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“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed -- it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”
-Sir Ken Robinson
In a recent World Economic Forum report on global competitiveness, Egypt ranked 137 in the world out of 144 countries in primary education meeting the needs of a competitive economy, with only 20% of children from the poorest 20 percent enrolled and completed the basic education level. In addition to enrolment issues, disparities in students’ academic and social achievement, cultural gender biases and the poor quality of teachers and school infrastructure have been impacting students’ ability to interact and learn.
A persistently marginalized population, primarily of young people in rural Upper Egypt, remains highly disadvantaged in accessing education. This dates to multi-faceted challenges, some of which are:
Most rural communities do not have the resources to address all of these challenges with separate initiatives. However, what if all could be addressed simultaneously? A Community School run collectively by individuals from the community.
Since 2007, Man Ahyaha has been diligently working on sustainable development projects in some of Egypt’s most underserved and impoverished areas in different governorates that suffer severe percentage of underprivileged villages in Upper Egypt, Old Cairo and Alexandria.
We have been working in Aayat destitute (60 km away from Giza) for more than 2 years on various developmental projects including alternative education program for children and teenagers, Microfinance for women and young ladies and building concrete infrastructure for poor households.
By June 2016, we decided to conduct needs assessment, human-centered observations and multiple focus groups discussions with the community there, the necessity of an elementary school for the children in elementary school was brought to our attention.
In Baharwa Village in Aayat, the nearest elementary school is 3 km away, which keeps the younger children only enrolled on papers, but have no access to any actual learning. Moreover, the distance coupled with the lack of transportation leaves most of the children unable to go to school.
Conditions are worse during winter, with the muddy road and the rainy weather. These are all factors that affect the enrollment of children in schools and contribute to the drastic dropout rate, especially for girls.
At Man Ahyaha, we believe that any project should be initiated to fulfil a real need that the community we are working with has and not re-create a solution for a fictional need, therefore we started building a community school with the villagers and for villagers.
Community schools are a viable alternative to public schooling, yet it abides by the formal education system’s curriculum alongside the informal education techniques. One of its main pillars of uniqueness lies in its ability to enhance enrollment and completion rates of children from age 6 to 14 (class1-6). In our classes, we allow for creative informal education techniques such as building skills and personal development, especially that children in rural areas are more open to activity-oriented learning.
Our schools became centers of the community and are open to everyone – all day, every day, evenings and weekends; with a variety of services to provide medical and social help along with monthly community meetings.
Teachers in community schools are more of knowledge facilitators, ensuring the factor of hiring high quality teachers who can impact students’ ability to interact and learn in a safe space and an intellectually stimulating environment.
Most importantly, community schools create a concrete alternative for the far-away built schools that drastically affect girls’ enrollmentand prevent the completion of their education.
Right now, Man Ahyaha is trying to execute its vision of “Support Community Engagement through Education”. Considering our efforts and success in Baharwa, we are now replicating the community school module in another village in Aayat District.
Our approach encompasses an all-levels development for the whole rural area through education, sustainable infrastructure, Access to healthcare and community center.