Reporters on the Job
• Cutting Red Tape: In Thursday's story on education reform in Egypt and the Arab world, correspondent Sarah Gauch decided to visit a class taking midterm exams. Gaining entry to a school can be a challenge for a reporter anywhere in the world. Understandably, school administrators want to protect their students. But Sarah figured that by starting at the top, she'd solved the problem. "I thought it would be a simple process, especially after getting permission while meeting with Egypt's education minister right before he left office. I had no idea I'd experience firsthand the Ministry of Education's plodding bureaucracy - the very problem I was reporting on."
After meeting the minister, his staff asked Sarah to send a fax requesting to attend the exams. When she called a few days later to make sure her appointment was set, the ministry's head of security asked for a meeting. After getting his permission, he told Sarah to go to another ministry building in a crowded section of Cairo to get permission from the director there.
When Sarah got there, she was told that this director was absent and that she had to come back another day. "At this point, I figured the ministry was just giving me the runaround," says Sarah. "I asked a well-connected source for help and like magic the red tape disappeared. In the end, I caught the very end of King Fahd Modern Language School's last midterm exam."
David Clark Scott