Row over Algerian education minister’s Nobel Prize comments

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Algerian Higher Education Minister Al Taher Hajjar stirred uproar in Algeria and sparked anger within education circles after he underestimated the value of winning a Nobel Prize, claiming that it will not add to Algerian universities, which are poorly ranked globally.

During a press conference earlier this week, Hajjar defended Algerian universities and their worldwide rank and said: “There are some major universities and research centers that rely on the Nobel Prize and other certifications but what will it benefit me when an Algerian student gets the Nobel Prize, even if we get ten of them?”

“We have dozens of researchers who have the Nobel Prize, what will this add to the education in Algerian universities?” he asked.

Commenting on inquiries that the Algerian universities have low global rankings, Hajjar sarcastically blamed this on ranking centers not counting the Nobel prizes that Algerians won during the colonial period.

Hajjar also said that top Algerian intellectuals should not have a special status in the country.

“A genius is a genius wherever he is, because he’s a genius in an ordinary high school among his friends, with his family and among the people of neighborhoods, small cities and towns.”

Hajjar’s statements surprised Algerians who took to social media to mock the minister’s stance and criticize him.

Activist Mohammad Bouzeid said: “The minister deserves a Nobel Prize for stupidity due to his unfortunate and backward statements which only frustrate students and reinforce poor education.”

“Who will win a Nobel Prize with such poor education, poor universities and a state that’s not qualified to encourage and appreciate the talented and support researchers and scientists?” Bouzeid inquired.

Another activist wrote on Twitter: “Doesn’t the minister know that winning the Nobel Prize is a reflection of the level of his university and of education in his country?” He also condemned Hajjar for not recognizing that Algerian universities were better under colonization.

Blogger Abdulrahman Dawry said Hajjar’s statements reflected “Hajjar’s ignorance because a Nobel Prize would (help) Algerian universities improve their image and ranking in the world.”

“How did (Hajjar) benefit universities and higher education ever since he became a minister?” Dawry asked.

Hajjar has not since responded on the matter.

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