship results, to the extent that it started to compare its scholarship system with that of Austria, the US, Germany and Australia.
The Scholarships and Attaches Directorate at Bahrain's Ministry of Education set June 26, 2019 as a deadline for students to apply for scholarships in the ministry, where personal interviews were to be scheduled later. The story begins here.
On July 24, 2019, the Bahrain Transparency Society called on the Ministry of Education to adopt the principle of transparency by publishing in local newspapers the results of scholarship distribution, including the name of the student, the graduation average, the name of the university and major. It deplored the fact that 40% of the result depends on the personal interview, saying that it is a diminution of the study efforts exerted by top students. The Society demanded that the interview be categorically canceled from the requirements.
The Society explained that the complaints are repeated annually by some of the top students and their parents, especially those with high averages-95% and above in their high school average-against the ministry's ongoing failure to grant them the opportunity to study in university their first major preference or related majors, which they consider to be a confiscation of their efforts in achieving advanced academic results.
On August 15, 2019, MPs, Kulthum Al-Hayeki, Mamdouh Al-Saleh, Mahmoud Al-Bahrani, Ammar Al Abbas, Sayed Falah Hashem and Abdulnabi Salman, issued a joint statement calling on Education Minister Majid Al-Nuaimi to adopt full transparency in publishing the results of this year's scholarship distribution by publishing the names of the beneficiaries and their academic averages. They said that this move "will strengthen the principle of transparency followed by the ministry, and end any controversy and exploitation of the process that affects the top students of Bahrain regardless of their sect," stressing that "the ministry's failure to publish information will raise a lot of question marks and will be a tool for challenging the credibility and fairness of scholarships distribution."
But the Ministry of Education, which responded on the same day to the MPs statement, did not discuss the essence of the issue, but evaded it by saying that it is being subjected to "a campaign of malicious and unjust questioning targeting the results of scholarships annually," which led to outrage among citizens who launched a twitter campaign against the Ministry of Education and demanded Minister Al-Nuaimi to resign.
The campaign against the Education Ministry continued. MP Zeinab Abdulamir announced on August 17, 2019 that she has a list of top graduates' names who have been deprived of scholarships, noting that some of them achieved a 100% score. She explained that the oppression students were subjected to came due to the conducted interviews that make up 40% of the overall evaluation that qualifies them to receive scholarships. She also said that the names she has includes top students from both Sunni and Shiite sects.
Al-Wefaq asked in a statement on August 17, 2019 about the reason that prevents the government from "disclosing the results of scholarship distribution," revealing that there are scholarships from the Royal Court, Crown Prince Court, Prime Minister Court, the Bahrain Defence Force and the Ministry of Interior being distributed to anyone they please.
After the pressure the Ministry of Education faced, Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa ordered during a cabinet meeting on August 19, 2019 to "develop the current program of scholarships and the adopted work mechanisms, and directed the Supreme Council for the Development of Education and Training to do so," in other words, some consider that he attempted to absorb the popular outrage.
A mother of a student who didn't receive a scholarship to study dentistry dropped a bomb at a seminar held by the Progressive Tribune (Al-Menbar) on the "Priority of Scholarships as a Tool for Development" on October 10, 2019, when she said that her daughter who scored 100% wasn't given a scholarship for the dentistry major she desired to study because her family name is "Khawaja".
Nonetheless, the Education Ministry denies these facts. It said in a statement on August 20, 2019 that the scholarship system it follows is similar to that in Austria, Germany, Australia and the United States as well as some other Gulf States, indicating that there were four medicine scholarships available for private school graduates, over which 9 students who scored 100% average and 16 others who scored 99% competed.
It added that the competition led to "the use of differentiation between them by adopting the results of the capacity test and the personal interview, as well as the cumulative average to offer these few seats."